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The Type 97 is a mid-class saloon car from Czechoslovak car-maker Tatra. It was produced for a short time in the pre-war period, from 1936 to 1939.

History

The T97 was designed in 1936 as a smaller alternative to the large T87. Instead of a V8, it was powered by a 1.8-litre flat-four engine. With engine power of 29.4 kilowatts (40.0 PS; 39.4 bhp) the car could achieve top speed of 130 kilometres per hour (81 mph). The design was also simplified, using just two headlights instead of three, a single-piece windscreen, and an overall smaller body. Production of the car was canceled after the Nazis annexed Czechoslovakia in 1938, possibly to avoid comparison with the KdF-Wagen (see below). At that time, 508 cars were built. In 1946, production resumed, but the new communist government quickly dropped the T97 in favor of the cheaper to build and overall 'more communistic' Tatraplan, which was named after the Communist Planned Economy.

Resemblance to KdF-Wagen / Volkswagen Beetle

Both the streamlined design and the technical specifications, especially the air-cooled flat-four engine mounted in the back, give the T97 a striking resemblance to the KdF-Wagen of Volkswagen, which later became the Beetle. It is believed that Porsche used Tatra's designs since he was under huge pressure to design the Volkswagen quickly and cheaply. According to the books Tatra - The Legacy of Hans Ledwinka and Car Wars, Adolf Hitler said of the Tatra 'this is the car for my roads'. Ferdinand Porsche later admitted 'to have looked over Ledwinka's shoulders' while designing the Volkswagen.

Tatra sued Porsche for damages, and Porsche was willing to settle. However, Hitler canceled this, saying he 'would settle the matter.' When Czechoslovakia was invaded by the Nazis, the production of the T97 was immediately halted, and the lawsuit dropped. After the war, Tatra reopened the lawsuit against Volkswagen. In 1967, the matter was settled when Volkswagen paid Tatra 3,000,000 Deutsche Mark in compensation.

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