The car’s original body was fabricated of steel and mounted to a wooden framework made of Ash. The car had been originally built with an optional Webasto sunroof. It was later modified to remove the sunroof and close up the hole. It was well known that these large sunroofs could be problematic and it was decided to restore the car with a solid roof.
Much of the ash wood framing underneath the sheet metal had rotted and required replacement to make the car roadworthy. This would be a daunting task. Luckily, the majority of the sheet metal itself was free from corrosion.
It was decided to make a 3-D scan of the body with the sheet metal in place, and a complete scan of the wood framework without sheet metal. That seemed to be the best plan to salvage as much of the word framework as possible and ensure that the new pieces fit perfectly while preventing deviation from the original body profile. A frame builder in France was chosen to do the restorative and replacement work and the car’s original wooden framework was sent there. The work was closely monitored for accuracy with several trips to France, and the completed wooden frame was returned to the US in 2014.
Suspension, Brakes, and Steering
The front suspension was inspected and found to have been repaired from what appeared be a significant collision. That combined with some observed corrosion led to the decision that some of the components needed to be re-created to ensure that the car would be roadworthy and safe. The Lockheed brakes were largely intact.
The 2.9 L V8 engine was carefully disassembled and inspected. The engine block, cylinder, heads and crankshaft all appeared to require some attention but were otherwise sound. The pistons, connecting rods, and valves were beyond repair and without spares readily available new ones were fabricated to original factory specifications. The zinc casting of the carburetor was pitted and leaked and the entire carburetor had to be replaced. Fortunately a new-old-stock carburetor was found in the Czech Republic and shipped to the US for use on this car. The original Bendix starter was beyond repair and a new reproduction starter was manufactured to ensure that the car would start without delay. Lastly, the carburetor damper that allowed the selection of cool air for summertime use or warmed air for winter time use was missing from the car. Thanks to the gracious help of another Tatra owner, the damper from another T77 was digitally scanned and a replacement damper cast using a mix of aluminum and magnesium as found on the original automobile.
The transaxle was disassembled and inspected. The gears were found to be in remarkably good condition, and after receiving new gaskets and seals, the transaxle was rebuilt. The steel formed box chassis of the car had significant corrosion and great care was taken to replace and reinforce damaged areas.
The headlight housings were found to be structurally sound, but in dire need of polishing and new chrome plating. That work was done, and the results are Concours quality.
The gas, brake, and clutch pedals along with the steering wheel, wooden dashboard, and gauges that came with the car in 2007 were all restored. The wooden dash panel appeared to be fabricated out of an unremarkable wood, and was faced with walnut as some of the early T77s may have had. The side window glass was found to be in good repair. The gears of the window lift mechanisms were worn beyond hope and new ones fabricated and the window lifts work as well as new.
Detailed photographs had been taken of the interior of the car before restoration work started. The original car featured a light tan leather interior and a cream colored headliner. Gray leather would have also been an available choice when the car was built and it was decided to use a light shade of gray colored leather for the interior and a complementary lighter shade of gray for the headliner and a darker shade of period correct wood carpeting was chosen for the floor. The pleats, shape, welding, and stitching all match that of the original interior as recorded in photographs.
Both of the front bumpers and the single rear bumper were missing from the car. New ones were carefully fabricated using available dimensions and were plated with polished chrome. The color had originally been fitted with trafficators when new and sometime along its life they were removed, and the slots closed with steel. During restoration, the slots were opened up again and new trafficators fitted.
The insulation for the wiring was deteriorated to the point that it was no longer usable and all the wiring was replaced using period correct insulated wiring.
Two of the five wheels were original to the car. The three other wheels were from a later model Tatra. With no availability of additional original spare wheels, three new wheels were fabricated to match the two remaining factory originals. The aluminum hubcap trim rings supplied with the car had evidence of severe corrosion and were replaced with accurate reproductions along with new polished hubcaps.
The car featured a single circuit hydraulic brake system. The lines were deteriorated and replaced and the brake cylinders rebuilt or replaced as needed.
The cabin lever that controlled the carburetor enricher system was missing and the new one was fabricated from steel and chrome plated to match the shift lever.
Restoration was finally completed in fall 2022. This was a spare-no-expense restoration with over $1 million spent to restore the automobile to its prior glory.
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