Tatra is a vehicle manufacturer in Kop?ivnice, Czech Republic. The company was founded in 1850 as Schustala & Company later renamed Nesselsdorfer Wagenbau-Fabriksgesellschaft, a wagon and carriage manufacturer, and in 1897 produced the first motor car in central Europe, and one of the first cars in world, the Pr?sident automobil. In 1918, it changed its name to Kop?ivnická vozovka a.s. and, in 1919, started to use the Tatra badge named after the nearby Tatra mountains in Slovakia.
Tatra is the third oldest car maker in the world after Daimler and Peugeot. During World War II Tatra was instrumental in the production of trucks, and tank engines for the German war effort. Production of passenger cars ceased in 1999 but the company still produces a range of primarily all-wheel-drive 4×4, 6×6, 8×8, 10×10, and 12×12 trucks. Currently is mainly known thanks to legendary Czech truck racer Karel Loprais, in 1988-2001 he won the worlds hardest off-road race Dakar Rally as many as six times with Tatra 815. And at the time of his sixth victory he was the most successful driver in the history of the Dakar.
Tatra and the Volkswagen Beetle
Both Hitler and Porsche were influenced by the Tatras. Hitler was a keen automotive enthusiast, and had ridden in Tatras during political tours of Czechoslovakia. He had also dined numerous times with Ledwinka. After one of these dinners Hitler remarked to Porsche, "This is the car for my roads". From 1933 onwards, Ledwinka and Porsche met regularly to discuss their designs, and Porsche admitted "Well, sometimes I looked over his shoulder and sometimes he looked over mine" while designing the Volkswagen. There is no doubt that the Beetle bore a striking resemblance to the Tatras, particularly the Tatra V570. The Tatra T97 of 1936 had a rear-located, rear-wheel drive, air-cooled four-cylinder boxer engine accommodating four passengers and providing luggage storage under the front bonnet and behind the rear seat. Among other similarities also found in the Beetle is the central structural tunnel. Tatra launched a lawsuit, but this was stopped when Germany invaded Czechoslovakia. At the same time, Tatra was forced to stop producing the T97. The matter was re-opened after World War II and in 1961 Volkswagen paid Ringhoffer-Tatra 3,000,000 Deutsche Marks in an out of court settlement.
War years.After the 1938 invasion of Czechoslovakia by Nazi Germany, Tatras continued in production, largely because Germans liked the cars. Many German officers met their deaths driving heavy, rear-engined Tatras faster around corners than they could handle. At the time, as an anecdote, Tatra became known as the 'Czech Secret Weapon' for the scores of officers who died behind the wheel; at one point official orders were issued forbidding German officers from driving Tatras.
The first truck manufactured at Kop?ivnice in 1898 was a flatbed with 2 liquid-cooled side-by-side-mounted two-cylinder Benz engines each at 2.7 L capacity with total power output of 8.8 kW (12 hp) placed after the rear axle and cargo capacity of 2.5 ton. The unique feature of the engines setup was that the engines could be operated sequentially depending on the load requirements. No 1 engine was started via a cranking handle and had a flywheel attached and No 2 engine without the flywheel was connected via a gear clutch and started by the first engine already running. The second truck manufactured was once again a flatbed R type of 2.5 ton cargo capacity build in 1909. Powered by liquid-cooled petrol four-cylinder engine of 4.1 L capacity and power output of 18.4 kW (25 hp) with the engine placed above front axle which is the conventional design to this day. The vehicle featured solid rubber tyres and semi-elliptic leaf spring suspension. In 1910 Tatra manufactured its first bus the Omnibus type SO with total production of 5 units.
1914–1922 Serial Production
The first true serial truck production at Tatra was instigated by the beginning of World War I. In the year 1914 there were only 2 trucks made, type T 14/40 HP, however by the 1915 end the production jumped to the total of 105 TL-2 units and the following year 1916 the numbers rose to total of 196 TL-2 and 30 TL-4 truthe time peaked in 1917 with 19 TL-2 and 303 TL-4 models, after that production declined and the similar amount of vehicles of one type manufactured in a year was not achieved or surpassed until 1936 with the T 27 model. Technically models TL-2 and TL-4 were almost identically designed, in fact TL-4 evolved from TL-2 where both had liquid-cooled OHC engines of max power output of 25.7 kW (35 PS; 34 hp). The TL-2 had a GVM 2,100 kg (4,630 lb) and 4,000 kg (8,818 lb) GCM, TL-4 had 2,700 kg (5,952 lb) GVM and 6,700 kg (14,771 lb) GCM respectively. Both types remained in production in small series until 1927. The TL-4 is considered the first truck to come out of NW (Nesselsdorfer Wagen-bau) to carry the name Tatra in 1919.
