One of the great pleasures of traveling is discovering those special places -- gems that aren't necessarily very famous or perhaps are off the beaten path, but still so very worthwhile visiting. So it was with the Tampa Bay Automobile Museum which I had the pleasure of spending an afternoon visiting last week.
Situated in a light industrial area just outside of Tampa in Pinellas County, the museum abuts a factory run by the owner of the wonderful car collection I'm about to share with you. The factory is Polypack (manufactures packaging machinery) and its owner is Alain Cerf. Mr. Cerf is an immigrant from France, a man with obvious exquisite taste in cars and the means to indulge his hobby. I enjoy people who are passionate about things in life and was delighted to have an afternoon to explore Mr Cerf's passion -- his fascinating car collection, as will you be when you visit his museum. The museum is a celebration -- of the genius of man and of his creations, the beautiful and innovative automotive machines on display within its walls.
The Museum's collection mostly focuses on European cars from the first half of the 20th century, although some American and later model vehicles are also to be found. Everyone at the museum was extremely friendly and welcoming and allowed me to nearly wear out the shutter on my camera taking photos. I want to thank them for their hospitality and for allowing us to share these images with you. Most of the descriptions of cars I'll be presenting are abstracted from the museum's website, so please explore it and by all means, GO see this wonderful museum when in the Tampa area.
(Overview of a portion of the car collection, Tampa Bay Automobile Museum)
This blog post is the first in a four part series on the Tampa Bay Automobile Museum and features its cars from the Czech Republic (Czechoslovakia) with which I really was not well-acquainted before my visit. Cars in future blog posts are presented by country of origin (because I found it easiest to organize them this way). It would also have logical to compare the cars by year of production or similarity of design, but here they are. The car numbering sequence I've assigned is completely random. Some photos are included with this text, and there is an extensive slide show of these lovely machines below which you can click on and scroll through if you're interested.
The collection features a number of cars by Tatra, the first car manufacturer in Central Europe (Czech Republic) which specialized in upscale cars with air-cooled engines. It's an interesting company whose car production was influenced by WWII and decades of Communist occupation. Tetra's car production ended in 1999, although the company still makes trucks.
Car 1: Aero (Czech)
Produced: 1934 - 1940. 1205 cars
Aero is know for designing a front wheel drive car with a 4 cylinder, 2 L, two-stroke engine. The Aero in this collection was exported to France before coming to the USA. The car is in superb condition, with only its paint needing refinishing.
Car 2 : Tatra T26-30 (Czech)
Produced 1929-1930. 181 cars. Obviously a rare car.
Car 3: Tatra T75 (Czech)
Produced 1934-1939. 4000 cars
Based on the Tetra T11 design introduced in 1923, a revolutionary car (two cylinders, air-cooled 1056 cc, rear wheels on swing axles). The T75 is Tetra's last car built on the T11 design. The T75 has an air-cooled four cylinder engine, 1688 cc.
Car 4: Tatra T87 (Czech)
Produced 1937 - 1948. 3023 cars
Like something out of a Flash Gordon film! Featured aerodynamic bodywork inspired by Zeppelin designer, Paul Jaray. It had a rear mounted, air-cooled, overhead cam V-8 capable of producing speeds of more than 100 mph (150 km/h). Its body was made of steel, and it was the preferred car of German officers during their occupation of Czechoslovakia. Less than 100 remain.
Car 5: Tatra T97 (Czech)
Produced: 1938-1939. 510 cars
Smaller than the T87 but with the same body and rear-mounted engine. Production ended when the Germans invaded and put a stop to the T97 (rumored to be because it was too similar to the Volkswagen which was just being introduced). As such, it is a very rare car.
Car 6: Tatraplan (Czech)
Produced 1946 - 1951. 6342 cars
Designed after WWII, with Communist influences. Less expensive than some others. The engine was air cooled. A few were exported to Canada and Belgium. This vehicle in the collection is new except for some new paint and chrome plating.
Car 7: Tatra 603 (Czech)
Produced 1956-1978. 20,822 cars
Larger limousine style car sold in the Eastern block countries, mainly used by officials of the Communist party. It was a comfortable fast car capable of speeds exceeding 150 km/h (100 mph). The car in this collection has had its paint and chrome redone; the engine new stock from Tatra, but it is otherwise original.
Car 8: Maserati Sebring Series II (Italy)
Produced 1965 - 1967. 243 cars
Included here for my convenience. The only Italian car in the collection is a beaut!
Also in this series on the Tampa Bay Automobile Museum:
Part 2. The German cars
Part 3. The UK and USA cars
Part 4. French cars (coming soon -- and the best of this collection)