Well, I couldn’t really pass this up, could I? We’ve done London, Tokyo and Paris, so it’s time we peeked behind the Iron Curtain and caught some Tatras in their element. Plus, it’s hard to think of a more beautiful backdrop than the city of Prague. Click on the photos to embiggen them (a cromulent word, don’tcha know), and let’s hit the cobbled streets.
Wenceslas Square, 1939. An Audi takes centre stage ahead of two small local marques (a Zbrojovka and an Aero). Turbulent times ahead…
Czechoslovak News Agency Headquarters, 1948. A Tatra T87 in front of a T57B and an Aero Type 30.
1954. Looks like a T600 Tatraplan is about to overtake a Škoda 1102.
1955. Two Tatraplans in one photo.
Praha-Ruzyně, or Prague airport, in 1957. The Tatra looks a little tired already. Next to it is a Simca Aronde, a relatively popular French import in those days. We will come back to this airport a few more times…
… Actually, let’s stay there — here is the parking lot, one year later. Aside from the inevitable Škodas, two Arondes are present, along with a Fiat 600, a Wartburg and a Volkswagen.
1958 again — not too many cars, but some interesting ones: a blue Škoda 1200, a Škoda 1101 van, a pre-war Praga Piccolo (I think) and a white Renault 4CV.
Still in 1958: one last T87 for the road, almost upstaged by a 1948-49 Studebaker Starlight.
1959. The Soviets are well and truly established: a GAZ Pobieda, a GAZ M-21 Volga and… ?
1960. Škoda Spartaks everywhere, but some prewar remnants (in this case, a 1936-40 Adler Trumpf Junior) are holding on and will continue to do so for a long while.
Checking back on the airport: things have changed in the mid-’60s. An Opel Rekord wagon and a Citroen ID-19 are keeping the Škodas company.
By the late ’60s, things were looking up in Czechoslovakia. Škoda’s 1000MB was conquering the road, now also shared with the cheaper Trabant. But the attempt at liberalization would soon end…
1967. Nice to see a T600 again. The usual suspects (Pobieda, Wartburg, Škoda) mix with the outsiders (Fiat and Renault).
1969. After the Prague Spring, the city and the country entered a sort of permanent winter. And for some reason, a Simca 1300 prowled the streets.
1971 — not Prague strictly speaking, but an interesting photograph. The black Tatra could well be driven by the secret police (many were). Note that the traffic seems awfully quiet on the other side of the highway…
For folks who couldn’t afford or were not allowed a new car, old bangers like this early ’30s Tatra T57 were an option. Photo taken in 1972.
Here’s a similar Czech CC (a Mercedes 170), surrounded by Trabants in 1975.
We haven’t paid a visit to the airport in a while. Here’s what was to be found in 1973: Trabant, Moskvitch 408, Wartburg 353, Fiat 850, Renault 8, VW Beetle, Volga M-24 and a wagon that appears to be a Ford Taunus P6.
A gloomy day in 1974, starring the Dacia 1300.
A few noteworthy foreigners here, including a Beetle, a Mercedes W114/115 and a Peugeot 504. Picture taken in 1975.
Gosh, is it the late ’70s already? Still some prewar leftovers (next to the green Škoda coupé), but also a brand new Simca 1307 hiding among the Mokvitches.
This is the first of a small series of colour shots that I have guess-dated to “circa 1980”.
A leather-clad Velorex — something of an icon in Czechoslovakia…
Cabbie snoozing in a tired-looking 603; the brand new 613 next to it looks highly polished.
Is that a W123 on the left? Some people have impressive connections…
The Škoda wagon and the T603 look right at home, but that Renault 4 van and the VW Golf seem suspiciously foreign.
Lots to unpack here. First, there’s that house, which looks part awesome and part haunted. And then the cars. The VW Golf, the Fiat 127 and the Citroen Dyane… Oh, and there’s the little matter of the ’66 Plymouth Barracuda and the 1974-ish Pontiac Firebird ganging up on that Tatra. What the heck is going on here?
