Tatra Trucks commemorates 170 years of its existence

Tatra Trucks commemorates 170 years of its existence
Author: tatra.cz|Caption: Tatra Force
22 / 06 / 2020, 10:00

The carmaker Tatra Trucks is one of the most famous Czech engineering companies and can also be proud of the longest continuous tradition of wheeled vehicle production in the world. This June the company commemorates the 170th anniversary of its establishment.

In recent years, Tatra Trucks has remembered several historical milestones. In 2017, it was 120 years since the production of its first passenger car with an internal combustion engine, a year later it celebrated 120 years since the creation of the first own motor truck. Last year, the company recalled 100 years of the TATRA brand, which its cars carry on the hood to this day, and the year 2020 marks the 170th year of the company's existence. Although it has changed its business name and legal status and owners several times in the past, the continuity of production of vehicles and cars as well as the location of the factory remain unchanged.

Versatile company and famous brand

The company is one of the oldest manufacturers of vehicles with a continuous history in the world and also one of the oldest manufacturers of trucks and passenger cars with internal combustion engines in history. In June 1850, the long history of the company known today as Tatra Trucks began to be written. At that time, the local native Ignác Šustala started his business in Kopřivnice, Moravia. First he devoted himself to the production of carriages and chariots, later the production of railway wagons was added.

In 1897, the company, which had received new owners a few years before, created the first passenger car named Präsident, and a year later the first motor truck rolled out of the gates of the Kopřivnice factory. In 1904, the owners moved the administrative seat of the Kopřivnice manufacturer to Vienna, and gradually the name Nesselsdorfer Automobile, derived from the German name of the town of Kopřivnice, was adopted for its cars. From 1911, the NW logo and later a double-headed eagle with the inscription Nesselsdorfer began to be used on the cars.

The end of the First World War became crucial for the history of the company and the TATRA brand. According to the Act on the so-called nostrification of the new Czechoslovak Republic, the company's administrative headquarters were moved back to Kopřivnice, which began to use the Czech designation „Kopřivnická vozovka“ instead of the German one. In addition, since 1919, cars manufactured in Kopřivnice have carried the TATRA brand, which was created during the post-war tests of the U-type car in the Slovak Tatras. The name TATRA did not appear in the name of the company until 1927, when Kopřivnice's road became „Závody Tatra“, a joint-stock company for the construction of cars and railway cars. The TATRA mark was registered as a trademark in the mid-1930s.

One of the important milestones in the history of TATRA is 1923. The world-famous Tatra designer Hans Ledvinka then designed a unique chassis system known as the "Tatra concept", which consists of a central support tube and swinging independently suspended semi-axles, which is typical of TATRA cars to this day.

Another fundamental entry of the Tatra in the history of motoring before the Second World War were the famous aerodynamic cars. TATRA was the first in the world to mass-produce and sell passenger cars with aerodynamic bodies in the 1930s, these were the famous T 77, T 87 and T 97 models. However, it was also engaged in the production of trucks, especially the very widespread T 27, T 82, T 85 or T 72 types. These, among other things, formed the backbone of Czechoslovak Army’s equipment and have been widely used in other countries.

TATRA continued to produce vehicles for railway transport, an example being the unique M 290 „Slovenská strela“ motor passenger car, which has survived to this day and is currently undergoing a demanding renovation. However, the company also devoted itself to the production of aircraft and aircraft engines, an example being the T 101/201 series sports aircraft, which were the direct predecessors of the famous Czechoslovak post-war Zlín „Trenér“ series aircraft. The T 101 type even kept a Czechoslovak record in the distance covered when it flew to Khartoum, Sudan, in 1938.

Trucks are the basis of production

After the Second World War, TATRA became the main manufacturer of heavy trucks for civil and military use in Czechoslovakia and supplied tens of thousands of cars to countries on almost all continents. The TATRA brand's very good reputation was spread in dozens of countries by the T 111, T 138, T 148, T 813 and T 815 types. In addition, the production of limousines with an exceptional technical solution and original bodies continued. There were the T 600 Tatraplan, T 603 or T 613 types. TATRA also built racing cars, which celebrated success on many tracks. Particularly noteworthy was the T 607 Monopost type built according to the specifications of the time valid for F1 cars, or T 602 Sport or T 605. With competitive variants of trucks, TATRA has been regularly and successfully participating in prestigious long-distance marathons such as Rallies since the 1980s, such as Dakar, Silk Way Rally or Africa Eco Race.

The Kopřivnice company entered the 1990s and the new economic environment with production based mainly on the well-known T 815 model line. At the beginning of that decade, the TATRA trademark was granted the status of a famous trademark by the Industrial Property Office. The set of TATRA trademarks, today registered in more than a hundred countries around the world, thus forms an important part of TATRA TRUCKS' value. Another milestone is the year 1998, when the production of passenger cars was terminated. Since then, the company has focused exclusively on trucks and special vehicles for the civilian market and military use, which have been the cornerstone of the production and sales portfolio for decades.

In the last decade of the last century, TATRA gradually began to penetrate other markets, where customers required specific modifications and versions of vehicles, so TATRA began to install engines and transmissions of foreign origin in its cars. The expansion into new markets was also helped by the deployment of TATRA cars during the Desert Shield and Desert Storm military operations in Iraq in the early 1990s in the colors of the Czechoslovak and American armies. In the middle of that decade, the experience from the Middle East was reflected in the T 816 LIWA project, thanks to which TATRA won the first large contract outside the traditional markets and in which it used foreign components such as engines and gearboxes according to customer requirements for the first time.

Important for the present of the Kopřivnice company is the year 2004, when two completely new model lines saw the light of day, namely the T 815-7 (FORCE) and the T 810 (TACTIC). In the construction of both types, the designs were based on the requirements for modern military vehicles, and for several years they have gradually become the backbone elements of the logistics capabilities of the Czech Army. However, they also found their important place in the civilian sphere, especially among firefighters and rescuers. The most significant milestone in the operation of the Kopřivnice factory over the last decade was its takeover by Czech owners in 2013. The company was restructured and stabilized, as well as its connection to the leading Czech holdings CZECHOSLOVAK GROUP and PROMET GROUP through owners Michal Strnad and René Matera. Thanks to this, the TATRA brand is perceived by customers as a reliable business partner and the Czech public has long considered it part of the national heritage. This is evidenced, among other things, by regular placements in the first places in the public polls "The brand that Czechs are most proud of" and the "Traditional Czech brand".

At present, TATRA TRUCKS manufactures four standard model lines on three chassis platforms, and cooperates with the companies of the CZECHOSLOVAK GROUP holding on special military vehicles. The TATRA PHOENIX model line has been a key element of the civil production program of heavy trucks since 2011. It uses a combination of the chassis of the Tatra concept and subassemblies of renowned world manufacturers. TATRA FORCE is designed primarily for the armed forces, firefighters and rescuers, but is also used in the mining and construction industries. The TATRA TACTIC business line consists of medium-sized trucks with a ladder frame with rigid portal axles of our own design, primarily for military purposes. The TATRA TERRA business line is an imaginary successor to the legendary T 815 model. The basis is again the original Tatra chassis equipped with a modernized cab and air-cooled TATRA engines and Tatra gearboxes. The TERRA vehicles are designed primarily for firefighters and the construction industry.

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