A different kind of luxury

With the valuable support of Prof. Massimo Grandi’s depth of knowledge and illustrative talent

Photo credit: Some images are taken from the book Asi Service "Quando le disegnava il vento" by Massimo Grandi

Including too much innovation in a model intended for large-scale production is always a rather risky choice. This is confirmed by what we see today: in fact, cars nowadays are so incredibly similar to each other that we can only tell who made them by checking the brand. Back in the 1930s, the little Tatra from which Ferdinand Porsche drew inspiration (to put it kindly!) for the VW Beetle seemed too ahead of its times, and the company therefore decided to develop the “streamlining” concept solely on its higher range models.

In 1934, Tatra returned to the “all-rear” structure already tried with the VS 10, this time, however, applying the concept to a luxury model. The V8 engine was mounted in the rear overhang

This was a company seeking to establish its own identity through what was, at the time, a unique approach. A beautiful example is the T77 with the long tail and rear fin. The year was 1934 and Deco style was prevalent, as shown by Bugatti. But there was also a great innovative drive under way. These were the “crazy years”, which turned into a kind of race to exceed, and in this sense, Tatra certainly stood out. It achieved its prominence mainly by combining functionality and a great driving experience with bold solutions, such as large air-cooled V8 engines mounted in the overhang behind the rear axle, so as to leave as much room as possible for the occupants, their luggage and even the spare wheels (Tatras had two of these!).

The T77, a large sedan, incorporated numerous innovations, which went on to become the rule for all car makers: a very low floor to increase the space inside the vehicle, the absence of external footboards, and the addition of an elegant rear fin, which was later a feature of the legendary Bugatti Atlantic. These illustrations show just how roomy the car was inside.

Among various efforts to optimize the vehicle performance, particular attention was paid to the design of the underbody. If you consider that it wasn’t until the 1970s that the world of Formula 1 began to appreciate the beneficial effects of properly managed air flows under cars, you can appreciate just how enlightened Hans Ledwinka, the firm’s technical director and the true author of its success, really was.

Although profoundly innovative with its streamlined lines, the T77 was immediately perceived as a luxury car capable of rivalling the great classics of the competitors of the time.