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From the archive: Why the Tatra 77 was a trailblazer

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The 77’s interior was seriously luxurious, not just in terms of roominess (three adults could sit comfortably across the rear – and even across the front in the few cars given a central driving seat) but also in how it was appointed.

This was actually a new thing for Tatra: the original idea had been a small, affordable car, but Tatra already had a regular car of this kind selling well and with a reputation for reliability, which such innovation would put at risk.

Felix Page VW Beetle front

Look at the V570 prototype now and it strongly resembles another ’30s icon: the Volkswagen Beetle. Who was the visionary, who was the copycat?

Well, it was certainly no coincidence that one of Tatra’s biggest fans was the originator of the Volkswagen idea, Adolf Hitler, who declared “this is the car for my roads!” after being chauffeured in a 77.

Ferdinand Porsche would later say: “Sometimes I looked over [Ledwinka’s] shoulder and sometimes he looked over mine.” And Volkswagen paid Tatra £90k in compensation in 1965.

Back to 1935, when Autocar’s tester said of the 77: “It proved most interesting to drive, and considering the weight [about 1700kg] and the size of the engine, it had a good turn of speed and was not unduly sensitive to gradient changes.

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