The Most Majestic Car You’ve Never Heard Of – The Tatra JK 2500

My ears prick up whenever I hear news of a new Tatra car being unveiled. Today, I want to share with you the most magnificent, most air-coolingest V8 GT car ever… that wasn’t made.

The Tatra JK 2500 dates back to 1954. Badged as a Tatra and considered to be a prototype for a GT car, the origins of how this beauty came to be are not as clear. There are two variations: the first says it was a project outside Tatra, from a Czech coachbuilder named Karosa Brno.

The second version says that the Tatra company had extra capacity around 1951, and they decided to take advantage of this by building a sports/GT car.

Unfortunately, it had to be put on hold, and the car was only finished by employees working overtime – a labour of love and enthusiasm.

Tatra JK 2500 front right

Personally, the first story rings truer – I doubt this began as an official Tatra project because of some technical details about the car. First, if you view the front axle assembly, it’s clear to see that it’s from a Volkswagen. It’s a torsion tube axle that may well be from a Beetle (possibly from an early KsF or Kubelwagen, considering the time and place). It’s unlikely Tatra would’ve used a VW axle in something they were prototyping.

My research also points out that the car had an Alfa Romeo 2.5-litre engine originally, making 66 HP. Why would Tatra use an engine they wouldn’t have been able to easily source for a GT prototype? It just doesn’t add up.

What does add up is the remarkable look of this fantastic motor, which got even better once the engine was replaced with an air-cooled V8 from the Tatra 603. This shot the power up to 105 HP, and with the engine being air-cooled, the entire water plumbing system wasn’t needed, freeing space up front for the spare (according to some sources).

Tatra JK 2500 right side

Even though seeing an air-cooled Tatra 603 engine in the front may seem odd, Tatra had built front-engined trucks before, so it wasn’t unheard of.

The car gets its name from the designer, Julius Kubinsky. He’d designed a number of other sports cars, including a few F1 cars and a Grand Prix car that had been wrecked by a truck prior to the race.

Kubinsky’s design is really exquisite, and is an ideal GT car of the era. The large V8 is front-mid mounted, behind the front axle, and this gave the car a perfect front/rear weight balance. The short deck/long hood proportions are classic, with the large wheel-to-body ratio and low greenhouse made the car feel athletic and purposeful.

The face has that classic fishmouth/big-eyed look that many GT cars from that era had, and it’s just as appealing here. Add to that the unique sound of an air-cooled V8 pumping forth from that front grille, makes it even more desirable.

Tatra JK 2500 front left real

Alongside that is the chrome-trimmed two-tone paint scheme, which oozes class. With a design as divine as this, an attempt was made to interest Tatra for possible production, but it regrettably got nowhere. In hindsight, with the Iron Curtain levels of central control over the factory, this isn’t a huge surprise.

Kubinsky found solace by using the gorgeous JK 2500 as his personal car for the next 13/ 14 years. After that time, nobody knows what happened to the car, though rumours mount. It’s been suggested that it’s in the hands of a secretive, private owner, but the evidence of this is nonexistent. We can dream that it’s out there somewhere, perhaps sitting intact in some barn, just waiting to be found.

Imagine that? That this one-off Tatra JK 2500 is out there somewhere, like a miraculous, red-and-black holy grail, just waiting to be found by some lucky swine.

If you’re reading this in the Czech Republic, please take a look in your local barns and let us know if this miracle comes to life.

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