Cars We Remember: Government built Czech Tataplan memories
Q: Hello Greg and I enjoy your articles. I’m wondering if you can give me some information on the T-600 Tatraplan automobile. I remember many years ago I saw an article I think you did on this car, but I have misplaced it. I also know the name Tataplan is really “foreign” to most car fans, but it was a car I do remember as I am retired now. My friend once had a 1947 Tatraplan, and it would be interesting to see what info you can further provide.
— John L., retired and happy at age 84 in Illinois.
A: John thanks much for reading my columns and yes, I did do an article on the Tatraplan about eight years ago that appeared in Auto Roundup Magazine. I explained that the only time I ever heard of a Tatraplan car came thanks to my good friend, and one of the real legends of drag racing namely the late Jack Kulp. Kulp built and raced drag cars in the early days of dragster and gasser competition. Kulp especially loved running foreign cars like Simcas and Triumphs, sometimes to the chagrin of the racing associations.
Kulp informed me he would have loved to run a Czechoslovakian-built Tatraplan, but he never really had access to one that he could turn into an AA/Gas Supercharged drag strip terror.
To your question, the Tatraplan cars were assembled by the Tatra car company from 1946 to 1952. The predecessor of the T-600 was a model 107, so your friend’s 1947 model received either the nomenclature of 107 or the newer T-600. The car was a result of a government sponsored, “centralized economic” communist plan in Czechoslovakia.
The Tatraplans were streamlined full-size family cars that came with a 1952cc inline horizontally opposed flat four-cylinder air-cooled engine placed between the rear axles. The body had a coefficient aerodynamic drag of 0.32, which was great for that era and the main reason Jack Kulp wanted one to race. The wheelbase was 110-inches.
Overall, some 6,432 T-600’s were sold from 1947 through 1952, but in late 1951, the Czech Department of Defense, which controlled all production of cars and trucks, informed Tatra they would now build trucks and that all cars would be built under the Skoda brand, the latter one two other government run car companies in the country at the time. The third car company in the Czech Republic was Praga.
In 1954, however, Tatra re-joined car building with a large passenger car with an air cooled V8 engine and transaxle. The V8 T603-engine had previously been developed and tested on the race track in Tatra experimental and race cars. It was used in the Tatra-603, and went on sale in 1955 and remained in production until 1975. In its’ 18 years of sales, a total of 20,422 T-603’s were built.
Following my article years ago, I also received a nice letter from a gentleman in Australia named Craig who pointed out some very interesting facts about the 1947 Tatraplan models. As he was rebuilding a 1950 model at the time, he noted that the 1947 Tatraplan could be a model 107 or a T-600.
Craig explained the differences noting that the T-600 was essentially the same vehicle as the 107 but featured a vertically mounted fan whereas the 107 had a horizontally mounted fan and just one carburetor instead of two on the T-600. Craig also has a 603 Tatra with the air cooled and rear mounted V8 and we thank him for his input.
Today, Tatra is still in business and ranks among the oldest car and truck manufacturers in the world with more than 116-years of continuous activity. Tatra still impacts the auto and truck industry in the Czech Republic and abroad.
In ending, it is also very notable that since March of 2013, the Tatra Trucks Company is now owned by Czech shareholders, a big change in the philosophy of free enterprise.
Thanks for your letter John.
— Greg Zyla writes weekly for More Content Now, BestRide.com and other Gatehouse Media publications. He welcomes reader questions on old cars, auto nostalgia and old-time motorsports at 303 Roosevelt St., Sayre, Pennsylvania 18840 or at email@example.com.