Rare 1949 Tatra T600 Tatraplan Project

Think tail fins were an American invention? Think again: the Czechs got there first. As evidence, consider this 1949 Tatra 600 Tatraplan, located in Rockland Maine and listed here on eBay. The starting bid is $4,000, with no bids yet posted at the time of writing and a little less than three days left to go in the auction.

Born of the robust manufacturing sector and pool of superior engineering talent of interwar Czechoslovakia, Tatra quickly established itself as an automotive innovator. Pioneering innovations in air-cooled engines and streamlined monococque design, Tatra made contributions to the automobile rarely acknowledged today, not least via its influence on later, more ubiquitous German models. In fact, during the war the predecessor of this car, the Type 87, was so well-loved by the Germans that the V8-powered 87 has been called a “Czech Secret Weapon”– having allegedly been responsible for killing more Nazi officers (due to a top speed of 100 mph and a Porsche-like predisposition for snap-oversteer) than actual combat.

Making its debut in 1947 at the Prague Auto Salon, the Tatra 600 Tatraplan drew on the basic principles and design of the Type 87 and subsequent Type 97 to produce an air-cooled, rear-engine Tatra for the new, communist era. The seller states that three engines come with the car, one of which is a recently rebuilt VW pancake four-cylinder. Although with less displacement than the Tatraplan’s original 2L flat-four, the Volkswagen engine should offer a considerable boost in power; the original engine producing only 50 hp. Equipped with a four-speed manual, the Tatraplan had a top speed of 81 mph.

Which brings us to this example. These are rare automobiles, which opens up options that might not be viable with other cars in this condition. The seller states that his original intention was to make a custom hot rod, and this definitely remains a solid course of action. On the other hand, one could attempt a restoration, though availability of parts might make this a far more challenging proposition. Either way, the finished car will be an attention magnet, with its suicide doors, fastback, and tail fin looking more like something out of a Dick Tracy strip than postwar Czechoslovakia. It’s a testament to the abilities of the automaker that these Tatras were ahead of their time for over a decade, and a testament to the skill of the designers that they still kind of look it.

 

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Comments

  1. HadTwo

    Getting replacement gauges for that dash may be a problem

    Like 2
    • Max Wynne

      NOS gauges come with it . . .says the ebay ad

      Like 6
  2. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    For some reason, I do not think that spine fits my vision of tail fins.

    Like 13
  3. Ken Carney

    Slip in a turbocharged Corvair mill, finish the rest of the car, and
    watch the fun begin! With 110+ HP out back, that should be good for 120+ MPH or better. One thing’s for sure, you’ll have
    the only one in town!

    Like 3
  4. JRHaelig

    Looks like lots if parts come with the winning bid. Looks like flat glass for replacements, too, but window gaskets could be a problem.

    Hagerty just featured a similar one in the recent magazine, with similar “drivers beware” warnings.

    I’d much rather see this one finished using old Impala taillights and Ford window cranks than to languish waiting for perfection!

    Like 5
    • Derek

      Just dug out my book on Tatras; looks like flat windscreen glass with a split in the middle.

      I can also see the appeal of modifying, but for me it’d be making details more aerodynamic; doorhandles, trim and so on. Another engine to consider would be the flat 4 from the Citroen GS.

  5. ChingaTrailer

    I’ve owned two Tatra 603s along with a beautiful Jawa motorcycle- they have all given me an appreciation of how deeply cultured the Czech people are.

    Like 4
  6. Martin Horrocks

    Valuable car when finished. Too rare to hot rod.

    Like 15
  7. anm

    Challenging, but not too challenging. A minute of internet searching revealed an extensive Tatra parts and support network in the Czech Republic.

    Hopefully someone with the requisite skills and enthusiasm (and maybe Czech language proficiency!) saves this from being hotrodded.

    Like 15
    • Bill McCoskey

      The Tatra Register UK [TRUK] is an English speaking group with the Czech contacts if language is a problem. Most parts are available.

      I’ve owned a couple of Tatra cars, and these are bringing good money when restored to high levels. It’s financially worth restoring rather than rodding.

      The listing ended early, hopefully it’s found a new owner.

      Whoever now owns the car is welcome to contact me at billmccoskey@aol.com for lots of info on these cars, I’ve also got most of the original paperwork [manuals, brochures, etc.]

      Like 1
  8. Gordo

    From the rear it looks like a 63 split window Corvette, sort of!

    Like 4
    • Stan Part

      Looks more like Lord Humungus from Mad Max…

      Like 5
      • Dan H

        So, with an pro touring frame and a supercharged LS engine and trans “GM crate package”, you could be ready for the Zombie Apocalypse, lol.

        Like 2
  9. Gerard Frederick

    Wasn´t the designer´s name Ledwinka? and wasn´t he German? and didn´t he live in Munich? and wasn´t his last design a total rework of the Victoria 250 micro car originally designed by Egon Brütsch?

    Like 1
    • Geoff

      No, He was Austrian. He “retired” in Germany after WW2

      Like 1
      • Gerard Frederick

        Austrian is as German as Bavarian or Hessian or Prussian or Sauerkraut for that mattere, never mind the divide-and-conquer crowd.

        Like 2
      • UngeheuresUngeziefer

        Not exactly. Like Ferdinand Porsche, who ripped off the Tatra design for the Beetle, Ledwinka was a Sudeten German. Oddly, one with a Czech surname, which happens to mean “kidney”.

    • grant

      Austrian is German like Canada is the USA. Bavaria is another word for German. Austria is an actual, separate country.

