There are cars and there are cars. Every car enthusiast has their special car; the car that they desire above all others. For me, that car is a Tatra streamliner. I had never expected that I would ever be in a position to own one however. They are very, very rare in Australia and if ever one were to come on the market, it would be prohibitively expensive. A 1948 Tatra 87 had been up for sale two years ago for A$350,000. There was also the Tatraplan at the York Motor Museum that had gone up for action a couple of times for a price well in excess of my budget. But the market for these unusual cars is pretty small and neither sold at their original asking price.
Then, a chance conversation I had with someone led to a discussion with the Tatraplan's owner and a mutually agreeable deal was struck. I am now pleased to advise that I am the (very) proud owner of the car. I'm a little star-struck by this turn of events as I'd never in my wildest dreams expected to own such a car. It also comes at a time when we're about to complete the Karmann restoration, so we'll be juggling a few priorities. But these opportunities only come around once in your life so you just have to seize the day.
I haven't taken possession of the car yet, so here are a few older photos.
The Tatra at the Celebration of the Motorcar in 2012.
Spare tyres in the boot
1.9 litre boxer engine
Beautiful art-deco interior
A contemporary photo of one of the few Tatraplans imported into Australia in the 1950s. Photo courtesy of Paul Blank.
The history of our Tatra
In 1983 Restored Cars Magazine wrote a feature on George Stelhig's Tatra T600 and T603. The star of the article was George's T603 but there was a small amount information about his T600. Unfortunately there is no information about the car's earlier history. All we know for sure is that it was imported into Australia sometime after 1952, possibly even as late as 1954 as Victorian Skoda dealers were still advertising a Tatraplan for 3500 Australian pounds at that time. Sales for such an unusual and expensive car were very, very slow.
Photos of the interior of the T600 show that at that time it still had column shift. Sometime after this article the car was converted to floor shift by Tatra Repairs Company in Melbourne. The reason for the conversion are unknown.
In 1987 the York Motor museum bought the T600 from George and for the next 26 years it was one of their feature cars. Occasionally the car was bought out for vintage events in York and Perth, including the 2012 Celebration of the Motorcar. http://www.heinkelscooter.blogspot.com.au/2012/12/celebration-of-motorcar-2012.html
Photos courtesy Z Pasznicki.
The Tatra was serviced at one stage by Jerry of the Karmann Ghia Company of Australia, who has supplied many parts and provided advice for the restoration of Shelly's Karmann. http://www.karmannghia.com.au/tatra.html
In 2013 the Tatra was sent for auction at the Motoclassica in Melbourne, but it did not sell. It was then sent for auction with Shannon's, but again passed in before I bought it in a private sale. http://www.shannons.com.au/auctions/lot/U9C3O8F30T9ZO17E/#.U7qTRDpZrMw
Ironically, a week after I purchased the car Unique Car Magazine featured a small article noting that the last Tatraplan to sell was in 1999.
There are believed to be 7 surviving Tatraplans in Australia, most of which are off the road and under restoration.