Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Remains of the Dinosaur (Tatra T87)

As we found this car, I at once recalled Aesop’s fable: like the dog in the manger - can't use it themselves and won't let anyone else use it.


It all started last spring, when some guys turned to me in order to gain knowledge about their retro car. Judging by the first description, the finding seemed to be quite interesting.  When describing the appearance of the car, they mentioned the streamlined body and a massive vertical fin at the back of the car. They didn’t report anything about the package contents. Only few models of Bugatti and the Czech Tatra might have fit the description. I was burning with curiosity and decided to go and see what car it was.
As it appeared, my suppositions had been close to reality- it was the legendary Tatra T87. The first impression was simply indescribable.
Have you ever participated in excavation of prehistoric animals? It’s scary even to touch the bones, since they may collapse and turn into dust right in your hands. I had this very feeling when I was about to touch our “fossil animal”. The body (or what was left of it) was completely decomposed and devoid of any mechanical components and assemblies- no devices on the dashboard. 


There were only a couple of devices in the interior, which were shamelessly borrowed from the soviet GAZ -20 (apparently, a distant similarity in the exterior had affected the “upgrades”).  The owners swore that once, long ago, the car had arrived in the garden by its own (then, it seemed to have decided to self-destruct, but for some reason was unable to bring its obsession to the end). As it turned out, over the years, the idle car had had considerable popularity among the fans of making profit on someone else’s wealth. But the  “proud” owner of the Tatra, a person living in a dream world that had nothing to do with modern realities, always found a pretext to get rid of the bothersome dealers. Over time, however, people gradually lost the interest in the car, but the owner’s ambitions remained the same. The price he offered for the remains of his “dinosaur” was the height of absurdity, I even feel uncomfortable to discuss it here.

Tatra T87 is indeed a rare collection car. This luxury model was produced from 1939-1950. In all there were produced 3056 copies. The car had numerous revolutionary features for those years: an air cooled engine, independent suspension for all wheels, centralized lubrication system for chassis and steering components and, in some versions, a metal roof hatch and an additional head lamp that had mechanical-hydraulic drive synchronized with the steering wheel which was able to illuminate from beneath turns.
With all due respect to this venerable car, our boundless optimism, enthusiasm and the love for retro cars it is impossible to return it to its original appearance- so badly damaged it is.
The example of this Tatra may serve as a lesson for those who behave like “the dog in the manger”. The owner could have saved it just a few years ago, but he stupidly waited for the moment until it completely fell into decay.