The Random Griffith

My quirky car jones continues unabated

Posted in Uncategorized by Jackson Griffith on 26/02/2010

Yes, I love weird Euro cars, and Asian ones, too, mostly from the postwar period through the late 1960s or early 1970s, when bulbous Robert Crumb roundedness or insectile design cues were abandoned for squared-off boxlike shapes. At the time, such modernity may have been desirable, but in retrospect, I mean, who lusts after a Volvo 140 series sedan these days, when the Amazon, or 120 series in the U.S., is so much more gosh-darn swell?

Okay, so now for the coolest car ad, ever. This is from Czech carmaker Tatra, circa 1962, to tout its 603 model, a rear-engined, bathtub-bodied behemoth with weird headlights and a split rear window. Or, in short form: My kind of car. Dig part one, followed by part two:

What’s not to like here? There’s a snappy Eastern European big band jazz soundtrack, gorgeous cinematography — dunno if you read credits in Hollywood films after the 1960s, but there an awful lot of Czech names in the credits for technical jobs like camera work and lighting — plus beautiful Czech countryside, a trio consisting of two dapper dudes and an Audrey Hepburn lookalike, suspicious commie cops straight out of post-Joe McCarthy central casting, action, and a car that’s nothing short of phenomenal.

Not sure what audience this was produced for; I don’t know how many party leaders could afford what looks like a real sports sedan in early-1960s Czechoslovakia. To the average prole behind the Iron Curtain back then, it was a luxury that only existed in dreams. Perhaps the advert merely served as a showcase for Czech filmmaking. Who knows? At any rate, it captures a pretty sweet machine, yes?

I’m still the sort of chap who will stop the car and get out (or these days, get off the bicycle) to give a look-over to an oddball European or Japanese car. Once I stood in East Sacramento for what seemed like hours thrilling over a mint-condition Panhard Dyna Z Tigre saloon, and I’ve been known to do the same over random vintage CitroĂ«ns, ALFA Romeos, SAABs, Peugeots, Borgwards, DKWs (especially the Wankel-powered models), early BMWs (including the wonderfully wacky Isetta), Renaults, Rovers, Wollseleys, Triumph saloons, Toyopets, even more pedestrian marques like Jaguars, Mercedes-Benzes and Volvos. During a drunken junket to Moscow in 1988, I stumbled down that city’s backstreets looking for oddball Soviet iron, and I found some choice examples, too. But there’s nothing like the Tatra 603, unless you’re talking about a few other Tatra models. You sure don’t see these babies on the street in the U.S.A.

Hope you dug the movie. I sure do. —Jackson Griffith


2 Responses

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  1. Laura said, on 26/02/2010 at 03:02

    I would drive one of those in a heartbeat! Really cool stuff. The guy in the 1st film kinda looks like Jim Neighbors…..weird.

  2. jaxong said, on 26/02/2010 at 03:11

    Me, too! As for the guy, I’ll have to go back and look. Imagine being an actor and getting a rep as the Eastern Bloc Gomer Pyle? Shazam!

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