The first aerodynamics

The new Tatra was the first aerodynamic car to enter production and emerged from studies carried out firstly on the Tatra 57 model and later on the V570 prototype.

In the early 1930s the Tatra represented the reference brand for technological solutions and research into lines which made cars as aerodynamic as possible. The turning point for the Czechoslovakian car came under Hans Ledwinka’s management, but thanks also to the genius of engineer Paul Jaray, who had previously worked at Luftschiffbau Zeppelin. Jaray used knowledge gained from his previous work experience, applying it to the T77 model, first presented in 1934.

The new Tatra was the first aerodynamic car to enter production and emerged from studies carried out firstly on the Tatra 57 model and later on the V570 prototype. Returning to the futuristic car, it was powered by an air-cooled 60 bhp 3000cc V8 engine mounted in the rear. Its lines were racy, characterised by a tapered front with two headlights set into the bodywork; the sides were simple and the shape of the roof sloped towards the tail, giving it a teardrop shape. These original solutions, incredible for their time, were all arrived at by in-depth research into aerodynamics, trying to create sheets of steel with smooth, curved lines to fight the air as little as possible.

The T77 was a turning-point model for Tatra, also from the point of view of market position, since up to that point the manufacturer had focused on cars within reach of many, whilst the T77 was a technologically advanced luxury car. The design of the T77 also impressed the Nazi Führer Adolf Hitler, who ordered engineer Porsche to use the T77 as the reference model for his proposed People’s Car.  In fact, much of the Beetle’s style bears references to the futuristic Czechoslovakian car, starting right at the nose. All the similarities prompted Tatra to take legal action against Volkswagen, an action which was interrupted by the invasion of Czechoslovakia by German forces. At the end of the second world war, the German marque finally admitted plagiarism.

During its production the T77 model was updated in 1935, changing its name to T77a and adopting a new front with three lights, the central one rotating together with the wheels to ensure improved visibility in night-time driving; a new 3400cc V8 engine increased power to 75 bhp.

In 1936 this model was replaced by the Tatra T87. Although the T77 was a niche car, it represented a turning point in the way cars are conceived, introducing cutting-edge stylistic solutions which were carried through on successive models.

Text by Tommaso Lai

Translation by Norman Hawkes

Copyright © Cars Forgotten Stories. All rights reserved.


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