At the beginning of the eighties, Tatra was very strong in the field of trucks, mainly thanks to the success of the Tatra 148 series, which was exported to more than 40 countries on five continents. Nevertheless, there was room for innovation, the result of which was the Tatra 815.

At the beginning of the eighties, it was high time for a new car. Although the Tatra 148 was produced only from 1972, it was directly based on the 138 model dating back to the end of the fifties.

A vehicle for the entire Eastern Bloc

Work on the Tatra 815 began in the 1970s, when the Kopřivnica automobile company was put in charge of the production of trucks with a payload of over 12 tons and air-cooled engines for the entire Eastern bloc. The preparation could thus be financed by a loan from the international bank RVHP, which was used for the construction of new production buildings or the purchase of new production equipment. All this responded to insufficient production capacities.

The first prototypes were created in 1972, and differed from the later serial car in a differently shaped engine cover. The goal was to improve the car on all fronts. The cabin should have been more comfortable, the engines quieter and more environmentally friendly. It was a matter of course to preserve the excellent off-road capabilities, which were tested not only on the Tatra Range, but also, for example, in Siberia.

Photo: Tatra

The prototypes had already known shapes, but the bow was still different from the serial version.

A wide range of versions

The novelty followed on from its predecessor, mainly thanks to the award-winning concept of the Tatra chassis with a central support tube. However, the unification of parts made it possible to offer a much wider range of versions than before. After all, the Tatra 815 in production replaced not only the “civilian” 148, but also the “heavy” 813 series, known mainly as a military special vehicle and semi-trailer tractor. This unification was also supposed to make production cheaper and simpler thanks to simpler logistics.

The classic model with a trambus cab was here in short, medium or extended four-door form. However, it was supplemented by a variant with an advanced cabin located in front of the front axle, as a basis for a crane carrier, excavator or drilling rig. The airport tractor with a lowered cabin, located in front of the front axle, was similarly designed.

Photo: Tatra

Tatra T815 TPL in the form of an airport tractor.

Various chassis configurations were also available. The most widespread version had a short cab and a three-axle chassis. However, there were also two-axle, four-axle versions or even military versions of 8×8. Depending on the version, the rear wheels were single or double mounted.

Also, the range of engines was really diverse, while using modular construction. After the introduction, there were gradually not only the air-cooled ten-cylinder diesel engine with a volume of 15.8 ls with an output of 208 kW, but also an eight-cylinder with a volume of 12.7 ls with an output of 170 kW or a twelve-cylinder with a volume of 19 l and an output of 235 kW, respectively up to 265 kW in the turbocharged version.

Photo: Tatra

Arktik version adapted for use in cold environments.

It is still produced today

The serial Tatra 815 was presented to the public for the first time in September 1982 at the International Engineering Fair in Brno. Production started in 1983, in the first year of production there were 9,199 units of this car.

The original version was produced until 1989, during which time 95,024 examples were built. This was followed by the updated version 815-2, mainly adapted to meet emission standards. As part of further modernization, the car was given the trade designation TERRNo.1, when Tatra offered liquid-cooled Deutz engines in addition to air eight-cylinders. The Tatra (163) Jamal with the cab moved behind the engine, unveiled in 1997 and offered until 2015, also came from this series.

The Tatra 815 is still produced today, in the latest evolution of the 815-7 sold under the trade name Force. It also replaced the Terra model line this year. Thanks to this, it is the longest produced type series of the Kopřivnica car company.

Today, the car presents itself as a standardized model series of special vehicles adapted to the requirements of special components. It can thus be transported by the standard NATO C-130 Herkules aircraft and there is also the possibility of additional armoring according to STANAG standards or the possibility of carrying firearms. In addition to the military, however, the vehicle is also used in the civilian sphere as a crane, fire truck or rescue vehicle.