1923–1938 Tatra Concept
After the introduction of Tatra 11 and Tatra 12 cars with their distinctive backbone tube design and swing axles, Tatra introduced its first truck on the same basis, the light utility Tatra 13 powered by 2-cylinder air-cooled petrol engine with power output 8.8 kW (12 hp) and 1,000 kg (2,205 lb) cargo capacity. Further models followed and in 1926 T23 and T24 were introduced nicknamed "bulldogs" which could be considered Tatra's precursors to COE designed trucks. Improved version T13 introduced as T26 with more powerful 4-cylinder flat air-cooled engine and in six-wheeler chassis created capable offroad light utility truck which later evolved in to T72 model which was heavily used by Czechoslovakian army at the time and was also manufactured under license by the French company Lorraine-Dietrich. In 1933 Tatra build limited series of T25 heavy artillery hauler with 4 and 6-cylinder petrol engines. The most popular Tatra truck before World War II was type T27 powered by 4-cylinder petrol or diesel engines and remained in production for nearly 17 years (1930–1947) with total production of 7,620 units, by adding an extra axle to the rear the type T28 was created however, it was not successful and only limited production resulted in a mainly bus chassis. In the period from 1931 to 1938 Tatra also built a small utility truck based on the chassis from T30 named Tatra T43 which remain popular with small business owners. T72 model successfully continued the line to T82 built mainly for military in cargo and personnel transport between 1935 and 1938 and further to T92 and T93 built for Romanian army from 1938 to 1941 which were identical except T93 had also a driven front axle.
1939–1956 The Legend Born
Following the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia the production at Kop?ivnice was annexed by the Germans for the supply of trucks needed by the Wehrmacht. Apart from the existing line up of T27, T92/92 a new heavy truck the T81 commenced production featuring liquid-cooled 12.5 L V8 diesel engine with a power output of 118 kW (160 PS; 158 hp), in 6×4 axle configuration. This vehicle evolved in 1942 into the legendary T111 which continued in production until 1962, with the total of 33,690 units made. The T111 also featured Tatra's first air-cooled diesel engine, a massive V12 originally designed for the armoured SdKfz 234 Puma. In the latter stages of World War II Tatra was instrumental in the development of air-cooled diesel engines for German tanks. In late 1944 General Heinz Guderian ordered that production of the Type 38(t) Hetzer tank be modified to incorporate a Tatra Type 928 V-8 air-cooled diesel engine, though this order was delayed so production could continue uninterrupted. After the war the T111 contributed heavily to the rebuilding effort in Central and Eastern Europe and a memorial was built at Magadan, Siberia for its exploits in the Far East of the USSR.
1957–1982 Eastern Block Finest
The decision to replace the reliable but ageing T111 was taken in 1952 based on central planning economy of socialist government where directive was made to Tatra N.P. that it should concentrate on the manufacture of 7 to 10 ton capacity commercial vehicles and in 1956 first T137 and T138 trucks were exhibited at Czechoslovak machinery expo in Brno. The production of T111 however continued alongside T138 series until 1962. T138 itself continued in production until 1969 when it was replaced by improved T148 where designers main target was increase in power output, reliability and product improvements.
In 1967 Tatra began production of one of its famous off-road trucks the T813 using its modular construction technology; the model incorporated the latest trends in commercial vehicle design such as cab-over-engine (COE) and wide profile tyres. It featured a new V12 engine and all military versions had a central tyre inflation/deflation system as standard equipment. The T813 was designed to tow loads up to 100 ton GCM and it was a familiar sight on the roads in Czechoslovakia hauling large often over-sized loads.
1982–2008 T815 and Beyond
Tatra T815 was designed for extreme off-road conditions, and its road versions are derived from the off-road original. After the 53-rd session of CMEA council a directive that Tatra N.P. would be a sole supplier of off road commercial vehicles of <12 ton capacity for Eastern Block countries, led to a modernization of company and its production models. Following extensive testing at different sites, including Siberia, the type T815 was introduced in 1982 and production started in 1983. Comparing to previous models T815 was made of 142 main assembly components as opposed to 219 main assembly components of its predecessor. The engines power output was increased up to 45% and a new COE tilt-able cabin was introduced. Modular engine designed resulted in V8, V10 and V12 engines with or without turbocharger.
