In my last post we saw that Tintin was chasing Allen’s goons who had abducted Captain Haddock. In order to pursue these goons he got into a parked car. However, this car was towed away by a Ford Pickup based recovery truck. The car into which Tintin had attempted the pursuit was a Tatra 57b.
Tatra is a Czech company which is famous for its off multi-wheel drive of road trucks. These trucks form the backbone of many armies including the Indian Army where they are extensively used as tank recovery and tank transport vehicles. A number of large rocket and missile systems are also installed on the chassis of these trucks. These trucks vary from 4×4 to 18×18 wheel drive configuration. The Tatra 815 truck has won the Paris-Dakar Rally, the most gruelling off-road race, six times.
This company was established in 1850 as the Schustala & Company to produce horse drawn carriages. In 1891 the company started manufacturing railroad cars and finally produced its first car in 1897, the “Prasident”. This car was inspired by a Benz that its owner had purchased in 1897. Tatra, then named as Nesselsdorfer Wagenbau-Fabriksgesellschaft, was the first automobile manufacturer of Central Europe. After a number of name changes it started manufacturing vehicles under the Tatra name in 1919. The name was based on the Tatra mountains which are now on the Polish-Slovak border.
In 1921, Tatra produced the Tatra 11 which had a unique rigid backbone tube with swinging semi-axles at the rear providing an independent suspension. Tatra specialised in technically advanced luxury cars which were powered by air cooled engines. Engine configurations varied from small flat two cylinder engines to huge six cylinder V-12 engines. The Tatra T77 produced in 1934 was the world’s first production aerodynamic car. This car has a Cd of just 0.2455, even a Lamborghini Murcielago has a Cd 0.33. The new Mercedes S Class produced now has a Cd of 0.24. The T 77 was powered by a V-8 air cooled engine mounted in the rear.
Hitler was mighty impressed with these cars and when he ordered Ferdinand Porsche to develop the Volkswagen, he referred to a Tatra and said, “This is the car for my roads”. The world famous and much loved Volkswagen Beetle was influenced by the Tatra V 570 and T97. The inspirations included rear mounted air cooled four cylinder boxer engine driving the rear wheels, luggage space under the bonnet and central structural tunnel.
Under German occupation of Czechoslovakia, Tatra produced military vehicles for the German Army during World War II. It was nationalized in 1945 after the advent of communism and produced luxury cars for the communist elite. Among other famous people, an air-conditioned Tatra T603 was used by Fidel Castro. Production declined under communist rule as also after fall of communism till car production stopped in 1999.
Coming to the car which Tintin attempted to drive. The 57b was produced from 1938 to 1949. These were light, 930 kg, two door coupes. These cars were powered by naturally aspirated flat four cylinder 1,290 cc petrol engines which produced 25 BHP at 2,800 rpm. These front engined cars were driven by the rear wheels. The twist was transferred to the rear wheels via a four speed manual gearbox.