Tatra 700 – the last passenger car from Kopřivnice turns 25!
The Tatra 700 limousine, which was introduced to the public on April 9, 1996, was the last evolution of the well-known 613 models. The team around chief designer Miroslav Staroň developed it in a year. And production amounted to less than a 100 units.
Tatra 700 failed to succeed in the luxury car market. Since only a few dozen of these cars rolled off the production lines, they are now a valuable collector’s car among motoring enthusiasts. When production of the T700 was concluded in 1999, it marked the end of a more than 100-year-long period of passenger car production in Kopřivnice.
The conditions for creating a modern successor of the Tatra 613 were worsened by the poor financial and sales situation of the Kopřivnice company. Therefore, the most suitable choice turned out to be the modernisation of the existing model. Development work on a new car took place as quickly as possible with minimal costs.
Miroslav Staroň, who was chief designer at the time recalled the Tatra 700 development period as the best year of his professional career. The new model’s development took less than a year, from the first sketches to presenting a prototype to the management.
According to him, after the regime change in 1989, Tatra did lose direction. In the car factory, the directors often took turns, and everyone had a different idea. After Staroň, who had previously worked on, among other things, right-hand drive Tatras projects for Britain, in 1994, the then-new director came up with the idea that he wanted a new car and that he wanted it within a year.
They had to make adjustments to the existing Tatra 613 underpinnings. “I knew that the structure had to remain original, that we did not have the time or money to make new tools for the entire body. The purpose was to revise the car, modernise it so that it looks different, enhance its quality, and bring its technology closer to the 1990s. Of course, we had limited options, but there was the enthusiasm that after years something was happening with Tatra cars, “said Staroň.
“Within a year, we were able to build a production-ready car. I completed the task I was given at the beginning of the year. We moved technologically, but unfortunately, we were not able to get the car to such a level during that time and money that we would be able to fully compete with the vehicles that began to be imported, “said Staroň. The price of around 1.5 million crowns was also an obstacle.
The Tatra 700 car was presented to the public on April 9, 1996, at a grand presentation at the Hilton Hotel in Prague. Over five meters long, the limousine was from the beginning equipped with an air-cooled eight-cylinder engine located above the rear axle, which had a volume of 3.5 litres and a power of 148 kW. The 1,8 tons car had a maximum speed of 230 km / h.
The interior was offered in a luxurious combination of leather and wood. Standard equipment included dual-zone air conditioning. The instrument panel was inspired by Saab’s appearance, but in reality most of the instruments came from a Škoda Felicia with changed fascia The introductory price of the car was set at 1.4 million crowns.
In 1996, around 70 cars were produced at the Příbor plant, but in the following years, only a few units. By that time Staroň left the company.
The production of the facelifted model was moved back to Kopřivnice from Příbor. However, the “seven hundred” production dropped until it was finally stopped due to low demand and losses, and despite later efforts, it was not resumed. According to available sources, only 75 units of the Tatra 700 were production between 1996 and 1999.
Its end also meant the end of Tatra’s passenger car production, which began with the Präsident model in 1897.