Tatra 87

The Tatra 87 (T87) was a car built by Czechoslovak manufacturer Tatra. It was powered by a rear-mounted 2.9-litre air-cooled 90-degree overhead cam V8 engine that produced 85 horsepower and could drive the car at nearly 100 mph (160 km/h). It is ranked among the fastest production cars of its time. Competing cars in this class, however, used engines with almost twice the volume, and with fuel consumption of 20 liters per 100 km (11.8 mpg). Thanks to its aerodynamic shape, the Tatra 87 had a consumption of just 12.5 litres per 100 km (18.8 mpg). After the war between 1950 and 1953, T87s were fitted with more modern 2.5-litre V8 T603 engines.[5]

Tatra 87
Tatra 87 front (Foto Hilarmont).JPG
  • 1936–1950
  • 3,056 produced[1]
AssemblyKopřivnice, Moravia, Czechoslovakia
Body and chassis
ClassLuxury car, 5-seater Sedan
Body stylelimousine (Finned Fastback)
LayoutRR layout
Engine2969 cc (3.0L) Tatra 87 V8[2]
Transmission4-speed manual[1] (3 and 4 synchronized)
Wheelbase2,850 mm (112.2 in)[3]
Length4,740 mm (186.6 in)[4]
Width1,670 mm (65.7 in)[4]
Height1,500 mm (59.1 in)[4]
Curb weight1,370 kg (3,020 lb)[3]
PredecessorTatra 77a
SuccessorTatra 603

The 87 was used by Hanzelka and Zikmund for their travel through Africa and Latin America from 1947 to 1950.[6]


The Tatra 87 has unique bodywork. Its streamlined shape was designed by Hans Ledwinka and Erich Übelacker and was based on the Tatra 77, the first car designed with aerodynamics in mind.[1] The body design was based on proposals submitted by Paul Jaray of Hungarian descent, who designed the famous German Graf Zeppelin dirigibles. A fin in the sloping rear of the Tatra helps to divide the air pressure on both sides of the car, a technique used in later aircraft. Tatra 87 had a drag coefficient of 0.36 as tested in the VW tunnel in 1979 as well as reading of 0.244 for a 1:5 model tested in 1941.[7]

Art deco-styled dashboard in a 1947 T87

Small sets of windows in the dividers between the passenger, luggage space and engine compartments, plus louvres providing air for the air-cooled engine, allowed limited rear visibility. Its entire rear segment could be opened, to service the engine. The front doors are rear-hinged coach doors, sometimes termed "suicide doors", and the rear doors are front-hinged.

A 1940 Tatra 87 Saloon, showing the identifiable rear 'Sharks-fin' and lack of rear windows.

Many design elements of the Tatra 87, V570 and the later T97, were copied by later car manufacturers. Ferdinand Porsche was heavily influenced by the Tatra 87 and T97 and the flat-four-cylinder engine in his design of the Volkswagen Beetle, and was subsequently sued by Tatra.

The price new (in the 1940s) was 25,000 SFr.[2] Its value today is around $125,000.[8] A 1941 Tatra 87, owned and restored by Paul Greenstein and Dydia DeLyser of Los Angeles California, won a New York Times reader's poll of collector's cars in 2010, beating strong competition from 651 cars.[9]

The entire rear segment of the Tatra 87 formed an engine cowling.

Examples on displayEdit

Notable ownersEdit

Streamlined Tatras

The Tatra 87 was praised by German officers in World War II for the superior speed and handling it offered for use on the Autobahn. The Nazi armaments and munitions minister Fritz Todt declared: "This 87 is the Autobahn car ..."[citation needed] It was known, however, as the 'Czech secret weapon' because it killed so many Nazi officers during World War II that the German Army eventually forbade its officers from driving the Tatra.[10]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c "1948 Tatra 87". conceptcarz.com. Retrieved 2008-03-12.
  2. ^ a b "1947 TATRA 87 SALOON". Lane Motor Museum.
  3. ^ a b "Tatra 87". tatraportal.sk. Retrieved November 3, 2010.
  4. ^ a b c d "Tatra 87". aerotatra.czweb.org. Retrieved November 3, 2010.
  5. ^ Karel Rosenkranz, 100 Years of Tatra Passenger Cars, Motormedia 1998
  6. ^ Horáková, Pavla (29 December 2005), "Zikmund and Hanzelka's legendary Tatra 87 car added to cultural heritage list", Radio Praha, retrieved 3 June 2016
  7. ^ Ralf J. F. Kieselbach, Stromlinienautos in Europa und USA, Kohlhammer Verlag, Stuttgart 1982, page 19
  8. ^ Tori Tellem (2010-07-23). "Collectible Car of the Year: Votes Are In, and the Fin Has Won". New York Times. Retrieved 2011-08-22.
  9. ^ "1941 Tatra T 87". The New York Times. 2010-07-25.
  10. ^ "Slavné české auto slaví osmdesátiny. Průkopnice aerodynamiky Tatra 77". iDNES.cz. 2014-03-31. Retrieved 2017-09-06.

External linksEdit