This is not a ghost story. The car that you see in this column really exists.
I went to the Brockman Port-To-Whiteman Park run not really expecting to see much new – after all I had been to a number of vintage and veteran shows in the last couple of years and how many more new old cars could there be out there? Well, as Mr. Charles Berry and the senior citizens of Louisiana once said. ” It goes to show you never can tell…”.
My venerable $ 1.25 1963 issue of The Observer’s Book Of Automobiles lists only one entry for the Tatra motor car company. It is a 2-603 Saloon. But the address given for the makers is a gem; Narodni Podnik, Kiprivnice, Czechoslovakia. You can almost smell the sausages and boiled cabbage in that one.
The car I found in the Fremantle park has been in Australia long enough to lose the odour – but it has a charm all its own. I must confess that I like egg-shaped vehicles – The VW beetle, the Audi TT, the various Citroen and Nissan small micro-cars. This Tatra is the essence of ovoid style – so much so that I hope it has rewarded it’s owners over the years with wonderful fuel economy as it slipped through the atmosphere.
The shape almost looks like a tin-toy stamping from the 1930’s – and I feel certain that the basic design of this is well pre-war. You almost look to see a wind-up key protruding from somewhere*. The owner’s notes mentioned that few of them came out to Australia and this may be one of only two extant. It is in good, but not pristine condition – there is a little cracking and lifting on the body at the LHS near the air intake. Nothing that a little TLC body work could not straighten out.
Auto enthusiasts with a styling eye can see other cars in there – the MkII Jaguar saloons – the bathtub Porsches. Something from Buckminster Fuller, perhaps, though Bucky never had that much actual style to hang round his good ideas.
The interior is in good shape, and suggests a mixture of luxury and utilitarianism that is uniquely Mittel-Europ. The front doors are suicide and look bigger than they prove to be – the front side window is tiny. The back door in contrast is big – and if this is a car that is intended to transport people who are ushered into the back seat and then ushered out again ( Party officials and political prisoners…) then this disparity makes sense. Please note that it still exists in some Skoda designs to this day – but I cannot guess why. Perhaps the Bohemians are just resigned to the fact that their back-seat passengers have big bottoms. It’s the beer and sausage…
The engine is apparently a flat four, but the compartment wasn’t open to see. There are air scoops and air dumps so I presume it is a finned air-cooled device.
The one other visitor who pored over it for ages ( As I tried to get a clean shot, drat the woman…) asked in despair where they could possibly put the petrol – there were no filler hatches visible. I explained to her that the cars were filled with gazolin in Prague before they were sent out to Australia and when it ran out the were to be sent back for more. After that she left me alone and went and looked at other cars. Of course my readers will know the truth – the bonnet of the car is the boot of the car and there is likely to be tank of gazolin or pils under there.
As they say in Bohemia” Sgüzc at arn Tahatcz ! ” And I think we can all agree with that.
- I would put a removable plastic wind-up key on it but then I am that sort of a person…