The Volkswagen Beetle is probably going essentially the most well-known rear-engine automobile to come back out of the 1930s, nevertheless it wasn’t the one one. This episode of “Jay Leno’s Storage” options the 1938 Tatra T87, which sports activities a rear-mounted V8 and will have been the Czech resistance’s secret weapon throughout World Warfare II.
Beneath the louvers of the T87’s streamlined bodywork sits a 2.9-liter air-cooled V8 coupled to a 4-speed transmission. The engine featured a light-weight magnesium block and hemi heads a long time earlier than Chrysler popularized them. A baggage compartment and two firewalls separate the engine from the passenger compartment.
The engine from Leno’s automobile was rebuilt with a contemporary carburetor, giving it 85 horsepower—10 greater than authentic. When new, the T87 was marketed as getting 20 mpg at 60 mph, which was pretty good for the interval, Leno notes within the video, whereas the highest velocity was round 105 mph. Prototypes had a drag coefficient of 0.24 – the identical as a contemporary Toyota Prius – however that rose to 0.36 for manufacturing fashions.
When Ferdinand Porsche unveiled his streamlined, rear-engine, air-cooled Volkswagen, T87 designer Hans Ledwinka accused him of copying the Tatra’s design, taking Porsche to court docket. Then World Warfare II began.
Through the occupation of Czechoslovakia, Ledwinka was compelled to work for the Nazi regime. After the struggle, he was accused of being a Nazi collaborator by the victorious Soviet Union and despatched to jail. Launched in 1951, he died in 1967. The lawsuit he began was revisited, and Volkswagen finally paid Tatra compensation. Nonetheless, Ledwinka himself by no means noticed a penny of that cash, Leno mentioned.
Just like the Beetle, in addition to the later Chevrolet Corvair, the T87 has a swing-axle rear suspension. A long time earlier than it was held up by client advocate Ralph Nader for instance of automakers ignoring security, this primitive impartial rear suspension design made the T87 a “Nazi killer,” Leno mentioned.
Through the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia, the luxurious T87 was a favourite of army officers and officers, Leno mentioned. However they had been usually unaware of the bizarre traits of the swing-axle suspension, notably for the rear wheels to “tuck beneath” throughout aggressive cornering. This led to many automobiles getting rolled by their Nazi drivers, Leno mentioned.
After World Warfare II, Tatra returned to producing passenger automobiles, this time beneath Communist rule. The 1950s Tatra 603 had a equally futuristic look to the T87, however later automobiles had extra restrained styling. The corporate stopped producing passenger automobiles in 1999, however nonetheless makes vehicles.
This text was initially revealed by Motor Authority, an editorial accomplice of ClassicCars.com.