Last one from 1980 (this one definitely was taken that year).
The vacuuous and anxiety-provoking hellscape of the city’s outer suburbs in 1981. Not much better in the West on that score.
1981 again — a Tatra parked just under the 15th Century astronomical clock (which still works) in the Old Town Square.
No, I haven’t forgotten the airport. Here it is, in 1985.
A fleet of new black T613s — and an older police model, along with what looks like a Mercedes — accompanying a ZIL as it enters the Hradčany (a.k.a the Prague Castle, the seat of government for over 1000 years) in 1985.
1990 — the Velvet Revolution just took place and the Czechs and Slovaks are gong their separate ways, without a drop of blood shed. Meanwhile, Prague’s magnificent Art Deco architecture, just like its Art Nouveau, Roccocco, Renaissance and Medieval beauties, is about to be admired by a flow of tourists. Among them, a young T87…
Let’s just check back at the airport, now that it’s 1990 and colour has come to stay. Still the same, eh?
See you tomorrow for another edition — heading ever eastwards, and I mean really eastwards.
That T57 is proof that in the right (or rather wrong) political climate anything can be made to last a long time.
Or maybe just classic project car hell. Hard to tell.
Another great selection Mr. Tatra
I was in Prague in 1969 the precise anniversary day of the Soviet incursion. The city was filled with so much emotional angst that you could cut it with a knife. Really brought the Cold War home to me.
The cars, of course fascinated me. I encountered several examples of your 1972 photo of the T-57 in the back streets. Usually the hood was up and someone was tinkering with it.
I was really impressed with Prague and the Czech people. I still have a few tools I bought there in an effort to use up the required exchange that you needed to fork over to obtain entry.
Very interesting shots of Prague. Unfortunately I was not able to participate in our high school trip to Prague in 1974. Some of the foreign cars may have been of the occasional Western visitor.
The T600 in its original habitat is a treat.
For those who like learning about the East, I’ve got a reprint of a 1963 Polish car price guide.
(All prices in PLN.
1 PLN in 1963 ~ 0.15 USD in 2019 ~ 0.015 USD in 1963.
Average Polish monthly salary – 1763 PLN)
– 1960-1963 – 30-100k (120k retail),
– pre-1960 (also GAZ M20) – 20-50k,
– 1962 – 54-62k,
– pre-1962 – 25-49k,
– 1101/1102 – 10-27k,
– 1200 and similar – 16-40k,
– 1959-1961 Octavia – 55-83k,
– 1962 Octavia – 83-90k,
– 1963 Octavia – 95-100k (95k retail)
(3k more for Octavia Super),
– 311 – 30-65k,
– 312 sedan – 90-100k (95k retail),
– 312 de luxe – 92-100k,
– 312 3-door wagon – 90-95k,
– 312 5-door wagon – 105-112k,
– 312 coupe – 100-110k,
– P50 sedan – 57-62k,
– P50 wagon – 59-65k,
– P60 sedan – 65-72k (retail 65k),
– P60 wagon – 72k (same as retail),
AWZ P70 – 25-42k,
– F8 – 15-22k,
– F9 – 22-40k.
– 400/401- 10-25k,
– 404 – 25-45k,
– 407 3-speed – 40-70k,
– 1960/61 407 4-speed – 53-83k,
– 1962 407 4-speed – 93-103k,
– 1963 407 4-speed – 105-108k (retail 115k).
