Hans Ledwinka 1878-1967
Born in Austria when it was part of the Austo-Hungarian
empire. By 1906 Hans Ledwinka worked for Nesseldorfer a car manufacturer
in Moravia, after the break up of the empire Moravia became part of the
new state of the Czechoslovak republic and the company changed its name
to Tatra 1923. He left Tatra to join Steyr in Austria in 1917 then left
in 1923, to work for Tatra where he designed many ground breaking
cars as diverse as the type 11 of 1923 to the rear-engined type 77 of 1937,
until imprisonment by the communists in 1945.
He pioneered the backbone chassis frame,
swing axles and the air cooled flat four engine configuration.
His economy and light car designs.
Hans Ledwinka is justly famous for his "V8"
rear-engined cars, the Tatra T77, T87, and the T97 with a flat four engine.
His contribution to automobile progress began in 1905, when he restored
the fortunes of the "Nesseldorf" company, later renamed Tatra. He did this
by introducing advanced designs. He left Nesseldorf in 1916, working for
Steyr in Austria. Returning to "Nesseldorf" in 1921. While working at "Steyr",
he had been creating the design of a small car in his own time. His design
had been rejected by the "Steyr" management, but he was able to develop
and produce this design on his return to the by then renamed Nesseldorf.
Designated the Tatra T11 it made the name of Tatra well known throughout
Tatra T 11
The T11 was the first of his designs using
a backbone chassis, a fan cooled horizontally opposed engine and
a jointless independent rear axle. The engine in this design was a overhead
valve 1056cc twin, mounted in unit with the gearbox on the front of the
chassis. The front beam axle being attached to the engine.
This was the first of a line of design to
a similar pattern that were produced until 1948. The T11 was produced
from 1923 to 1927, and replaced by the T12 with a similar specification.
The T12 was produced from 1926 to 1936. In 1931 the T54, with a 1465cc
air-cooled flat four engine was introduced. It was made until 1936. Also
in 1931 the T57 a 1155cc air-cooled flat four was introduced, and through
the T57A, T57B and T57K versions remained in production until 1948. The
later models having a 1256cc engine. A total of thirty eight and half thousand
of these small Tatra's were made between 1923 and 1948.
Tatra 57 1932
In 1931, Hans Ledwinka's son Erich, who
was a member of his fathers design team at Tatra, designed their first
rear engined car. The flat twin cylinder, air-cooled engine of 854cc, was
mounted at the back of a platform chassis and was in unit with the gearbox
and final drive. Swing axles were again used to take the drive to the
rear wheels. The first prototype made had a fairly crude body fitted, but
the second prototype, shown at the 1933 Prague Motor Show had a streamlined
body designed to conform to the ideas of Paul Jaray. Unfortunately it didn't
reach production. This had more to do with the priorities of the Tatra
management that any outside influences.
V570 prototype 1933
Tatra chose not to produce economy cars
with the rear engine layout, but to reserve that layout for limited production
luxury and family size cars. The Tatra 77 of 1933, the Tatra 87 of 1936
and the Tatra 97 of 1937. With the onset of the war in 1939 all innovation
stopped and war production was the priority. At the end of the war Ledwinka
was imprisoned and his involvement with Tatra came to an end.