Tatra 603. Mosfilm studio museum, Moscow. Took part in the filming of the movies “The Vanished Empire” and “Mosgaz”.

The Tatra 603 is a large rear-engined luxury car which was produced by the Czechoslovak company Tatra from 1956 to 1975. It was a continuation of the series of Tatra streamlined sedans which began with the Tatra 77. In Socialist Czechoslovakia, only high-ranking party officials and heads of factories were driven in 603s; the car was also exported to a number of other countries.

The first model of 603 was characterized by three headlamps. Originally the three headlights were under a single piece of glass, but later three-piece glass was used. There was a large luggage compartment under the front bonnet, under which was the spare wheel. The spare wheel was in a separate drop-down bin opened from inside the front boot, thus making it possible to reach it without taking out luggage. At least one prototype had a two-piece windscreen but production cars had single-sheet ‘screens of two different heights and three curvatures during the long production run. The interior featured enough space to seat six occupants. To gain enough space for the middle occupant in the front seats the shift lever was on the steering column, rather than on the floor. The front seats could be folded down to make a large bed. Behind the rear seats there was a deep storage area, initially covered. The rear was characterized by a large two piece window making it the first rear-engined Tatra with good rear visibility.

The V8 overhead valve hemi engine weighed only 180 kg (397 lb), allowing the car to have 47/53 front/rear interaxle weight distribution when fully loaded. The engine was already used in the late Tatra 87 and its extreme reliability was confirmed by previous use in the Tatra 607 race car or military light truck T805. The air-cooling system was designed to cool the most heated parts of the engine more effectively.

Further modifications led to introduction of the T603H engine, from which the T603HB (export model) and T603HT (tropical climate model) were derived.

The synchronized gearbox had four speeds (+ reverse). Customers could order “mountain” gearing in place of the standard ratios. The gear stick was placed under the steering wheel in order to make room for the middle occupant of the front seats.

The gearbox made a monoblock with the shaft of the rear axle.


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