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TATRA, a. s.
Type Private
Founded 1850
Founder(s) Ignác Šustala
Headquarters Kopřivnice, Czech Republic
Key people Ronald Adams (CEO)
von Roslerstam (designer)
Hans Ledwinka (designer)
Industry Automotive
Products Automobiles, wagons, carriages, trucks
Revenue (turnover) increase CZK6.06 billion]] (2006)
Employees 3,500 (2006)
Parent Vectra Group

Tatra is a vehicle manufacturer in Kopřivnice, Czech Republic. The company was founded in 1850 as Nesselsdorfer Wagenbau-Fabriksgesellschaft, a wagon and carriage manufacturer, and in 1897 produced the first motor car in central Europe, the Präsident. In 1919 it changed its name to Tatra after the Tatra mountains. Tatra is the third oldest car maker in the world after Daimler Mercedes-Benz and Peugeot. Production of Tatra cars ceased in 1999 but the company still produces a range of primarily all-wheel-drive 4x4, 6x6, 8x8, 10x10, and 12x12 trucks.

Tatra Präsident on the Kopřivnice coat of arms.

Early years

Ignác Šustala (1822–1891), founder of the company in Kopřivnice, Moravia, started the production of horse-drawn vehicles in 1850. In 1891 he branched out into railroad cars manufacture, naming the company Nesselsdorfer Wagenbau-Fabriksgesellschaft, and employed Hugo Fischer von Roslerstam as technical director in 1890. After the death of Šustala, von Roslerstam took over running the company and in 1897 he bought a Benz automobile. Using this for inspiration the company made its first car, the Präsident, which was exhibited in 1897 in Vienna. Orders were obtained for more cars and under the direction of a new young engineer Hans Ledwinka (1878–1967) ten improved cars were made.

Tatra concept

After the World War I Nesselsdorfer Wagenbau was renamed Kopřivnice vozovka, and in 1919 the name Tatra was given to the car range. Leopold Pasching took over control and in 1921 Hans Ledwinka returned again to develop the revolutionary Tatra 11 car. In 1927 the company was formally renamed Tatra a.s..


1898–1914 Beginning

The replica of the first truck manufactured at Nesselsdorfer Wagenbau

The first truck manufactured at Kopřivnice in 1898[1] was a flatbed[2] 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. The TL-2 had a GVM 2100 kg and 4000 kg GCM, TL-4 had 2700 kg GVM and 6700 kg 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.[3]

1923–1938 Tatra Concept

Tatra T93

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,[4] the light utility Tatra 13 powered by 2 cylinder air-cooled petrol engine with power output 8.8 kW (12 hp) and 1000 kg 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,[5] 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 1935–1938 and further to T92 and T93 built for Romanian army from 1938–1941 which were identical except T93 had also a driven front axle.[6]

1939–1956 The Legend Born

Tatra T111

Following the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia the production at Kopŕivnice was annexed by Germans for the supply of trucks needed by Wehrmacht. Apart from the existing line up of T27, T92/92 a new heavy truck T81 commenced the production featuring liquid cooled 12.5 L V8 diesel engine with power output 118 kW in 6x4 axle configuration. This vehicle evolved in 1942 into legendary T111 which continued its production until 1962 with the total of 33,690 unit made.[7] T111 also featured Tatra's first air-cooled diesel engine a massive V12 originally designed for the armoured Sd Kfz. 234 Puma. After the war T111 contributed heavily into rebuilding effort in Central and Eastern Europe and for its exploits at Far East of USSR had a memorial built at Magadan Siberia.[8]

1957–1982 Eastern Block Finest

Tatra T813 'KOLOS'

The decision to replace aging but reliable 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 commenced a production of one of its famous off-road trucks the T813 using its modular construction technology, the model incorporated the latest trends in commercial vehicles design such as COE cabin , wide profile tyres e.t.c, it also featured new V12 engine and all version for the military had a central tyre inflation/deflation system standard. 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 TerrNo1