– 4CV – 30-50k,
– Dauphine – 40-105k,
– 8 – 120-140k (brand new 145k PLN),
– 600 – 30-50k ,
– 600D – 50-95k,
– 1100BL – 10-27k,
– 1953-60 1100 – 45-65k,
– 1961/62 1100 – up to 90k,
– 1963 1100 – up to 135k,
– 1300-1500 – 85-125k (brand new up to 175k),
– Fleet/Stylemaster – 15-25k,
– Deluxe – 18-32k,
– Powerglide-equipped – 22-35k,
– 1958-60 Bel Air – 40-80k,
– 1961/62 Bel Air – 75-130k,
– 1963 Bel Air – up to 200k,
– new Bel Air – up to 285k,
– 8 – 12-25k,
– 1956-58 Aronde- 37-57k,
– newer Arondes – up to 85k,
– 1961-63 Etoile/Elysee – 70-120k (brand new up to 150k),
– older Etoile/Elysee – 50-85k
– pre-1962 Versailles/Chambord/Beaulieu – 65-100k (brand new up to 200k),
– previous-generation Vedette – 25-40k,
– Kubelwagen – 10-25k,
– pre-1958 Beetle – up to 55k,
– 1958-60 Beetle – 50-80k,
– 1960-63 Beetle – 80-120k (brand new up to 125k Standard, 135-155k Export),
– pre-1963 Type 3 – 100-135k,
– 1963 Type 3 – 145k (brand new up to 190k),
BMW 340 – 15-25k,
– 203 – 30-55k,
– pre-1962 403 – 45-80k,
– 1962/63 403 – 90-150k (brand new up to 180k),
– 403 diesel – up to 160k used, up to 190k brand new,
– pre-1962 404 – up to 110k,
– 1962/63 404 – 100-180k (up to 220k brand new),
– Kadett – 75-100k (new up to 125k),
– 1956-61 Rekord – 35-75k,
– 1962/63 Rekord – 85-155k (brand new up to 175k),
– new-gen 1963 Rekord – up to 200k,
– pre-1957 Kapitan – 20-48k,
– 1957-60 Kapitan – 30-80k,
– 1961/62 Kapitan – 80-150k,
– 1963 Kapitan – 170-270k (brand new 330k),
– postwar 170V – 12-25k,
– pre-1958 180 – 25-50k (diesel up to 60k),
– 1958-1962 180 – 45-100k (diesel up to 145k),
– 1963 180 – used up to 180k, brand new up to 225k,
– 1963 180D – used up to 195k, brand new up to 245k,
– pre-1958 190 – 30-65k (diesel up to 70k),
– 1958-60 190 – 55-95k (diesel up to 120k),
– 1961/62 190 – 100-195k (diesel up to 215k),
– 1963 190 – used up to 210k, new 300k and over,
– Junior – 50-110k (new up to 125k),
– F12 – 85-120k (brand new up to 160k),
Prewar cars – 8-15k, up to 22k in good condition.
If you liked this, I’ve also got an article about used car prices in 1971, listings from 1959 and 1981, and new car prices from 1966, 1973 and 1977.
Love these 20th century cityscapes. Thank you. They tell so much about their demographics and population density. I really like the design of the bus in the rear of the first pic.
I am embarrassed to say, but if you drove through the streets of a major Canadian city in the mid 80s, you were likely to see at least one Skoda 130. Bought new and locally at the time. They reminded me of the first gen Toyota Tercel. 🙂
I’m surprised at how many Eastern Bloc cars ended up in Canada. I’m aware of few Ladas but that’s quite a variety of selections out there for a country right next to the US. ( which means, maybe curious tourists can visit Detroit big three in those cars, something refreshing )
Canada, like many countries, was considerably more independent both corporately and politically back then. There was always intense pressure on our culture and industries from being overwhelmed by the influx of US culture (TV, movies, and music for example). Given the US is ten times larger and right on our border. But we had strong protectionist policies. It was a very big deal here when Petro-Canada was created.
It’s no longer the same. With globalization and trade deals like NAFTA that remove many of these protections and independent sovereignty, we see more monopolization of industries, and markets around the world.
We didn’t have the same level of anti-East fervor either here. Few raised a fuss that companies from the USSR, Czechoslovakia and Romania were competing on the new car market. Most Canadians I’d suggest thought it was nice were weren’t exposed to the propaganda. I’m sure if they became a legitimate threat in sales, GM, Ford and others would have raised a stink politically.
Sadly, I never made it to Prague, yet. Loving this series.
