1947 Tatra T87 Aerodynamic Saloon

  • Brand: Tatra
  • Car Code: 110434

1947 Tatra T87 Aerodynamic Saloon

The Czech firm of Tatra dates back to 1850 and had a reputation for technical innovation thanks largely to the talents of Austrian engineer Ledwinka.

Hans Ledwinka was Tatra's chief engineer and one of the most original engineers in history. He began experimenting with the application of low-drag aerodynamics to passenger car design in the early 1930s in collaboration with his colleague Erich √úbelacker and Zeppelin aerodynamicist, Paul Jaray.

The first of Tatra's 'aerodynes', the T77, appeared in 1934. It was the world's first series-produced car designed with aerodynamic efficiency as the foremost consideration. The T77 featured Ledwinka's trademark, independently-suspended backbone chassis and was powered by a 3.0-liter air-cooled V8 engine mounted at the rear. Extensive use of magnesium alloy was used for the engine, gearbox, suspension and body which helped keep the weight down to 1,700kg.

Power was provided by a 60 horsepower engine and with the low drag coefficient of around 0.21, it was capable of reaching 145 km/h.

The T77 was superseded by the T77A, which benefitted from a 3.4-liter engine and a higher top speed of 150 km/h.

The Tatra was comfortable, fast, futuristic, and economical. It was, however, known for having its deficiencies in handling. For 1936, Ledwinka responded with the T87, which was both shorter and lighter than the T77. Power was provided by a 3.0-liter V8 and had a top speed of 160 km/h (100 mph). During the war, production was suspended, but resumed when peace time resumed. Production continued to 1950, by which time a little over 3,000 had been sold.

Design features of the T87 included the 'cyclops' third headlamp, rear fin and full unibody construction with belly pan. Beneath the coachwork was a rear-mounted 2.9 liter magnesium alloy, air-cooled overhead-cam V8 offering 85 horsepower. Suspension was fully independent, with hydraulic brakes.

The aerodynamic design of the T87 helped influence Dr. Ferdinand Porsche's design of the Volkswagen Beetle. The similarities were so evident that Tatra subsequently sued the German company for infringing 11 different patents.

Between 1936 and 1950, over 3,000 examples were built. It is believed that ten examples currently reside in the United states One is in the Jay Leno Collection and another in the Peter Mullin museum. Other noted owners have included Ernst Heinkel, Felix Wankel, Erwin Rommel, John Steinbeck, King Farouk of Egypt and Sir Norman Foster.

Descriptions & pictures by bonhams & conceptcarz

Production Start 1947
Country of origin Czech Republic