I came across the old car mouldering in a timber yard on the edge of Horni Plana. It looked so neglected, so forlorn and yet you could see that it once had been a fine car. I showed this photo to my husband - who as a boy had swallowed the Observer Book of Automobiles whole and usually can still tell the make of car from a distance. At first he thought it was a Citroen, but then thought better and suggested it was a 1930's Tatra.
I appeal to anyone who knows to let us know one way or another. But, as this is a blog about the Czech Republic, the former Czechoslovakia and all things Czech, I shall assume it is a Tatra - as it allows me to blog about this fascinating car manufacturer. Its story is in some ways a mirror of the history of the Czech people. In the first part of the last century the Czechs were at the forefront of design and engineering. The Tatra is the world's third oldest car manufacturer and its car design and engineering were ahead of their time. The T77 launched in 1934 was the first production aerodynamic car with its dorsal rear fin and rear-mounted engine. It was to be very influential - Ferdinand Porsche used some of its design features in the more famous Volkswagen Beetle.
As with the wider history of the Czech Republic, this flowering of innovation came to an end under the German occupation. Whilst German officers enjoyed the car's speed, the company's
activity was restricted and its designs plundered in favour of German car companies. After the war the company was nationalised under the communists. Even under the communists the Czech company still managed to produce some fine cars; these were not for the proletariat but for the senior officials and Party elite. More recently the company has abandoned car production and focused exclusively on lorries. Despite all the problems of its past, Tatra has survived and is being rebuilt - rather like the country that spawned it.