T815 was upgraded to T815-2 with minor cosmetic changes and improved ergonomics and safety - the biggest change was the engine emissions accordance the "Euro0" limits and to Euro1 limits in 1993 (turbocharged V8 engine only since this time for the full legislation. As alternative was offered also the Deutz 513 aircooled V8 engine). The next facelift in 1997 brought in the new exterior design cabin TerrNo1 with all new interior with better sound and heat insulation however the cabin design is based on the original so it can actually be retrofitted to all T815 built since 1993. In 2000 the TerrNo1 cabin is face-lifted again and for the first time there is an option to fit liquid-cooled engines.
The TerrNo1 model introduced the "KingFrame" rear axles suspension. Another evolution step T3B engine came with the Euro2 emission limit. Following further improvements in 2003 T815 gets new Euro3 T3C V8 engine mated to all new 14-speed range+split gearbox as well as option for engines from other suppliers most notably CAT, Cummins, Detroit Diesel, Deutz and MTU with its "monster" 22.5 Litre V12 and up to 610 kW (829 PS; 818 hp) power output! In September 2006 Tatra introduced its Euro4 compliant turbocharged T3D engine with the SCR exhaust technology and in February 2008 the worlds's first Euro 5 compliant aircooled diesel engine based on T3D engine
The evolution of Tatra T815 would not be complete without mentioning its derivates T816 (T815-6) Armax and Force series which had its origin back in 1993 when Tatra participated in the tender process for heavy duty off road trucks for UAE army and after two years of bidding the company was successful in securing a contract worth $ 180 million.
The resulting model became known as T816 "LIWA" (Arabic for "desert"). The latest model for the military customers is T817(T815-7) marketed as high-mobility heavy-duty tactical truck with low profile cabin for C-130 Hercules transportability for NATO member countries armed services.
Tatra also went back to its roots and decided to produce once again a bonneted CBE heavy duty off road truck to continue the successful line started with T111, so in 1999 the T163 Jamal was put in to full production after first prototypes were built in 1997 and followed extensive testing including at Siberia, as a heavy duty dump truck, once again based on proven backbone tube chassis construction with the cabin designed by Ji?í ?panihel The T163 6×6 is used mainly on construction sites and in quarries.
Tatra was also a successful bidder for the Czech Army replacement of aging Praga V3S (with the Tatra I6 aircooled engine - one half of the T111 V12 one) medium off-road truck with T810 which technically is not a "genuine" Tatra as its origin goes back to when former Czech company ROSS, in partnership with Renault Trucks, obtained a contract to supply the army with medium size off-road trucks, the "ROSS R210 6×6". The company however went bankrupt in 1998 and Tatra bought full rights to the design, then modernized and reintroduced it as T810 while continuing cooperation with Renault. Under the deal Renault supplies the cabins and the engines and Praga supplied axles and transmissions for the prototypes; however the whole project has been dogged by controversy due to the way Tatra had obtained the contract, its relationship with supplier Praga and the subsequent court case brought on against it by Praga. The serial T810 vehicles are than finally equipped with the new design Tatra rigid axles with the WABCO disc brakes, with the ZF Ecolite transmission and Steyr drop box.
With orders and production almost at a standstill after the fall of Communism Tatra decided to stop building the T613 in 1996. An attempt was made to produce an updated version, the Tatra T700; it was largely based on the old car, with updated body panels and detail. Sales were poor, and having in its history produced a total of 90,000 cars, Tatra finally abandoned their manufacture in 1999 to concentrate on trucks.
The United States Terex Corporation acquired the majority ownership (71%) of Tatra in late 2003. As of late 2006, however, majority ownership (80.51%) lies in the hands of Tatra Holdings s.r.o., an international consortium comprising Vectra Limited of UK, Sam Eyde of the U.S., KBC Private Equity of Belgium, Meadowhill s.r.o. of Czech Republic and Ronald Adams of the U.S. On 15 December 2006, a contract was signed between Tatra and the Czech Republic for 556 trucks at roughly $ 130 million, or 2.6 billion Czech crowns. This contract was signed in lieu of replacement of older military vehicles.
In April 2007 Tatra announced that it had already matched its production in 2006 and produced 1,600 vehicles. In 2007 Tatra plans to produce between 2,300 and 2,500 vehicles. In contrast to previous years, Tatra has increased employment by the hundreds within the past two quarters, has reversed previous errors, and is growing again. Although there have been many struggles in the past decade, the company still remains one of the great prides of Czech industry and has proven to be a valuable asset to international engineering, with its unique assembly and production methods and designs.
In August 2011, DAF Trucks announced it had built up a 19% stake in Tatra, which will use DAF cabs and PACCAR engines. DAF dealers will sell Tatra off-road trucks.