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Hagerty Employee

Three oceans, two Tatras, one trip of a lifetime

Twenty years ago, a traveler headed north on the Dempster Highway in the Canadian Yukon might have been shocked to stumble over an alien craft. The vehicle gleamed silver against the sparse greenery of an Arctic summer landscape, finned and louvered and looking like it had just landed amid a plume of rocket exhaust. But it was not a UFO. It was a 1947 Tatra T87, partway through a journey of more than 10,000 miles. If we’re honest, aliens would be a less crazy story.


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I’ve read about this adventure before, it’s a great story, and just as exciting to read here! 

Community Manager

This made my day!


Great story. Meant to be driven.


Styling-wise... spaceship at the time, but modern crossovers have a fair bit of the look without the soul (or rear engine).

Hagerty Employee

Well, now a road trip to the Canadian hinterland is officially on my bucket list. Great story!

Intermediate Driver

i saw one of these 30 years ago or so abandoned in a farmers field near my home, and thought it was just the coolest thing. unfortunately it disappeared from there some years later. you realize that after publishing this story, now everyone is gonna want one.....


Ummmm.... everyone ALREADY wants one!
Intermediate Driver

I first encountered a real live Tatra, to my astonishment, at an ice cream stand in a western suburb of Boston. To say it stood out from the hot rods and muscle cars that gathered there on Saturday nights is an understatement!  Just my kind of vehicle; weird and clever and historic (though my tastes run more to smaller cars).  I love to see stories like this of epic journeys in what we think of as unlikely conveyances.  Drive those cars! It's what they were made for!

Intermediate Driver

You know, the odds are that Tatra you saw belonged to one of these guys. John drove his down to Boston. 

Intermediate Driver

Alternator in 1937 ? What did they do for pass compartment heat in Yukon with air cooled engine ? Sad they destroyed Aero with box on roof, kills mileage. 

These guys had major cajones. 

Intermediate Driver

Tampa Bay Auto Museum has several Tatras:  T-26, 6 wheel "military truck" type; a T-87; T-97; a Tatraplan; and a 603. Museum is actually in St. Petersburg, and has all kinds of interesting cars. The goal was to show the firsts of inventions or innovations in cars, and a lot of foreign cars are on display as a result. The good thing is that they exercise all their cars, so they are not just sitting idle.  They also had a Fardier de Cugnot (steam powered truck from 1700's France) on loan from the Deutsche Museum in Berlin, and subsequently had their own replica fabricated. Well worth the visit if in Florida. 


I first saw a Tatra in Czechoslovakia in 1966. Somewhere I even have a few photos of Tatras in Czechoslovakia that I took with my brownie box camera. That happened on the trans-Europe car trip with my family of origin in the Peugeot 404 wagon that's posted here under road trips and/or driving.


The next time I saw a Tatra--three or four of them, actually, was probably '93, at the big car show in Rockville MD, outside of DC, that happens every October. I'm sure I took photos of those, too--with a much better camera. I've seen one, I think, since then. 


Very interesting cars, with interesting history. Fun story! 



Great read looking forward to moor 


John D Smith   OLD CAR NUT

Intermediate Driver

I had the extreme good fortune of finding 4 Tatras hidden in an old Volvo service garage not more than 15 minutes of my home. The 4 Tatras 2 T-87 V8s 1938-39 and 2 1950's T-600s......had been in there for 50 yrs or more..and had the good fortune ( after dogging the place for weeks ) of getting many photos of the cars being pulled out and seeing daylight after 50 yrs......for their journey back to the Czech Republic to a serious Tatra collector back there.

Wonderful. Thank you.
New Driver

As I read it they went "...from Boston to Vancouver, up to Inuvik - approximately 60 miles from the Arctic Ocean - and back again."
Do I take it from this that they did not dip wheels in the Arctic?
Pit Crew

You're right; the Dempster Highway ends at Inuvik, which is in the Mackenzie river delta, roughly 60 miles from the Arctic Ocean. At the time they did this run, there was no road north of Inuvik. I've made the trip three times, in 1988 in a Jeep Cherokee, in 2006 in a Ford E250, and in 2014 in a Ford Explorer. It's a fantastic journey. Unfortunately, the road was a lot worse in 2014 than it was when the boys made their trip, because the maintenance hasn't kept up with the usage. But I hear that Northwest Territories is building a road direct to Inuvik from Fort Simpson, bypassing the Yukon, and the road will continue on to Tuktoyak, on the shores of the Arctic Ocean. When that's done you'll at least be close enough to spit in the ocean. I need to check on that; it may be time for another trip up north.
Pit Crew

Oops, make that Tuktoyaktuk.

Uh, the fabulous Harrah's Automobile Collection was in Reno, not Las Vegas.

Doesn't Jay Leno own a T87? Surprised that's not mentioned here.
New Driver

Interesting read and a tough trip at least the Dempster highway portion. I live in a community at mile 54 Alaska hi-way and know the northern road systems quite well. One picture of Hyder caught my attention you must of travelled highway 37 which is not the Alaska Hi-way but rather another route through BC that connects to the Alaska Hi-way just north of Watson Lake. A quick look at any Bc map will show that. All in all a very interesting read and would have been a great trip.
New Driver

35 is correct. I've been up and down the Alaska Hwy several times. The Mile '0' Post is Dawson Creek, BC, not Hyder even though that sign in Hyder says so. Apparently, some Hyder citizens want to steal the 'Thunder' from their neighbors in Dawson Creek....LOL !
Pit Crew

Twenty years ago I drove to Alaska in 2000. Don’t remember seeing a Tatra though.
Advanced Driver

Very cool trip and an excellent story. Hope to see more.
Intermediate Driver

I have a story of two Tatras T-87's ( one with a factory sun-roof ) coming UP from California in the late 60's , coming up to Vancouver and then across Western Canada east back to Ontario and being stored in a garage for 50+ years . I have photos of them T-87's', seeing the light of day after 50 years !! Great Cars....way ahead of their time.
Intermediate Driver

Another great story, I probably didn't even know what a Tatras was until reading about them in various articles here. Much appreciated, and bravo's to those that tempt destiny with audacious adventures!!
New Driver

I worked with a fellow who escaped Czechoslovakia Soviet rule. He told me about Tetras, Skoda's and other machines. My Mom and I in 2005 visited family in Indianapolis and our family lived at Speedway. One day we were out and stopped by the Indy 500 museum. In the parking lot were cars that were driving across America in the Great Race. One of the cars was a Tetra. I walked up and started telling my cousins about this weird car. The owner overheard me and was shocked that I knew so much about her car. She gave me a photo of the car . Seems I was the odd fellow that day.