By on October 8, 2020

Rare Rides featured exactly one Tatra automobile previously, and it was the grandfather of today’s subject. While today’s blue beauty doesn’t have the state authority and terrorist provenance of the black Tatra displayed on these pages before, it’s important for a different reason: It was the last attempt Tatra made to sell a passenger car.

Tatra’s rear-engine sedan story began in 1934 when it debuted the 77. That streamlined sedan lead to the evolutionary 87, which begat the 603. With its novel power train layout and headlamps inset into the grille, the 603 was an enduring model for Tatra. The first version in 1956 was revamped into the 2-603, which remained in production until 1975. It was immediately replaced by the more modern 613, which was reminiscent of the Volkswagen 411 that debuted some years before.

The 613 remained Tatra’s flagship large car through the end of communism in 1989, and stayed in production through 1996. Though it was in production for over over 20 years, the 613 proved a difficult car to sell, and only around 7,000 were produced during its run.

Despite a bleak outlook, the Czech manufacturer decided to give the rear-engine luxury sedan game one last go and debuted the 700 in the spring of 1996. Though it received a more impressive model designation, underneath the 700 was still a heavily reworked version of the already thrice facelifted 613.

Unlike most versions of their flagship, Tatra toyed with offering the 700 in two body styles: sedans of two– and four-door guise. According to available photos, it seems only one two-door was produced. Initially, all examples were powered by an air-cooled 3.5-liter V8 engine and produced 198 horsepower. Later in the (very short) run, a 700-2 version promised more sporty driving, and utilized a 4.4-liter V8 instead, for a more impressive 230 horses. All examples were fitted with a five-speed manual. Top Gear reviewer Chris Goffey did a nice story on the Tatra brand up through the 613.

But nobody in 1996 was buying a refreshed rear-engine sedan from 1975 for big-time money, and when production halted midway through 1999, just 75 700s had been completed. And with the end of the 700 came the end of Tatra’s passenger car production.

The company stepped away from its unprofitable car operation, and instead focused on commercial vehicles. Tatra ownership passed to America in 2003, but back to an international holding company in 2006. DAF purchased a stake in 2011, and in 2013 the company and its debts were sold to a new entity, Tatra Trucks. It currently makes four heavy-duty trucks, for sale in Europe.

Today’s Rare Ride is for sale in Germany and is from the earlier part of the run. With 109,000 miles on the clock, this very rare Tatra asks $188,000.

[Images: seller]

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26 Comments on “Rare Rides: The 1997 Tatra 700, One Last Hurrah...”


  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “…this very rare Tatra asks $188,000”

    “Rare” doesn’t mean “valuable”, unfortunately. That’s crazy money, even for a reasonably attractive car.

    The reversed A/C compressor, alternator, and PS pump are a weird touch, but kudos for the large frunk.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Only $188,000 for a car made completely of unobtainium. Seems like a bargain.

  • avatar
    Pig_Iron

    Glad Tatra is still around.
    :-)

  • avatar
    Oberkanone

    Very nice condition for age and mileage of this vehicle.

    $188,000 All mockery of this asking price is well deserved. Price very much distracted me from the interesting layout of this unusual vehicle.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    “Though it was in production for over over 20 years, the 613 proved a difficult car to sell, and only around 7,000 were produced during its run.”

    That’s a bit unfair. Tatras weren’t exactly Chevy Novas – they were the types of cars driven by VIPs, like Communist party officials. If you were a member of the proletariat, you aspired to a Skoda. Keep in mind this was Czechoslovakia, behind the Iron Curtain.

    Then after the Wall came down, and Eastern Bloc countries started opening up, Western makes became available, which weren’t 1950s designs.

    • 0 avatar
      Pig_Iron

      A GAZ-67 would be fun.

    • 0 avatar
      spookiness

      I was in Prague for about a week in October of 1990. Wonderful memories. At that time, the Skoda Favorit was the “new” Skoda and they were very common, as well as the rear engine mainstream Skodas (130?) which were still everywhere, many of them orange and yellow. The only time I ever rode in a car there was in a Dacia 1300, driven by its owner from the train station to his flat me and my travelmates were staying at. It ran out of gas at the precise moment we arrived at the destination. Another automotive memory there (I have a photo) is of a bright red BMW 5 series parked on the street in front of the former Communist Party HQ. Saw an 80’s Olds Delta 88 also.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    I’m catching hints of SAAB in that design and I can’t quite put my finger on why.

    It’s interesting to say the least.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    The Tatra 613 looks as if Volkswagen built a Phaeton in the mid 70’s as an upmarket luxury Type IV-411/412.

  • avatar
    chris724

    I wonder how these are air cooled? I don’t see a cooling blower like on VWs and Porsches. Oh wait, maybe I do. Still, it seems like it would be difficult to air cool a V8.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    In the Name of All That is Holy, why does this have a spoiler? To make the joke complete?

  • avatar
    RHD

    188,000… crack pipe city! Maybe a tenth of that, and half of that would be for the novelty of owning such an interesting but ancient-platformed car.
    You could buy several very interesting and collectible classics for that money, or about a thousand depreciated but very cool cars in Great Britain.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      Go for a Tatra T613 and you’re only out $10k to $30k. Sometimes higher. Especially the ex-KGB cars with documentation and plates. If you get one, you might want to sweep it for suspicious-looking vials first.

    • 0 avatar
      thegamper

      Supply and demand. Sure, there are like 10 people in the world that might be interested in this car, but there is only one on the market, soooo… $188k.

      The seller is visionary genius, not high on crack.

  • avatar

    The nuclear research institute where I worked in Russia had several of these in their fleet for Director and other VIPs. They were provided as a contribution by Czechoslovakia. Ordinary folks also were driven in them to airport if it was a business trip. Yeah it was considered the kind of upscale sedan above Volga but beneath Chaika and ZIL.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    The price is definitely in crack pipe territory. I’ve seen two 603s in person, both running. One was in a small museum collection here in North Texas, and another time, a guy that owned one drove it to one of our monthly Corvair club meetings.

  • avatar
    JimC2

    I want to say that Tatra cars were available in Canada, in small numbers and for only a few years, once upon a time during the cold war. I can’t seem to find much evidence of it though.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    Been a long time since I’ve been there, but the Lane Museum in Nashville has (had?) nearly the entire progression of Tatra sedans in its collection about 10 years ago.

    Pictures don’t do it justice, these are immense and strongly built cars.

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