We’ve covered the history of Tatra and the incredible V8 pre-war streamliners, as well as the later post-war Tatra 603, but the Tatra 600 Tatraplan has barely been mentioned here. It was a slightly-scaled down four cylinder version of the V8 Type 87, and an evolution of the pre-war four-cylinder 97. Hitler initially admired the 97, but then stopped its production in 1939 after invading Czechoslovakia, as he didn’t want it to compete with his Volkswagen.
Realistically, that wouldn’t have been so much the case, as the 97 was a fair bit bigger and considerably more expensive. And Tatra’s production facilities were tiny compared to the million-units-per-year Wolfsburg factory. But nevertheless, the 97 bugged Hitler, and that was that. After the war, the 97 briefly reappeared as 107, but in 1948, the substantially revised Tatra 600 “Tatraplan” replaced it, with a decidedly more contemporary front end.
The Tatraplan had a 2.0 L air-cooled boxer four, with a decent 52 hp for the times, which gave it a top speed of either 130 or 140 kmh (79 or 84 mph), depending on gearing. That was undoubtedly in part due to its excellent aerodynamics, with a CD of 0.32.
The Tatraplan was roomy, and could seat six on its two bench seats. It was exported to Western Europe, Canada, USSR and even China. The largest number of exports went to neighboring Austria, which undoubtedly explains why there was one a block away from our house in Innsbruck, which led to my obsession with all things Tatra.
There were also some high-performance versions of the 600 made, including a couple with the V8 engine from the 603. And a diesel version was in the works, when T600 production was stopped in 1952. In 1951, Tatra had been told to build only trucks, so passenger car production was sourced to Skoda, and after one year, the 600 was terminated. For the second time, thanks to dictatorial powers. It’s interesting to speculate what might have become of the Tatraplan in a Western democracy.