Tatra is one of the world’s oldest and the most renowned vehicle manufacturer, producing light motor vehicles, trucks, electric and diesel locomotives and machinery equipment. The car production has recently been ceased.
The history of the company goes back to June 1850, when a craftsman Ignác Šustala together with two journeymen started the production of light carriages in the village administration house. Later they began making more sophisticated carriages with different bodies. In 1853 the first plant building was constructed. In 1858 the Sustala & Co company was established. After the Studénka – Štramberk railroad had been built, the company got new opportunities for production distribution. One can’t but mention that Ignác Šustala was very enterprising. He started construction of a building for manufacturing railway carriages right away and in 1882 the first 15 carriages rolled off the production line.
The idea of manufacturing horseless carriages in Koprivnice belongs to an obsessed promoter of motorization Theodore von Liebing. In 1897 he was the one to advice Karl Benz to sell one of his state-of-the-art two-cylinder 7HP engines. He also brought life into the first light car called Presedent that was produced the same year. It was based on an in-house manufactured Milord platform. Despite the increasing popularity of automobiles, the principle products for Šustala’s company at the turn of the XX century were railway carriages, exported to various world countries.
The cars manufactured in Koprivnice became more and more popular, getting the public apprehension. In 1898 Šustala designed his first truck with 2,5 capacity, which was equipped with two Karl Benz’s engines. Today such trucks are called cabovers. The truck package with power packs located under the cargo bed is considered to be pretty mould-breaking even today.
The increasing demand in cars and trucks resulted in complete rearrangement of the company and trade mark replacement. In 1920 the Tatra brand became popular all over the world.
It was a pivot for the Koprivnice cars when in the early 1920-s a young genius Hans Ledwinka entered the company. In 1923 he designed and created a small car called Tatra 11 with two-cylinder opposed air-cooled engine with oscillating axle shafts and tubular frame, which had the engine, transmission and rear axle with drive gear rigidly attached to its flanged lips. For almost 80 years all Tatra cars had been designed and manufactured after the same pattern.
The story of the rear-engine cars ended in the late 1990-s with the production of luxurious T 700 limousine, that used to be called the Czech Rolls-Royce. The termination of car production couldn’t be considered to be a sign of company’s crisis since its main business field was still heavy vehicle manufacturing.
Today the Tatra company keeps on improving its trucks’ designs and is constantly working on production expansion. At present the Tatra’s manufacturing program includes 4 high-mobility heavy vehicle line-ups. Two of them enclose the general use trucks and the other two line-ups include special-purpose trucks for military use in adverse climatic conditions.