The VW Bug’s Rare and Quirky Czech Mate



This odd-looking vehicle is a 1950 Tatra T-600 Tatraplan, a Czechoslovakian car collector Justin Pinchot found in Canada. It has an air-cooled, rear-mounted engine. If that reminds you of the Volkswagen Beetle you drove in the '60s, here's why:
Founded in 1850 as a manufacturer of horse-drawn coaches, by 1899, Tatra was one of Europe’s leading automakers, producing a sports car that reached 71 miles per hour. Then, in 1921, an Austrian named Hans Ledwinka was named Tatra’s chief designer. Ledwinka was something of a rock star among European automobile designers between the wars. “Hitler had dinner with Ledwinka many times when he was touring Czechoslovakia prior to the war,” Pinchot says. “‘That’s the car I want for my roads’, Hitler told his designer, Ferdinand Porsche [at the time, Porsche's company was still a design firm; its famous 911 would not be released until 1964]. It was very well known that Hitler and Porsche stole the idea for the Volkswagen Beetle from Tatra. In fact, after the war, Germany paid Tatra three-million Deutschmarks to settle a lawsuit Tatra had filed in the 1930s.”

But there are differences. The Tatraplan has front suicide doors, a luggage compartment between the riders and the engine, and pop-up semaphore turn signals! Read more about this interesting car at Collector's Weekly. Link  -Thanks, Ben!

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My dad had a 1954 Volkswagon bus with semaphore turn signals. The early beetles had them too.

I remember honking at other Volkswagons that we saw on the road; we were all members of a small exclusive club.

When we pulled into a service station, the attendant would walk around the car, staring at it, then finally ask where the gas went. My dad would tell him where and give him the big square key to open the door. The attendant would stare at that too. I suppose he thought we were fooling with him.
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1954 was the last year in the US for the Beetle to have semaphores, I have a 1958 VW Beetle, European model that has semaphores as they continued them for several more years after the US.
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If you would like to look at some Tatras as well as many other fine and unusual cars, go to the Lane Motor Museum in Nashville, TN. IIRC, they have the largest Tatra collection in the US.
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The 911 was not the first Porsche, the 356 started production 16 years earlier. And it was quite a stunning car, both in terms of performance and appearance.
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