In 1850, Ignac Schustala (1822 – 1891), a Czech pioneer founded the company Schustala and Co to manufacture horse-drawn coaches and carriages. In 1891, the company branched out to manufacture rail road cars and the company was renamed as Nesselsdorfer Wagenbau-Fabriksgesellschaft. NW employed Hans Ledwinka and Edmund Rumpler as Engineers , who showed interest in developing an automobile. In 1897 they developed the first Nesselsdorfer – a Benz-engined car named “Prasident”.
Nesselsdorfer manufactured series of cars, identifiable by an alphabet – NW-A to NW-U. The most famous being NW-S manufactured between 1913 and 1917. These cars could reach speeds up to 100 Kms/hr.
During the war, NW manufactured trucks and tank engines. In 1918 , the company was renamed as Koprivincka Vozovka a.s . From 1919 , the cars were badged as TATRA , after the Tatra mountain ranges.
Tatra cars were known for new and innovative concepts, driven by bright Engineers like Ledwinka, Rumpler and Ubalacker. Tatra T11 was one of the famous cars with a revolutionary concept of “Back-bone chasis” – a single central tubular structure on to which suspension and power train are mounted. The back-bone chassis structure brings in off-road capability for which Tatra trucks are known for.
Tatra brought in Aerodynamics to cars in the 1930s through Engineer Paul Jaray’s licensed designs – the tear drop shape. Tatra T77 was one example of an aerodynamically optimised car, reported to be with drag co-efficient of 0.245 in a scale model – Later verification in the 1970s in a wind tunnel proved to be in the range of 0.31 – 0.32, a major achievement in those times. However, due to the long tail and an unfavourable F/R weight split, the car was unstable while cornering and prone to skid and rollover. It is mentioned that many German Nazi officers died on these cars.
Fine tuning the design of T77 , Hans Ledwinka designed a revolutionary small car , Tatra V570 , with the engine in rear and shaped like a Beetle. It is argued that Ferdinand Porsche copied the design elements to design and manufacture the famous VW Beetle. Tatra sued VW and the case was finally settled in 1961 with VW paying Tatra 3 million Deutsche Marks as compensation.
The original NW logo and the current Tatra logo –
Tatra ceased manufacture of cars in 1999 but continues to produce off-road capable trucks. Indian Army is a user of Tatra trucks