If you ever get a chance to visit, I highly recommend it. It is the most beautiful city I have visited in Europe. The photos above of Wenceslas Square, and the GAZ cars under Prague Castle, reminded me of time spent there. Friendly people, clean, safe, a most welcoming city.
But the 80s were a much different time. Back then I remember Czechoslovakia as the most depressing country I ever visited.
It sounds like you may be disagreeing with me. The context of my comments were in the present. I did not claim any knowledge or past times regarding Prague. I only meant to recommend it as a place to visit TODAY.
I hope this clarifies my intent.
Frankie Goes to Hollywood stuck in my head.
Very interesting photos, heck the entire series has been interesting and educational. It appears that Prague was spared much of the destruction that occurred in WWII. My knowledge of central European history is pretty sparse and I don’t know how much actual fighting took place in Czechoslovakia. In any case Prague appears to have plenty of historical buildings to go along with the cars that are not familiar to me.
Great collection. In the 10th pic, the car to the right of the two Soviets is a 1956/7 Opel Kapitan.
Thanks for the great photos of the city. I remember it; I loved it. The food and beer (better than German) are excellent. The architecture is busy but has a wonderful variety. The history is rich.
These photos often show the trams; using them was one of my favorite parts of being in Prague (and in Brno). They are frequent, cheap and seemingly go everywhere you need (except the Prague airport). We also rode the Russian built subway system and even the funicular tram up Petrin Hill. This was all great fun.
As for cars the trip was too late to see any of the stuff presented here. In addition to nice, modern Skodas, there were lots of western cars: Audi; VW; there was even a Lexus store in old town Prague. We had a Hertz rental VW Polo four door with, of course, a manual tranny. The car was great for driving in Czech cities. My Czech vehicular experience also included buying a bunch of 1/43 Skoda models by Abrex at various Tesco stores. And we even went to the Tatra museum in Koprivnice.
Another interesting thing about Prague is the beer bike – basically a pedal-powered bar on wheels!
Nice photos! My wife and I spent 10 days driving a Skoda in the Czech Republic looking for (my) ancestors. I was also hoping to see a Tatra, one of my favorite cars. Despite driving almost the entirety of the country, I didn’t see a single Tatra! I did see one Trabant, and an older Skoda (Felicia?) sports car. We also managed to tour the Skoda factory and museum. Next time, I’ll just make it a point to go to the Tatra museum. The Czech Republic is very easy country to drive in, the scenery is very similar to Western Oregon.
an amazing alternate universe that is somehow very familiar.
I just finished a driving tour of Poland and Czech Republic. Was hoping to see some old Trabant, Wartburg, Fiat 126P, & Volga. No such luck!
The rental cars (Hyundai and Skoda) represented the primary means of transport for both countries with several Fiats thrown in for good measure. Once the Warsaw pack fell apart, looks like everyone went running to the West for auto transport.
Paul, you would absolutely love Prague! Stunning city with wonderful architecture. Our trip was capped by being driven around the city in an open ‘32 Skoda……
In the 1960 shot, pretty sure that’s a Cezeta poking its long nose out at the back https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C4%8Cezeta An interesting Czech-made scooter thing, that really didn’t look like anything else ever made.
Lovely pictures of an ara that has disappeared, but I do miss the king of the hill in trucks of those days; I happened to find a shot of it sitting in the old Praneda workshop, the Czech state owned importers of Tatra trucks and Desta forklifts for Holland, where I worked during the summer holidays : The legendary Tatra 813 8×8 The tipper is Dutch as is the bright paintwork, the paint sprayer had a complete side job spraying stuff for colleagues, excellent work for the price of a hamburger if he liked you.
As we were Czech state owned we all did a what we wanted in the best communist tradition, the management consisted of a Dutch guy and a Czech, he drove a black Tatra 613, quite a sinister car !
Here’s another 813 picture, they still use these trucks today they are loved as trucks for trials where it still is king of the hill. And some have been converted in heavy duty tow-trucks.
It is not an Audi on the 2nd picture, but a Wanderer W23. The two brands shared some mechanical elements, but Audis were FWD, while Wanderer stayed RWD. The car behind the W23 seems to be Praga Lady.
