Tatra 97

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Tatra 97
Manufacturer TATRA, a. s.
  • 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 1.8L Tatra 97 F4
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 600
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.


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, still two years before the Communist party coming to power, the Tatra was nationalized, as the company's owner and top-management were convicted of collaboration with the Nazis. Production of the prewar models resumed, but soon the T97 was dropped in favor of the larger and more modern Tatraplan - a name referring to the car's aircraft inspiration ('éroplan' means aeroplane in colloquial Czech) - which also replaced the T87.

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] In the same sentence he stated that Ledwinka sometimes looked over Porsche's shoulder.

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 1965, the matter was settled when Volkswagen paid Tatra 1,000,000 Deutsche Mark in compensation.[6]

T97 interior
T97 rear view
Air-cooled 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. ^ Schmarbeck, Wolfgang (1997). Hans Ledwinka: Seine Autos - Sein Leben (in German). Graz: H. Weishaupt Verlag. p. 174. ISBN 3-900310-56-4. 


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

Tatra 87-old.jpg

Streamlined Tatras