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.[9] The engines power output was increased up to 45% and a new COE tilt-table cabin was introduced. Modular engine designed resulted in V8 , V10 and V12 engines with or without turbocharger. T815 was upgraded in 1994 to T815-2 with minor cosmetic changes and improved ergonomics and safety. The next face-lift [10] 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.[11] In 2000 the TerrNo1 cabin is face-lifted again and for the first time there is an option to fit liquid cooled engines. 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, Renault, Deutz and MTU with its "monster" 22.5 Litre V12 and up to 620 kW 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 air-cooled diesel engine based on T3D engine [12]

The evolution of Tatra T815 would not be complete without mentioning its derivates T816 (T815-6) Armax [13] and FORCE [14] 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.[15]

Tatra 163 Jamal

The resulting model became known as T816 "LIWA" (Arabic for "desert".[16] The latest model for the military customers is T817(T815-7)[17][18] 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 heavy duty off road truck to continue the successful line started with T111, so in 1999 the T163 Jamal was [19] 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 Jiří Španihel [20] The T163 6x6 is used mainly on construction sites and in quarries.

Tatra T-810 for Czech Army

Tatra was also a successful bidder for the Czech Army replacement of aging Praga V3S 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 6x6". 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.[21] Under the deal Renault supplies the cabins and the engines and Praga supplies axles and transmissions; 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. [22]

Recent years

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 USA, 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 $130,000,000 U.S., or 2,600,000,000 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 planned to produce between 2,300 and 2,500 vehicles. In contrast to previous years, Tatra had increased employment by the hundreds within the past two quarters, had reversed previous errors, and was 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 2011, DAF, a unit of PACCAR, purchased a 19% stake in Tatra, and signed an engine-supply agreement for Tatra trucks.[23]


A Tatra Recovery Vehicle of the Indian Army

Tatra has a truck-building joint venture in India called Tatra Vectra Motors Ltd, formerly called Tatra Trucks India Ltd. It is a joint venture between Tatra and the Vectra Group from England.[24] Most Tatra trucks for sale in India are manufactured indigenously in collaboration with Bharat Earth Movers Limited.

In 2002, the company received a 1,070 trucks order from the Government of India.[25] Continued growth of the Indian market resulted in US$61 million investment in Tatra plants by the UK-based Vectra Group[26] and in 2006, the market capitalization of the company exceeded US$6 billion in India.[27] Tatra's growing involvement in India's defense industry is often cited as an example of growing relations between Czech Republic and India.[28]


In February 2008, Tatra announced the world's first (and so far, only) air-cooled engine meeting the new Euro 5 standards. The press release claims 7.5 times lower emissions of particulates and 3.5 times lower emission of [[nitrogen oxidecompared to the previous engine. Further, production of air-cooled engines should significantly reduce the production of greenhouse gasses due to the absence of liquid cooling systems. All Tatra vehicles from February 2008 onwards should use the new engine.[29]
A month later, Tatra CEO Ronald Adams told the The Prague Post Tatra could return to producing passenger cars, saying 'we would not come back to compete with the large automobile mass producers such as Volkswagen, Škoda, General Motors, Ford, etc. But we might come back with a replica of the old Tatra cars using a current undercarriage and driveline from one of the major automotive producers.'[30] The company has launched a feasibility study, hoping to produce one thousand replicas of their legendary Tatraplan and 603 cars in 2010.[31]

In July 2008 pictures of a fuel cell concept car designed by Mike Jelinek, the Tatra 903, were shown. [32]

Navistar & Tatra

Tatra T815-7 (T817)

Tatra and Navistar Defence introduced at Eurosatory Exposition in Paris, France (Jun 14-18 2010) the results of their strategic alliance since October 2009, the models ATX6 (universal container carrier) and ATX8 (troop carrier)[33] The vehicles appear to be based on Tatra T815-7 (T817) 6×6, 8×8 chassis(see pics here) ,[34] suspension and cabins while using Navistar engines and other componets.[35] Under the deal Navistar Defence and Tatra A.S. will market the vehicles in North America, which includes sales to the United States military and foreign military sales financed by the United States government. Tatra will source parts and components through Navistar’s global parts and support network for Tatra trucks delivered in markets outside of North America as well as market Navistar-Tatra vehicles around the world in their primary markets.

