Tatra 603: Being weird is beautiful
The Porsche of the Soviet Bloc
You may think that the car in the picture above is ugly just because it has three headlamps. But that's like saying Cindy Crawford is ugly just because she has a mole. The car in the picture was built in former country of Czechoslovakia, and it's basically a Porsche 911...which could accommodate 6 people. Allow me to present you the Tatra 603, a car which proves that weirdness is a thing of beauty.
It all started in 1934, when Tatra presented the model 77, which was very unusual for its time. It came with a 60 HP V8 engine located at the back, and due to its very aerodynamic body, it could reach the speed of 150 km/h. That wasn't so bad, considering the fact that it weighed almost 2 tons.
Tatra 77. Credit YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FEVwHDJ6hOc
One year later, they came up with a new version, called 77A which featured three headlamps, with the centre one connected to the front wheels. They wanted to make a car inspired by trains, so that's why they put a third light in the centre.
Tatra 77A. Credit: ConceptCarz.com
Fast forward another year, we were presented with the model 87, which looked nearly identical to its predecessor...apart from the huge wing at the back. When they were making this model, they wanted to put an airplane-inspired detail on it, hence the fin. The purpose of it was to stabilize the car in case of strong side winds.
Tatra 87. Credit: Ecorra.com
The birth of the 603-1
During the WWII, the factory didn't suffer any serious damage, so the production of these models continued immediately in 1945. But it wasn't until 1956 when their icon was born-the 603, which was bigger, more comfortable and more spacious than its predecessors.
Tatra 603-1. Credit: Dalimil Vyskovsky on Flickr
The first series of the 603 featured three headlamps enclosed in a clear glass cover. Just like its predecessors, it had an air-cooled 2.5-litre V8 at the back which could produce 95 HP. The engine weighed only 180 kg (400 pounds), so that means that it wasn't as heavy as you'd think; its total weight was 1.4 tons. That means that it was very fast for its era, having a top speed of 160 km/h.
But the most interesting thing about it is that it was built in secrecy BY the government FOR the government. Czechoslovakian officials were usually being driven in Soviet limousines like GAZ or ZIL cars, so they wanted to have their own domestic limousine.
The 603-1 was built until 1962, when it was replaced by the 603-2. The design was almost identical; the only difference is in the headlights. This is when Tatra said goodbye to their iconic three headlamps, now having four of them accommodated in two oval grilles. The engine was tweaked a bit, now producing 105 HP, and the top speed of 170 km/h meant that it was even faster than the first series.
Tatra 603-2. Credit: AutoZurnal.ta3.com
The final series (603-2 II)
The year 1968 marked the beginning of the end for Tatra's iconic 603 series. That year, they made their final restyling of this iconic car. Apart from changing the headlamps again (now flushed with the car's front fascia), Tatra also gave it disc brakes on all wheels, and made it a 5-seater due to legal issues. The car even caught the attention of former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, who had a white 603-2 II with air-conditioning.
Tatra 603-2 II. Credit: Motor1.com
Legacy and Tatra today
The production ended in 1975, and it is unknown how many of them saw the light of day; some sources claim 20.422, other say that only 6.000 left the factory. Nevertheless, the 603 series remained an icon, and proved that beauty comes from being different and weird. Today, Tatra only makes trucks, which have independent suspension and powerful air-cooled diesel engines. Their trucks can conquer all of the tough terrains, from African deserts to Siberian tundras, and are one of few trucks in the world that can pull a tank out of a ditch.