Jay Leno drives a ’38 Tatra, the “greatest car no one has heard of”
Since the inception of the automobile, there have been many, many manufacturers. Jay Leno is a man who has spent many years finding and learning about some of the more niche brands that have existed. He drove one of his favorites, a 1938 Tatra T87, on the latest episode of Jay Leno’s Garage this week.
Only about a dozen automakers hail from Czechoslovakia, and Tatra is one of the better known of them. However, most folks that hear Tatra think of big 6×6 trucks performing amazing off-road feats, but the brand traces its roots significantly further back. The four-door T87 Leno drives in this episode is one of the most advanced cars of its time, and yet somehow remains largely unknown.
There are a multitude of factors that could contribute to that, with production number being a main one. However, the rear-mounted, cast-magnesium, air-cooled, 2.9-liter V-8 alone should spark interest in anyone who fetishizes the engineering side of cars. The styling is also worth noting, as it decreased the drag coefficient to the point where Tatra could advertise the car’s fuel economy during a time when most cars were best described as gas guzzlers.
On the road, the three headlights might make those in the know think it’s a Tucker 48 at first, but as soon as it goes past that thought will disappear. The Tatra is decidedly weird, but we think it is weird in all the right ways. The world needs more weird cars out in the wild.
If you’ve got a thing for Tatras, definitely check out our recent story about a spectacular Canadian road trip with a pair of these Czech marvels.