Tatra aircraft

Tatra T.101 two-seater touring aircraft

The Ringhoffer-Tatra Works ltd. produced several aircraft and aero-engines in the 1930s and 1940s before annexation by Germany, and after under the orders of the RLM (Reichs Luftfahrt Ministerium). Among the aircraft produced were the following:[36]-



"baby" Tatra T805

Tatra T147 dump truck

  • NW First Truck
  • NW TL-2
  • NW TL-4


  1. Tatra history milestones
  2. Picture of replica first Tatra truck
  3. Moderní Uźitkové Automobily TATRA kolektiv vývojove konstrukce N.P. Tatra Kopŕivnice 1979 Naśe Vojsko Praha, První vydání *Modern Utility Automobiles TATRA by design team of N.P. Tatra Kopŕivnice, 1979, Naśe Vojsko, Prague, First edition*
  4. Tatra swings into action 78 years on
  5. Tatra T27 vehicle description. Retrieved 2008-11-29.
  6. Tatra T92 technical specifications. Retrieved 2008-11-29.
  7. Tatra T111 specifications. Retrieved 2008-11-29.
  8. Tatra T111 history, (Czech only) Retrieved 2008-11-29
  9. The Automobil revue, issue 10'82 the technical monthly of the Czechoslovak Federal Ministry of General Engineering, current ISSN 1211-9555
  10. Tatra T815 description Czech language. Retrieved 2008-11-29.
  11. TerrNo1 cabin Czech language , Retrieved on 2008-11-29
  12. TATRA ON AIR the only air-cooled Euro V engine in the world. Retrieved 2008-11-29.
  13. Tatra Armax. Retrieved 2008-11-29.
  14. Tatra FORCE. Retrieved 2008-11-29.
  15. T816 history (Czech only). Retrieved 2008-11-29.
  16. Tatra military specials T816. Retrieved 2008-11-29.
  17. Tatra military trucks. Retrieved 2008-11-29.
  18. Tatra 817 Retrieved 2008-11-29
  19. Tatra 163 Jamal. Retrieved 2008-11-19.
  20. Jiří Španihel the chief body designer of the car maker TATRA Kopřivnice 1977–1990. Retrieved 2008-11-29.
  21. Tatra T810. Retrieved 2008-11-29.
  22. Praga loses its court bid against Tatra. Retrieved 2008-11-29.
  24. Introduction to Tatra Vectra Motors Limited
  25. "SDC Announces Large Indian Order for its Tatra Truck Unit; Tatra Backlog Up Significantly Over Last Year. (09-MAY-02) Business Wire". (2002-05-09). Retrieved on 2009-05-07.
  26. "Vectra to invest $61 m in Tatra plants' revamp". The Hindu Business Line (2006-11-09). Retrieved on 2009-05-07.
  27. "BRIEFING - ASIA JOINT VENTURES - NOV 14, 2005. (14-NOV-05) AsiaPulse News". (2005-11-14). Retrieved on 2009-05-07.
  28. "The Czechs' Indian Gambit". Global Politician (2003-01-06). Retrieved on 2009-05-07.
  30. The Prague Post Online: Business: 10 Questions
  31. Tatra plans to renew production of its legendary models - 03-04-2008 14:24 UTC - Radio Prague
  32. Tatra 903 Fuel Cell Concept - Carscoop
  33. "Navistar, Tatra unveil two tactical vehicles at Eurosatory". Retrieved on 27 June 2010.
  34. "Navistar-Tatra-ATX8-8×8-truck-system". Retrieved on 27 June 2010.
  35. "Navistar Defense and Tatra’s ATX6 at Eurosatory". Retrieved on 27 June 2010.
  36. * Grey, C.G. & Bridgman, Leonard. Jane's All the World's Aircraft 1938. Sampson Low, Marston & company, ltd.. London. 1938

Further reading

External links

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