Tatra 97

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Tatra T97
Manufacturer TATRA, a. s.
Production 1936–1939
508 produced[1]
Designer Hans Ledwinka, Erich Ledwinka, Erich Übelacker
Body and chassis
Class Mid-size car
Body style limousine
Layout RR layout
Engine 1.8 L 1761 cc Overhead cam flat-4
Transmission 4-speed manual[1]
Wheelbase 2,600 mm (102.4 in)[1]
Length 4,270 mm (168.1 in)[1]
Width 1,610 mm (63.4 in)[1]
Height 1,450 mm (57.1 in)[1]
Curb weight 1,150 kg (2,540 lb)[1]
Predecessor Tatra V570
Tatra T77A
Successor Tatra T600
Tatra 97 in Kopřivnice

The Type 97 is a mid-class saloon car from Czechoslovak car-maker Tatra. It was produced for a short time in the pre-war period, from 1936 to 1939.

Tatra 87-old.jpg

Streamlined Tatras


The T97 was designed in 1936 as a smaller alternative to the large T87. Instead of a V8, it was powered by a 1.8-litre flat-four engine. With engine power of 29.4 kilowatts (40.0 PS; 39.4 bhp) the car could achieve top speed of 130 kilometres per hour (81 mph).[1] The design was also simplified, using just two headlights instead of three, a single-piece windscreen, and an overall smaller body. Production of the car was canceled after the Nazis annexed Czechoslovakia in 1938, possibly to avoid comparison with the KdF-Wagen (see below). At that time, 508 cars were built. In 1946, production resumed, but the new communist government quickly dropped the T97 in favor of the more cheaper to build and overall 'more democratic' Tatraplan, which was named after the Socialist Planned Economy.

Resemblance to KdF-Wagen / Volkswagen Beetle[edit]

Both the streamlined design and the technical specifications, especially the air-cooled flat-four engine mounted in the back, give the T97 a striking resemblance to the KdF-Wagen of Volkswagen, which later became the Beetle. It is believed that Porsche used Tatra's designs since he was under huge pressure to design the Volkswagen quickly and cheaply.[2] According to the books Tatra - The Legacy of Hans Ledwinka and Car Wars, Adolf Hitler said of the Tatra 'this is the car for my roads'.[2][3] Ferdinand Porsche later admitted 'to have looked over Ledwinka's shoulders' while designing the Volkswagen.[2][4]
Tatra sued Porsche for damages, and Porsche was willing to settle. However, Hitler canceled this, saying he 'would settle the matter.' [5] When Czechoslovakia was invaded by the Nazis, the production of the T97 was immediately halted, and the lawsuit dropped. After the war, Tatra reopened the lawsuit against Volkswagen. In 1967, the matter was settled when Volkswagen paid Tatra 3,000,000 Deutsche Mark in compensation.[6]

T97 interior
T97 rear view
Aircooled boxer-4 mounted in the rear.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "CARS & HISTORY: TATRA T97 (1936-1939)". tatra.demon.nl. Retrieved 2008-03-12. 
  2. ^ a b c Car Wars, Jonathan Mantle, Arcade Publishing, 1997
  3. ^ Ivan Margolius & John Henry, Tatra - The Legacy of Hans Ledwinka SAF Publishing, Harrow 1990, page 92
  4. ^ Ivan Margolius & John Henry, Tatra - The Legacy of Hans Ledwinka SAF Publishing, Harrow 1990, page 91
  5. ^ International Streamlined Tatra Site
  6. ^ Ivan Margolius & John Henry, Tatra - The Legacy of Hans Ledwinka SAF Publishing, Harrow 1990, page 93


Margolius, Ivan and Henry, John G: Tatra - The Legacy of Hans Ledwinka, SAF Publishing, Harrow 1990, ISBN 0-946719-06-3