Prague to Pebble or Bust: Report From Prague On Picking Up The TFL Tatra

The TFLcar Tatra 1968 603
The TFLcar Tatra 1968 603

(Prague, Czech Republic)

I spent the weekend chasing the Tatra 603 starting with a drive to the Tatra museum. It’s a long haul from Prague, taking four hours on the highway at 80 MPH. I managed a crappy, jet-lagged video once I got there, but on the plus side, I got a lot of amazing footage of some old Tatras.

Unfortunately, the museum director wasn’t working over the weekend and Monday they were closed so I was not able to make any useful connections besides chatting with the museum volunteers. On Sunday, I met with the owner of the Tatra I’ll be taking home, drove the car, and shot a less jet-lagged video.

The good news is that our Tatra drives and steers.

The bad news is that it does not look like it will make the 1.5 hour drive from the town of Liberec, where it currently sits, to Prague. It was a bucket of communist bolts when it was new and now it’s a much older bucket of communist bolts.

Despite this, it is a really cool car. There’s a hand crank, and even a starter button in the engine compartment so that the driver can start it from the back without disturbing the passenger. The V8 engine even handily slides out for easy replacement. This particular Tatra is currently on its 3rd engine.

IMG_3078The really bad news is that the engine smokes and who knows what fixing that might entail.

So, given the vehicle’s condition, I had a couple of choices. We could have it towed to the boat and pretty much kill the video, get it fixed, or find another car.

I made a bunch of calls on Monday including to the country’s premier restorer of Tatras and found a guy who does nothing but fix and restore these old cars. He said that, in good shape, the car is capable of driving to California so I asked him to take a look at the TFL Tatra and get it ready for the trip.

He agreed and is driving out to Liberec to fix it up and hopefully get it all sorted out in two weeks.


We have a car to drive and it should be able to make it to California if the work proceeds according to plan.

Sadly, this blows our small budget as a newly rebuilt Tatra engine costs $5K and that doesn’t include labor. Does it need a new engine? I don’t know, but I’m assuming worst case for now. It would be almost impossible to find another car in the next month as there are only about 2000 of them left in the entire country, including basket case cars. Professionally restored versions now run about $50K and we certainly don’t have the budget for that expenditure.

So, we are moving ahead, but it looks like I’m just going to drive the car to the boat this summer with Tommy doing the filming. No side trips, but instead straight to the boat to make sure we can get it to the U.S. in driving shape.

If all goes well, the rest of the team will drive the American leg of the trip taking the TFL Tatra 603 all the way to California.

That’s all the news for now.

I’m heading back today with two videos and a smokey TFL Tatra in need of a little TLC in my wake.