Motoring Trailblazers - Tatra T87

Sat 9th Mar 2019

The world of motoring is hurtling headlong into a bright new future of all-electric, automated, connected technology - and Marty McFly is not behind the wheel! But what were the cars that were ‘back to the future’ of years gone by?

There have been many different trailblazing motors which were seen by the critics to be ahead of their time, and in this series, we will investigate and showcase many of the best in class.

Tatra T87
Czech car manufacturer Tatra may not be a household name of classic car design, but they deserve to be, and but for the Second World War and some serious plagiarism from a German competitor, we may have heard a lot more from Tatra and their revolutionary T87.

Take one look at the T87 and it is clear to see where the charges of design theft were made, the T87 looks like a elongated art-deco styled Volkswagen Beetle, so no surprise then that when Hitler charged Porsche with designing an economic car for the new Germany, they copied Tatra’s 97, which came out in 1936. Porsche were ordered to pay a settlement of three million Deutsche Marks to Tatra in 1961.

Hitler was certainly a fan of the aerodynamic stylings and described the Tatra 77a and 87 as the cars of the future, with top speed of 100 miles per hour they were almost perfect for the autobahns of the new regime… almost. Like the Beetle they inspired, the engine was in the boot, but so was the luggage compartment, and this back weighting made the Tatra’s incredibly difficult to handle, so much so that that many Nazi officers died driving them that the Allies described Tatra’s cars as the secret weapon.

There’s no argument that in creating the T87, the Czech company had certainly broke new ground. The aerodynamic shape and luxurious tail-fin looked amazing, but also provided economical driving as it cut the air like a knife through butter. Those aerodynamics themselves had been borrowed in part from the famous German Zeppelins. As the fastest production car of its time, the Tatra T87 was the supercar of its era and is now one of the most sought after collectible vehicles, with a list of famous owners worthy of any of the greatest design classics.