Tatra T87 Sedan

While relatively unknown in North America, Tatra manufactured some of the most technically sophisticated cars of their time. The marque traces its lineage back to 1850 and was founded by Ignác Šustala as a wagon and carriage maker in Nesseldorf, later known as Koprivnice, Czechoslovakia. Tatra’s decidedly unusual approach to automotive design can be directly attributed to the work of Austrian engineer Hans Ledwinka, who spent his early years working under pioneering automobile and aircraft designer Edmund Rumpler.

Starting in 1930, Ledwinka and Erich Übelacker began work on a new prototype, incorporating swing axles and a rear-mounted, air-cooled engine. Further evolution resulted in the V570, with low drag, radically streamlined bodywork influenced by the aerodynamic research of Paul Jaray. The resulting T77 was introduced in March 1934, and is considered the first production car designed using aerodynamic principles.

The coachbuilt T77, however, was not a strong seller, due to its high cost. Its successor, the T87, was both simpler and relatively more affordable, with a shorter wheelbase. Somewhat sportier, the T87 still offered comfortable seating for six, with full monocoque construction, providing a sturdy, safe and quiet passenger cabin, complete with Bauhaus-style seating. Meanwhile, the air-cooled, magnesium alloy V8 engine was upgraded with hemispherical combustion chambers and a single overhead camshaft per cylinder bank.

The T87 was renowned for its high-speed cruising capabilities, as well as its top speed of 100 miles per hour. Following the German annexation of Czechoslovakia in 1938, T87 production continued, halted briefly in 1943 and 1944. Postwar, the cars continued in production until 1950, and sadly, with the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia, Hans Ledwinka was imprisoned for six years before eventual repatriation to his native Austria. In the meantime, Ferdinand Porsche’s prewar KdF-Wagen evolved into the Volkswagen Type 1, later known as the Beetle, which bore more than a passing resemblance to the T87, and one can only wonder if the T87 influenced the design of Preston Tucker’s innovative but short-lived line of cars.

This car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in October of 2009 at the Battersea Evolution, London.

75hp, 2,970 cc single overhead cam air-cooled magnesium alloy V8 engine, four-speed manual transaxle, independent front suspension, swing-axle rear suspension, and four-wheel drum brakes. Wheelbase: 124".

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Source: RM Auctions

Gallery: Tatra T87 Sedan