Tatra’s association with Hans Ledwinka, a pioneering automotive engineer, is indelible. As Tatra’s chief engineer, Ledwinka, alongside his colleagues Erich Übelacker and Zeppelin aerodynamicist Paul Jaray, delved into applying low-drag aerodynamics to passenger car design in the early 1930s.
Their collaboration bore fruit in 1934 with the introduction of Tatra’s ‘aerodynes,’ exemplified by the T77. This car marked a groundbreaking shift as the world’s first production car designed with primary emphasis on aerodynamic efficiency. Advertised as ‘the car of the future,’ the T77 was radically different from its contemporaries. It featured Ledwinka’s signature independently-suspended backbone chassis and a rear-mounted 3.0-liter air-cooled V8 engine. Extensive use of magnesium alloy in its construction maintained a trim weight of 1,700kg (3,700lb). Despite its modest 60bhp engine, the T77 reached a remarkable 145km/h (90mph), thanks to its staggeringly low drag coefficient of around 0.21—half the power needed compared to a conventional car. In 1934, the T77 evolved into the T77A, sporting a 3.4-liter engine and a higher top speed of 150km/h (93mph).
While the T77 excelled in speed, economy, and comfort, some criticized its handling. Ledwinka’s response in 1936 was the T87, shorter and lighter than the T77. Powered by a 3.0-liter V8 engine, the T87 achieved a top speed of 160km/h (100mph). Production resumed post-WW2, lasting until 1950, with over 3,000 units sold.