Tatra: Excellence in Engineering at Lane Motor Museum, May 8-Nov 3, 2014
This show, opening May 8, will be the first time we have displayed nearly every Tatra in our collection at once! Twenty different Tatra cars & trucks will be on display. Chronologically these vehicles exhibit 73 years of Tatra’s history with vehicles from 1923-1996.
Largely unknown outside Eastern Europe,Tatra was a car company driven by engineering innovation. It’s first car, the 1923 T-11, was a very successful, totally new car designed by Austrian engineer Hans Ledwinka. The T-11 featured a backbone chassis with independent swing axle rear suspension. The 2 cylinder front air cooled engine had the front suspension mounted to it. The Tatra T-11 was a huge success because it was robust and reliable, two very important attributes for a car in an area where roads were barely more than improved wagon trails.
Tatra and Ledwinka were not sitting still and resting on their success. Only 11 years after starting car production they introduced the Tatra T-77 at the Berlin Auto Show in May, 1934. With its aerodynamic shape (done with the help of Paul Jaray) and its V-8 air cooled engine at the rear, the car was unlike anything of the era.
Tatra realized they need a very upscale car to be successful in the western European market and the T-77 was just the car. Although some people saw the car as ugly, one could not deny its 90 mph top speed and excellent road handling. The T-77 was quickly replaced in 1936 by the Tatra T-87, a slightly smaller but more powerful car than the T-77. The T-87 remained in production until 1950.
Hans Ledwinka was wrongly imprisoned after WWII for working for the Germans. Tatra continued on without him but the innovative designs he pioneered became aged and, looking back, Tatra’s best years were when Ledwinka lead the engineering department. Tatra continued to produce cars until the mid-1990s.
Lane Motor Museum has the largest collection of Tatras in North America. To the best of our knowledge there are less than 200 total in the United States. For the first time, we will be displaying twenty Tatra cars and trucks along with our collection of Tatra models and artwork.