The Tatra 603 is a large rear-engine luxury car made by the Czechoslovak company Tatra. It was a continuation of the series of Tatra streamlined sedans started by the Tatra 77. In Communist 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.
In 1962 the T 2-603 was launched. Four headlamps were mounted within a long oval grille and the dashboard was changed. The rear track was increased by 55 mm and the engine was modernized. In 1966 the car got power brakes, while in 1967 other changes were added: for example the windshield’s height was enlarged by 66 mm.
The Model T603 was allocated only to senior members of the political and industrial establishments. About a third of T603 production was exported to most of the central and eastern European countries allied to Czechoslovakia at the time, as well as to Cuba and China. Sales to private individuals were not normally possible, although a few T603s appear to have been privately owned in East Germany. During the car’s twenty-year production run, 20,422 cars were built, mostly by hand. To the west of the Iron Curtain the car was unknown, though some were used by Czechoslovak embassies in western capitals. The model T603 was replaced by the T 613 in 1974.
Former Cuban President Fidel Castro is believed still to have owned a white T603 featuring air conditioning.
Originally the Comecon issued a provision limiting Czechoslovakia to production of no more than 300 luxurious cars per year. Tatra was making more of them, though. This became an issue in 1957 and 1958, especially considering East Germany produced its own luxurious car, the Sachsenring P240. The Comecon decided that the two countries must reach a deal to choose which country would continue production to supply the other. In 1958 the Ministries of Interior of both countries took part in trials, which East Germany’s Minister of Machinery personally attended. The 603 won, and subsequently East Germany’s higher communist officials got to drive the T603, while the lower ones had to drive imports from USSR.
This fine example, bought by its current owner from Austria in 2006, has the enlarged windshield that allows for increased visibility and improved ease of driving, was produced in 1969 and is furnished in black with contrasting red interior. The rear 2.5liter V8 engine looks to be in good condition and has only 83,426km recorded miles. A lovely example of a triumphant model, that won over the German vote above its own domestic cars in 1958.