What Might Have Been : 1991 Tatra MTX V8

Tatra made large rear engined automobiles. Yes, but this?

1991 Tatra MTX V8
1991 Tatra MTX V8

Today we bring a slice of an alternative universe, one where Tatra automobiles did not cease production (that was 1999). The car here is one of four Tatra MTX V8 sportscars built out of a planned 100. The car was shown as concept at the 1991 Prague motor show and 200 orders were taken by thrilled visitors. Unfortunately, a fire destroyed the production facilities and also destroyed Tatra’s chances of showing the West that Czech engineering was alive and well and able to take on the best.

Wikipedia has this to say on the topic: “It was designed by the legendary Czech automobile designer Václav Král and was the fastest Czech car at that time. Under the hood lies a Tatra V8 3.9L with 225 kW (306 PS; 302 hp) @ 6500 rpm, it has scissor doors opening vertically and pop-up headlamps. Acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h is given as 5.6 seconds and the maximum speed reaches 265 km/h.” I think it looks a little like a Jaguar XJ 220 (from 1992). (The engine may be subject to its own special study later on).

Much of the information on Václav Král is in Czech but according to a small English explanation “Václav Král was an extraordinary industrial designer whose automotive creations could compete head on head with anything from workshops of Bertone, Ghia or Pininfarina.” I suspect he worked on Tatra’s later cars and possibly some rear-engined vehicles from Skoda but I am not absolutely sure of that. He seems to have worked for a coachbuilder called Metalex who produced variants of existing cars plus other vehicles.

Finally, students of the history of the Austro-Hungarian Empire will not be surprised to learn that Tatra cars began its existence in 1850 as Schustala & Company. It was later called Nesselsdorfer Wagenbau-Fabriksgesellschaft when it began producing wagons and carriages. In 1918, it changed its name to Kopřivnická vozovka a.s., and in 1919 started to use the Tatra badge. Why 1918? In 1918 the constitutional union of the Empire of Austria and the Apostolic Kingdom of Hungary ended. At that point it wasn’t really necessary for Hungarian to use German for the names of their companies.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

8 thoughts on “What Might Have Been : 1991 Tatra MTX V8”

  1. Once fine manufacturers often end up in the hubris of supercar daydreams. Of course for many petrolheads, this is just the thing that gets them going. – wow at last those quirky Czechs are making a real car – just needs quad turbos to up that 0-60 time. I just find it depressing. The Tatra T603 was a wonderful device, produced in a parallel world that didn’t need to wonder whether it would alienate Humber buyers. The T613 was a fair attempt to modernise it. Following the fall of Communism, in my motoring Utopia, Tatra would have been celebrated and cosseted for its difference but, instead, the T700 was ignored, its cause not helped of course by its aftermarket body panels school of styling.

    There’s a quite nice pre-Clarkson Top Gear piece from the time when Tatra was still looking to continue car production.

  2. Makes one wonder how Tatra (or even Skoda) would have turned out had Czechoslovakia or at least the Czech part remained as part of the Western bloc instead of the Communist Bloc.

    1. Yes: Tatra had a lot of brilliant engineers. An interesting exercise would be to look at the European car industry as it was in 1939 and see how the market leaders compare. Tatra was on a collision course with Porsche? Or would they have abandoned rear engined designs in time to become the Aston Martin of Czechland?

    2. That depends, it is entirely possible that non-Communist Tatra ends up being a sort of Czech Fiat meets Volkswagen at the lower end or 4-door Porsche at the upper end in retaining its rear-engined layout for as long as possible to become a unique selling point of the marque.

      cannot say how long Tatra would be able to stick to air-cooling in that scenario though as even Honda were forced to drop air-cooling after 1973, when they replaced the Honda 1300 with the original Honda Accord.

      Than again even Skoda were looking at FWD in the late-60s with various shelved projects such as the Skoda 720 / Skoda 740 / Skoda 760, including two projects co-developed with Wartburg such as the Wartburg 360 / Wartburg 610M and in essence resembling a front-engined FWD Skoda Estelle.


    3. It’s an interesting counterfactual. The more I see of these East European cars the more I see past the prejudice. It’s not unlikely one or two of them would have survived as independents and still be with us today. Tatra, Skoda and Wartburg are three promising contenders. Maybe one of the motorbike makers might have survived as well.

    4. There are probably much better sites available on Eastern Bloc prototypes though AUTOSOVIET is pretty decent.

      The more unrealised Eastern Bloc projects I saw that were compatible to what the West were developing, the more I could not help but wonder how such marques would have fared had they not ended up behind the Iron Curtain.


  3. This reminds me of another sighting that went unrecorded yesteray: a rear-engined Skoda Rapid coupe, in fresh yellow paint. Really, those cars had a lot going for them. Properly made, they are really interesting vehicles.

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