Engine: 155 cu. in. (2.5L)
90˚, OHV, V-8
Output: 100 HP @ 4800 RPM
Transmission: 4-Speed Manual
Wheelbase: 108 in.
Overall Length: 199 in.
Weight: 3131 lbs.
Top Speed: 106 MPH
No. Produced: 20,422
Original Price: $13,725 (approx.)
Manufacturer: Tatra


Tatra was relegated to the production of trucks only. However, government officials whose luxury cars were Russian imports, realized those vehicles were junk. Remembering the glory days of Tatra and the cars they produced, the company was approved to produce a successor to the T-87. Engineers at Tatra were already secretly working on a design and “miraculously” produced a new car in record time. The Tatra 603 was a luxurious car certain to tick any discriminating buyer’s boxes.

This new car had a four-door saloon style body with finely curved edges and stunning color combinations.  Comfortably seating six, the front bench seat folds down to the back creating a temporary bed. Most cars came with a three head light unit, although some had a fourth head light. The cars were unavailable to the public. They were reserved for Communist officials and presidents of Eastern-European countries and Cuba. Allegedly Fidel Castro received the only air-conditioned model.


  • Body is all-steel welded moncoque construction which made it lighter than the T-87.
  • Engine is located behind the rear wheels w/4-speed transaxle and swing axles. Advanced for its time it was used on the Porsche 356 and Mercedes Benz Gullwing 300SL.
  • Up front was a MacPherson type strut suspension which made for a large front book despite the aerodynamic design of the car.
  • Steering is rack and pinion, mounted on the front bulkhead with a central drop link.
  • The six-light design used curved glass for the front windshield. The rear window was split to allow for a T-87 like fin that was later eliminated.
  • This model was unveiled to the public in 1955 at the International Motor Event in Zlin, and production started in 1957.
  • Cars were also owned by the “company” and an old Slovak saying is “The best rally car is the one owned by your company.”

Possible fun facts: The car was designed in secret. Under Communism, the government determined who built what. Cars were built by Skoda and Tatra did trucks. Based on Tatra’s past history of successful car manufacture, the engineers secretly designed a follow up to the T-87. Government officials drove luxury cars imported from Russia and realized they were junk. They longed for the quality that Tatra produced. They grudgingly gave approval for Tatra to come up with a new design, and “surprisingly” the engineers produced the 603 in record time.

The 603 is possibly the biggest four-door sedan with an air-cooled engine built by any manufacturer.

The car’s heater consisted of a tank of gas and an igniter under the driver’s seat.

Drop down bin in front boot housed the spare tire. You could access it easily and didn’t have to empty out the boot to get to the tire.

The factory took back older 603s and remanufactured them to be like the newer model. Every 7 years the factory recommended that you take your old car back to the factory to be updated with new stuff. They didn’t always do all the new chassis upgrades and only make the changes that are visible. This makes it difficult to find an original, not updated Tatra 603.

The only 603 that was equipped with air-conditioning was given to Fidel Castro.

The hood release is located on the wheel arch of the driver’s side rear door. Later models the external filler cap was located in the middle of the grill which looked like the brand’s logo badge.


Learn more here.


On loan from the Lane Motor Museum, Nashville, TN