Joy and Concern – 14 Years Spent Restoring a Tatra 54

Veřmiřovský family – Josef Veřmiřovský (note)

This story of a Tatra 54 in the family started with Josef Veřmiřovský, cousin of the better known Josef Veřmiřovský who was a test driver for Tatra, which is connected to a well-known story regarding the origins of the Tatra name and its relation to the Veřmiřovský family.

According to several documents, traditional legend and the recollections of Josef Veřmiřovský, a former test driver and racer for Tatra , he created the idea for Tatra logo after a couple of tests in the snowy High Tatras at the beginning of 1919 in Tatranská Lomnica. As Veřmiřovský once recalled: “Imagine the astonishment and amazement in the snow-covered Tatranská Lomnica, ready for winter, over the unusual appearance of the car’s body and its crew in bushy furs! No one wanted to believe that we reached the top of the mountain until a local cart we had passed provided confirmation. That’s when it happened: one of the highlanders presents said with a sigh – that would be a car for the Tatras! ” 

On 29th March 1919, Tatra’s first automobile went out from Kopřivnice factory with Tatra logo.

The film “Tisíc mil pro Tatričku” tells the story of Tatra and its factory driver Josef Veřmiřovský (played by Josef Abrhám). Spanning a period of five years from 1919 to 1924 it talks about Hans Ledwinka (played by Radovan Lukavský) and a modified Tatra T11. Unfortunately the movie can be only found in the archive of Czech Television.

The beginnings

Let’s move to the 1930s, when the Tatra 54 was one of the most reliable and durable cars that came from Kopřivnice factory. A total of 496 units were built from 1931 to 1934 with various bodies.

The story of this particular T54 story began in 1938 when Josef Veřmiřovský, a cousin of the aforementioned guy with the same name bought it from Mr Řezníček, an architect in Prague to use it for his driving school. He was a dealer for Aero cars, but as someone who was born in Kopřivnice, he always wanted a Tatra. He even had an idea about opening a Tatra dealership, but unfortunately, he didn’t get the license.
Luckily the Tatra 54 car was well hidden during World War II; hence there are not too many stories remembered from this era. After WW2 the Veřmikovský family used it extensively until 1988 when they moved it to another garage.

1997 – Moravian floods

“I remember these days exactly – The rain started on 2 July, 1997. It was raining the whole week from nearly every side and angle” Mr Jiři Veřmiřovský quoting from the book ‘Tatra Radost i Starost – aneb 14 let života jednoho zoufalce’. The family’s book about this car printed only in 15 pieces that only very close friends could read.

1998 – First year of renovation / 1999 – the year of disassembling

Through the winter Mr Veřmiřovský hoped “We could only clean some parts, and maybe it will work”. But the reality was cruel after the floods; everything needed repairs and renovation as discovered when the car was disassembled.

You can see the progress year by year in the following photos:

2000 – 2003 / The coach and engineering

2004 – 2005 / Preparations

2006 – 2007 / Getting There

2008 – 2011 / Finalizing

“But after 14 years of renovation, nothing bad can happen the car is ready to go.” Not really! Jirka’s friends called him that that the garage doors are open and maybe he went for a test drive – but no, it turns out the car was stolen. Luckily the Police found it quickly, and the car was given back to the Veřmiřovský family.

Fortunately, the car is back in the family and shining again with many others on events and meetings. Hopefully, we will see it again and share stories like these in person.

All the memories good and haunting in the family book about the story and long renovation of car released in Book “Tatra radost i starost aneb 14 let života jednoho zoufalce” – Joy and Concern or 14 years life of one desperado.

Many thanks to our friend Jiří Veřmiřovský and the whole family for sending/lending us this unique book full of memories.

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