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1963 Tatra 2-603

1963 Tatra 2-603


The Tatra 603 is a large rear-engined luxury car which was produced by the Czechoslovak company Tatra from 1956 to 1975. It was a continuation of the series of Tatra streamlined sedans which began with the Tatra 77. In Socialist Czechoslovakia, only high-ranking party officials and heads of factories were driven in 603s; the car was also exported to a number of other countries.

Austro-Hungarian emperor Charles I used a NW type T; the Czechoslovak president Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk drove the twelve-cylinder Tatra 80 while his successor Edvard Beneš drove the streamlined Tatra 87. While the T87 was manufactured from 1936 to 1950, the post-war T600 may be considered the first car of the new political order. The T600 was much smaller and used an engine of only four cylinders, making it the descendant of the T97, the small pre-war Tatra. Production of the T97 had been stopped by the Nazis in order to cover its resemblance to their KdF-Wagen (which later became known as the VW Beetle). After production of the T600 ended in 1952, COMECON decided that Tatra would manufacture only trucks, while luxury cars would be imported into Czechoslovakia from the USSR.

The Tatra designers, however, continued their work on a new car in secret. In 1952 a group of designers led by František Kardaus and Vladimír Popelář began the secret development of a new car called Valuta, while officially devoting their time to development of a new three-axle bus T400. The first driveable T603 was completed in 1955. A number of body designs were tested in wind-tunnels. In the end the one proposed by František Kardas and fine-tuned by Vladimír Popelář and Josef Chalupa was chosen for production. Three versions of the model T603 were manufactured successively between 1956 and 1975. These cars are designated T603, T 2-603 and T 3-603, though the 3- was not an official designation used by Tatra. The T603-1 is easily distinguished by its three headlamps enclosed beneath a clear glass cover. In 1962 the 2-603 was launched. Four headlamps were mounted within a long oval grille and the dashboard was changed. The rear track was increased by 55 mm and the engine was modernized.

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