      Like 2
      • Gerard Frederick

        ——– sure Grant. Thanks for the enlightened history lesson. And southern Tirol is Italian and Silesia is Polish and Malmedy is Belgian, not to forget East Prussia being Russian.May I suggest we stick to cars?

      • Gordo

        Southern Germany

  10. Stan Part

    Looks more like Lord Humungus from Mad Max…

  11. Andrew Smith

    Tailfins were introduced by Harley Earl on the 1948 Cadillac, one year before this car was made.

  12. Rick

    If someone can get this one reassembled and roadworthy they’d have every right to be czuffed. ;)

  13. Danilo Gurovich

    Subaru WRX engine? Porsche 911 brakes and some suspension work. Hmmm.

    Like 2
  14. SMITTY

    This will make a beautiful Hot Rod Cruiser. Use as much late model drive train as possible so the car will be serviceable and dependable. Fuel injection and OBD2 is almost a must

  15. Johnmloghry Johnmloghry Member

    Isn’t Tatra motors now in India? Building such cars as Jaguar and Range Rover?
    And I think I might have read somewhere they now have Chrysler/Ram. Just conjuncture. I’ll stay with American made from the 50’s and 60’s thank you very much.
    God bless America

    Like 1
    • Stan Part

      You’re thinking of Tata. Not the same as Tatra.

      And no, Chrysler/Ram/Dodge/Jeep are now part of the conglomerate called Stellantis, which also owns Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Peugeot, Citroen, Maserati, Opel, and Vauxhall.

      Like 14
      • Perjen Member

        That’s exactly right. And they were equipped with 6 cylinders from the factory.

      • Johnmloghry Johnmloghry Member

        You’re right ofcourse, thank you for your correction. It’s sad day when the big three American car makers are owned by foreign companies. Most of the parts come from China and assembled in U.S. so they can still say American made. What a joke.
        God bless America

        Like 4
    • That Guy

      And Tatra is still very much in business in the Czech Republic as a truck manufacturer, which has been their primary product line for many decades.

      Like 3
  16. Silverghost

    Paging Jay Leno, paging Mr. Jay Leno…… :)

    Like 1
  17. Bones in AK
    • Gordo

      Very cool looking, reminds me of some sort of beetle, not a VW beetle.

      Like 1
    • Dennis Wilson

      Ah. Looks much like a customized 1949-51 Mercury!

    • Dennis Wilson

      Ah. It looks like the popular customizing of the 1949-1951 Mercury.

  18. Frank

    Pretty cool car, different and love the suicide doors. It belongs to what we call people from Maine in New England, Maniacs. I bet my weeks pay the owner has a great story for the buyer.

  19. Frank

    Skoda is the oldest car manufacturer in the world. The owners started out making bicycles.

    Like 2
    • ChingaTrailer

      Tatra & Skoda two completely different companies. Tatra is one of the oldest motor vehicle mfgrs (not car manufacturer as they only build trucks now. ) Skoda is owned by VW.

    • Robert Deull

      Panhard is the oldest dates to 1891 when they sold 30 cars.

      Like 2
      • Geoff

        Yes, Panhard, and the Peugeot started a few months later

        Like 1
    • Lou Rugani

      Zastava dates to the 1850s in Kragujevac, building arms, farm equipment and Chevrolet and Willys trucks until 1954, then Fiats and the Fiat 127-based Yugo, then Fiat 500s for America.

      Like 2
  20. Richard Kirschenbaum

    The great Czech patriot Jan Masaryk who’s father was the first President of Czechoslovakia owned a Tatra type 77, the original series. He was eventually murdered by the Russians when he refused to resign or help hand over his country to the Russians. At the time of his assassination he was engaged to Marcia Davenport, the half sister of actor Efram Zimbalist Jr.

    Like 2
  21. Wayne from Oz

    That tail fin was much earlier than 1949, it was on Tatras as early as 1938. There was a V8 version of this car also ,if I remember correctly. The front bears a resemblance to a Renault Dauphine, or vice versa seeing the Tatra came first.

    Like 1
  22. wantedit

    looks like sold???? Leno get it???

  23. Chinga-Trailer

    Why do people keep bringing up Leno’s name for junk like this? He’s one of the smarter collectors out there, and no doubt has the ability to buy whatever he wants and if he wanted one of these, he’d manage his money well and go after the best example available as it will be cheaper than properly restoring this one, even if it was “free.” He knows Tatras, he has a T87 which he showed me while his shop was rebuilding the engine.

    Like 1
  24. chrlsful

    vedub bug’n SAAB were take offs on this fella (style design, well bug did the motor too but didn’t Ignaz Schustala, founder Tatra, get Dr Porche out of a German jail end of the war?
    I think the 600 serries (603, etc) R great – looks, engineering…
    Isnt the co still around or is it like other orphans “somebody else” (Nash = Chryster, NUS = audi, etc).

  25. Bugnbox

    Thanks Barnfinds for posting this . I would have missed it otherwise. The car is coming to California and will be the second Tatra T600 that I have owned (technically I had one and a half of them, but that’s another story). I always regretted selling the first one as I never had the chance to complete it. Hopefully this time I can see this one through to a finished dream machine.

    We all gotta dream about something right?

    Like 6
    • CVPanther Member

      Congratulations, Bugnbox.
      Good luck re-imagining your dream!
      And kudos for your intent to preserve this rather cool and unique car.

      Like 2
  26. piston poney

    love the back, not so much the front

  27. Lou Rugani

    Zastava dates to the 1850s in Kragujevac, building arms, farm equipment and Chevrolet and Willys trucks until 1954, then Fiats and the Fiat 127-based Yugo, then Fiat 500s for America.

    Like 1

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