Air-Cooled Twin-Cylinder: 1928 Tatra T12

Most of us have seen a later-model Tatra, the sleek rear-engine models, either in person, online, or at what is my favorite car museum, the Lane Motor Museum. Even Jay Leno has one, but what doesn’t he have. Not many of us have seen an early Tatra such as this 1928 Tatra T12. This important and very rare car can be found here on eBay in Lake Ariel, Pennsylvania with an $18,000 buy-it-now price or you can make an offer. Let’s check it out.

At first glance, I wouldn’t blame anyone for thinking that this was a French car, maybe a Renault NN such as the one that Adam Clarke showed us a couple of months ago or this blue one that I ran across. The hood/cowl area is fairly similar-looking. The 1920s in Czechoslovakia was a time when people had to have a lot of money to be able to afford the big and luxurious cars that were being produced. Tatra was one company that came out with a more simple and affordable car. Informally known as the people’s car, the T11 was made from 1923 to 1927. The T12 was an updated model that was produced from 1928 to 1933.

I don’t know enough about Tatras to know if this is really a factory-bodied T12 or not but the seller refers to it as a 1928 T12 so that’s what I’m basing this on. I can’t find a single photo on the entire internet that shows a photo even remotely similar to this suicide-door four-door sedan. Can any of you find a four-door 1928 T12 with suicide doors that isn’t classified as a limo, which would be a different model number and wouldn’t have had suicide doors? I’m questioning either my internet skills and/or whether this is really a factory-bodied 1928 T12. I’m assuming that this is a Tatra T12 cowl and chassis with a custom body which would have been done quite often. Thoughts?

It would be nice to somehow do a sympathetic restoration on this car without doing a nut-and-bolt gut-job. Maybe restore the rear fenders which seem to have taken the worst of the storage dings and are showing some rust. The rest of the body looks pretty solid and straight. It’s super unfortunate that the seller hasn’t included even one single interior photo. I will never understand that and it leads me to believe that it may need more work inside than out. The seats were pretty unique in this era of Tatra, somewhat like iconic architectural furniture of the era being made out of bent metal tubing in a cantilevered design which helped give a nice ride over bad roads.

The engine is very unique and it seems like it would be incredibly underpowered, especially for use on today’s roads. But, the T12 was meant as an affordable car, not the ultimate in power and speed. This unusual engine is a 1.1L air-cooled opposed twin-cylinder. This car can hopefully be brought back to life, if not a complete restoration than a mechanical refurbishment which is what I would do. Can any of you positively identify this car? Is it a custom-bodied Tatra T12?

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Comments

  1. Brakeservo

    I’ve owned two Tatras, wish I was in a position to adopt this poor little orphan! But there must be a reason that Jeff Lane hasn’t snatched it up??

    Like 2
    • Fred W

      Exactly what I thought. His museum (in Nashville) has a T-12 pickup, but no others I could find. Most of theirs are later models.

      Like 1
    • Scotty Gilbertson Staff

      That’s a good point, Brakeservo. I know that Jeff Lane watches BarnFinds.com, or at least long enough to buy an oddball vehicle out from under me… (kidding)
      https://barnfinds.com/feel-the-power-1962-walker-power-truck/

      I was visiting the Lane sometime in late-2016 and talking with Jeff during a tour of the “vault” – basement, where dozens of incredible and unusual vehicles are – and there it was, the 1962 Walker Power Truck from the above link! He bought it, I was wondering where it went so quickly. Apparently, he doesn’t mess around with bidding.

      Like 1
  2. Costa

    Here’s another listing of the same car. http://car-from-uk.com/sale.php?id=81330&country=us

  3. Fred H

    Really a cool, stately automobile. Don’t say if engine is free or not.

  4. Don H

    Jay Leno again great👎

  5. Brakeservo

    What’s your stupid point?? We ought to never intrude upon his right to enjoy the hobby the way we all would if we had his resources. I’m thankful that he has saved cars that might otherwise no longer exist – and he’s generous with his collection. Spent over two hours in a golf cart showing it to me and my Dad once. How many others will do that? None that I’ve ever met.

    Like 20
    • Robert White

      Leno is an excellent car culture guy, I agree. He is passionate about the whole hobby and is an excellent spokesperson for all that is car culture. I like his collection too.

