Tatra Kopřivnice – The Oldest Car Manufacturer in Central Europe

Tatra Kopřivnice – The Oldest Car Manufacturer in Central Europe

The small family-owned business in North Moravia that made coaches and road carts grew into a factory producing trucks, railway carriages or even planes during one century.

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It is May 1898 in Kopřivnice and NW Präsident – the first factory-made mass-produced car in the territory of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire and one of the first cars in the world is setting off on its first journey. And what a journey it is. On 21 and 22 May 1898, the car travels from Kopřivnice in North Moravia to Vienna. Four passengers travelled the 328-kilometre-long trip in 14.5 hours of driving, with an average speed of 22.62km/h.

From Road Carts to Tank Engines

Tatra Kopřivnice is the third oldest existing car manufacturer in the world with production that has never been interrupted. The Company dates back to 1850 when Ignác Šustala founded a small family-owned business that made carriages and carts. The business grew and later on started to focus on new means of transport: in 1882, they produced the first 15 railway carriages; two years later, it was one of the first passenger cars in Central Europe (the Präsident automobile) and the first truck was released from the Kopřivnice production line. In 1919, the name TATRA appeared on the vehicles for the first time. Between WWI and WWII, the production was expanded by railway motor cars, and even airplanes. During WWII, the Company delivered trucks and engines for German tanks.

Only One Car in the World Has a Memorial

The Company was nationalized after WWII and “Tatra národní podnik” (a state-owned company) concentrated on the production of motor vehicles, engines and additional equipment. The flagship product of that period was the legendary TATRA 111 truck, which was produced until 1962. The truck literally hauled the material for all major construction work when the new society was being built, and not only in Czechoslovakia. It was, no doubt, a very popular truck and as such it is the only truck in the world that has its own memorial. In the years that followed, the heavy TATRA trucks also achieved success beyond the borders of Czechoslovakia – they were exported into 53 countries on five continents.

Visit the Museum

The Tatra cars were also made famous thanks to sporting achievements and mainly by travellers, the best known being Jiří Hanzelka and Miroslav Zikmund, who travelled with the Tatra 87 and Tatra 805. The trucks were made popular thanks to their success in rallies, namely the most difficult one – Rally Dakar. Karel Loprais, the legendary driver, won six times out of the 19 competitions he participated in (1986–2006)! If you find the story of the Tatra company interesting, you should visit the Tatra Technical Museum in Kopřivnice in North Moravia. There are 60 automobiles on display at the Museum and many models, engines and unique specimens. There are seven multilingual video boxes in the exposition where you can learn everything about Tatra and its history.