On 10th picture, 1956-1958 Opel Kapitän shares the place with the Volga and Pobjeda.
Thanks for the IDs, Riley. Wanderer is the Auto Union brand I’m least familiar with – I keep forgetting they existed. The Opel did look like a GM Europe product of some sort, but I was not sure which. The side trim didn’t seem to match anything I could find.
Aww, ahh. Just releasing the feet from my boots, Mr T. Might even be time to open a beer (well, that and the fact it’ll be 108F tomorrow, typical Christmas weather).
Stepped through my screen and spent too long wandering in old Prague, I did. Magnificent.
Thanks for the reverie, sir. Most relaxed.
Sigh. Reality is calling, asking me for some dinner. Bloody kids.
My wife and kids and I, went to Europe a couple of years ago. Prague was one of our favorite stops. We were blown away by the beauty and friendliness everywhere we went. We took an exhausting day-long walking tour of the old(er) parts of town and I recognize a few things here. It is well worth the trip! I was also stopped by the Czech highway patrol; I don’t recall if I wrote about that here or not. They didn’t speak English and I didn’t speak Czech, but we made it work.
Great stuff T87! Thanks for that. I´m curious were we´ll go next.
I was last year in Prague, and what should I say. Like many said here before: a beauty of a city! Definitely worth a trip. Later that year I went across the coutry. Beautiful country, friendly people; even the Czech highway patrol, which stopped autobahnraser,too. But I had luck, one of them spoke german.
CC´s I saw some, but that was outside of Prague. Threre was even a T813 still used by the Czech Army. The photo shows another type I came across.
Great work and I’m so glad a Velorex made it into the pictures. While the cars (for sufficiently small values of car) are thankfully gone the parent motorcycle sidecar business still exists and is sold in the US http://www.velorexusa.com/
Got the chance to go to Prague twice, in 1993 and 1996, with my parents. Both were pleasure trips, with the end destination being Slovakia, as my Mother’s parents emigrated from there about 100 years ago (she was born in the US, but her first language naturally is Slovak). Her parents never got the chance to return, but I was pleased that both her and her brother were able to visit. Her family is much larger in Europe than in the US, where it is just her and her brother from her generation that live here, only my (bachelor) Uncle emigrated besides my Grandparents from Slovakia.
In 1993, we had what I consider my most fortunate navigation luck to find our lodgings, as we had flown into Munich earlier in the day and my Father wanted to try to find where he was stationed in the 50’s on the Czech border, and we got lost (and therefore delayed) getting to Prague to meet with the person renting our apartment (around the corner from the Narodni Divadlo). I was driving and really had no good idea where our apartment was but I knew it was in central Prague so I followed city signs for that area…..we didn’t know anything except the street address of the apartment and my Mother got out of the car and went to a bar to ask directions…they looked at her like she was crazy, as we had navigated to within a block of where our apartment was…at night in a city I’d never been to before. I still consider it to be my luckiest navigation incident. And of course, Prague itself captivated us, for the few days we were there before setting off east where we stayed in Olomouc before setting off for Slovakia which was compelling for other reasons.
In 1993 the Czechs and Slovaks had just separated…the practical reason I remember was that we had “modern” Czech Korona that didn’t work in the pay phones which were still set up for the “combined” nation’s currency….we later learned the trick about making phone calls at the post office where we could pay more easily for our calls. Also per the earlier comment on how Prague was spared much of the destruction of the World Wars, unlike sadly much of the rest of Europe…we got to the small town of Svidnik Slovakia which is right near where the Dukla Pass battle through the Tatras was fought, which certainly wasn’t spared much grief….we found out how little we knew about the eastern front of WWII (my Father who is a WWII buff learned a lot from that trip).
Žiji v Praze už přes sedmdesát let a za nic bych ji nevyměnil. Moc se mi líbí fotky – vlastně jakýsi pohled zvenku, který přesto ukazuje Prahu takovou, jaká je. Vlastně byla…