      Bob

      Like 13
  6. Mike Edgerton

    I counted 8 Tatras at the Tampa Bay Automobile Museum
    http://tbauto.org/

    Like 2
  7. Ken Nelson Member

    Having visited the Kopřivnice Tatra museum in the Czech Republic, I consider Hans Ledwinka to be a very ingenious engineer – the museum is a tribute to his wild designs! I saw engineering there I couldn’t figure out, and have never seen before. Most amazing was his trucks! They have a video of these amazing beasts highballing across some of the roughest terrain imaginable – with their fully articulated suspensions absorbing hillocks, valleys, dips & swoops as tho on a hovercraft – they literally flew over the ground without getting upset. If you ever get close to the Republic and love cars, you should detour to see it. Very DIFFERENT engineering thinking – that works!

    And I have a lot of respect for Leno – he’s a very approachable guy, and has done about everything possible with cars, first with his own hands, even tho he can now afford to have others do the restorations. Best story I heard about him – before personally meeting him a couple yrs ago, was that at one Pebble Beach Concourse, some Ferrari or Maserati owner couldn’t get his hood open to show off the engine, so Jay lays on the grass, slides under the front end, and reaches up to release the hood latch. How many deep pockets guys would do that?

    Secondly, 3-4 yrs ago a UK friend, whose father I worked for in Oxford in 1966, as was 7 yrs old at the time, visited the Carolinas to help the Bentley owners club there with the overdrives Tim builds for them. As he was over here, he asked me if I could get him a visit with Jay. As Tim’s shop – inherited from his late father – had prev. rebuilt Jay’s Bentley engine, I called contacts, got Jay’s publicist, who gave me his email, and that night I got a note from Jay with his cellphone no. as he remembered the UK shop.

    Long story short, Tim and a buddy flew into LA, I got a ticket on the redeye from SF, to meet them in LA next morning. Bad luck – Delta cancelled all flights due to computer glitch, I missed out, but Tim and his buddy got 2 hrs with Jay, and a personal invite to the private Nethercutt collection thru Jay same day. They had a great time, while I fumed! Oh well……

    Like 13
    • Robert White

      Leno is a great guy that will go the extra mile due to the fact that he has heart.

      Great story about him, and his behaviour towards car enthusiasts.

      Bob

      Like 10
  8. Will Owen Member

    My first look at this engine on Jeff Lane’s Tatra pickup was the second time I fell in love with Ledwinka’s design skills. Most of what you’re seeing there is a single casting that is both engine and the front part of the chassis. Hard to see on this, just because of the photo size, but that is every bit as impressive as the later V8s. There is a ’41 (can’t remember model #) that lives here in L.A. County that I’ve drooled over several times, which is the same vintage I am. Too bad I’m not in as good shape!

    Like 2
  9. Bill McCoskey

    I’m fairly familiar with Tatra cars in general, having owned a few over the years. [Still have one.] I’m thinking that this is a one-off body, probably put on the backbone chassis when the car was new or shortly after that. The rear door suggests that this body did double duty as a sedan for passengers or family, and a delivery vehicle when not transporting people. Dropping the spare tire assembly down allows the rear door to open, giving access to whatever they were carrying in the back of the car.

    This is a fairly rare car, even in Europe. It needs to be saved. But the problem with a car like this is driving it in the USA, as it’s top speed is not much more than 40mph downhill. Its geared to conquer steep mountain roads, not cruising at highway speeds.

    Like 3
  10. Martin Horrocks

    This is a lovely little car and seems good value for something so unique. Obviously not a car for everyone, so price could/should be negotiable.

    Supposedly Hitler used a Tatra to good effect in the early 20s, so insisted on aircooling in the spec for the KdFwagen (later Volkswagen) as a consequence. Later in the ealy 30s, Hitler asked Porsche to base the concept for the KdFwagen on the rear engined Tatras, enough so that Tatra won a lawsuit against Porsche many years down the line.

    I had always wanted a 603 and was able to buy one a few years ago. It terrified me….but screamingly different!

    When was the last time Hitler and Jay Leno appeared in the same link?

    Like 1
    • minicoopermk1

      What terrified you? The handling? They’ve always interested me, and I hope to visit Kopřivnice one day. Always liked those 603s, after seeing them on the road in Germany and the Czech Republic.

  11. Brakeservo

    I’ve owned two Tatra 603s – neither “terrified” me but I always feared breaking something. It was from the special alloy of unobtanium used in lots of the parts.

    And for the GREATEST car promotional video EVER!!! Go to YouTube and search for the original Tatra “Happy Journey” film. Amazing in and of itself, but when you consider it was made by Communists even more so!!

  12. Jesse Mortensen Jesse Mortensen Staff

    This video?

    Like 1
    • Bill McCoskey

      Yes, It’s the best sales video I’ve ever seen! It encouraged me to buy another Tatra 603 [I’ve had 2, still have one.]

      Like 1
  13. Brakeservo

    I prefer the original. I’m at work so don’t have time to watch the version you’ve linked to.

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