Home » There’s A Rare Tatra Being Auctioned That Appears To Be The Car From That Lemony Snicket Movie

There’s A Rare Tatra Being Auctioned That Appears To Be The Car From That Lemony Snicket Movie

Tatra Unfort Top

For many Americans of a certain age, their first exposure to the incredible world of Czech rear-engined air-cooled V8-powered cars known as Tatras came via a black comedy movie based on a beloved series of children’s books. The movie was 2004’s Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, and the car was a 1971 Tatra 603. That Tatra seems to have resurfaced, but now it’s in a sadly deteriorated state, and up for auction in Lancaster, California. It’s definitely the same car, and I’ll show you how I can tell.

The Tatra 603 has an interesting history; it’s very clearly derived from Tatra’s earlier pre-war and wartime rear-engined streamlined cars like the Tatra T77 and Tatra T87, which developed into the T600 Tatraplan, and then to the T603, which is what we’re talking about.


Now, under the old Soviet-led Eastern Bloc rules, Czech Tatra was supposed to focus on trucks and luxury cars for high-ranking party members would be imported from the USSR. Tatra engineers and designers weren’t really happy about that, and so began to work in secret to develop a new car they were calling the Valuta, a sleek, streamlined jet-age whale that evolved into the 603:

Tatra603 1

It’s a really unusual, striking-looking car, and this movie featured it prominently in a way that most American audiences had never encountered before.

Tatra Movie1

That’s the 1971 Tatra T603-2 from the movie; here’s the one at auction:

Tatra Auction1

Yikes! That poor fella has seen its own series of unfortunate events, it seems. Now, you may be wondering how, exactly, am I so sure that this is the movie car, and not some other random, rare Tatra. Well, it’s because of interior shots like the ones seen here:

Here, have a still:

Tatra Intmov1

See that crazy shifter? That phone handset? That crazy reel-to-reel tape player? Those weren’t standard options. And, if we look inside the auction car:

Tatra Auctionint

There’s the same stuff! The phone, shifter, and that tape deck, all there. Some internet-sleuths have actually identified what that reel-to-reel unit is, a Nagra SSN, for you professional audio geeks out there.

What’s most alarming about this auction, I think, is that I just don’t think of 2004 as that long ago, but if it was a person, that movie would be old enough to vote now, so it’s been a while, I suppose long enough for this poor old Czech to fall into such a state of disrepair.

Tatra Auctint2

It looks like it just sold for just over $7,000, so if you wanted it, I guess you just missed it. Hopefully, this will get a nice, full restoration, and I’m even hoping they keep the phone and reel-to-reel and all that stuff.

You could make that phone an actual cell phone pretty easily! And at least get those reels moving as it plays MP3s or something, right? Why not?



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27 Responses

  1. Funny coincidence. I was reading up on wire recorders just yesterday and the one being demo’d was a Nagra.
    For those unsure why i said wire- that’s what came before tape.They worked in identical way but tape could hold far more info.
    Apparently wire recorders were nightmare when the ultrafine wire got tangled. 1.2 miles of wire is a LOT!

    1. I remember using Nagra tape recorders for sound quality development in the early 70s when I worked for GM. They were the industry standard along with the Bruel & Kjaer sound level meters.

    2. Came here to say this. The car sold for $7K+, so maybe that’s an exaggeration, since the Nagra is most likely not functional (they probably used a broken one as a prop to begin with, but even if they didn’t it’s safe to say it’s no longer functional), but it is a prop used in a famous movie, so I don’t know, maybe that makes it even more valuable than a functional one?

      Anyway, whoever snatched this T-603 for a little over $7K scored an awesome deal, and I just hope they have the money to restore it.

  2. I’ve always heard movie cars tend to be pretty rough around the edges in real life even when they’re on set so it’s kind of like buying a “Pimp My Ride” car. It may have been in close to this bad of a shape in 2004 and the nearly two decades since just wiped off the Hollywood magic.

    1. As I remember, there used to be an importer and restoration shop in Ontario called Tatra Canada, and I believe they were the ones that provided the car to for the movie, it was all reconditioned by them and could have just as easily been sold to someone else. They closed down somewhere around the late ’00s/early ’10s

      1. Children born on 9/11 have been able to legally drink for the last three years where I’m from. It’s fine. Most of them are pretty cool too, and I wish they weren’t even more priced out of being car geeks than older millennials like me (and I’m priced out of even the many 3-digit, barely running rust buckets I add to the favourites on Facebook marketplace).

        Also fine? Getting older. I turned 40 this year and I’m living the best of my adult life so far.

  3. Oooo! A Nagra! That’s a high-quality Swiss recording device to use as a prop. Nagra is what Jules uses to make his bootleg recording of the titular diva in “Diva.” If you aren’t familiar with it, “Diva” is the indisputable best French-languange movie about making bootleg recordings of opera divas. Also includes a brief history of the Citroen Traction Avant and various mobylettes (mopeds).

    1. I want to believe they used a broken one as a prop. Using a functional one would be unnecessarily expensive and wasteful.

  4. Man I hope Jeff Lane of the Lane Museum was the buyer. It would be right up his alley, the Lane would do an awesome job restoring it, and it would be available for the public to see along with the other Tatras in the collection.

  5. Wow so that all actually existed. To hell with mp3’s and watching it spin, put some music on that tape. If not the “Littlest Elf” song, maybe some of Elon’s girlfriend’s stuff (Grimes is like the music of the Goth Smurfs).

    The shifter looks like a prop I’m guessing that one on the floor with the lockout ring is the real shifter.

    Oh yeah, I thought about your alternator wiring solution from a few weeks ago. You faced criticism for that, and I gotta say that you preserved the engines wiring harness, you got home, and nothing caught on fire. Well done!

  6. My first introduction to Tatra was a Car and Driver article back in the 1990s. I’ve loved them ever since and would love to find one of the last series cars. A big luxury car with a rear-mounted, air-cooled V-8 and a manual transmission? Yes, please.

    1. Both the T613 and the T700 are amazing cars. The T613, or more precisely its medical emergency vehicle version which had a specific model name, the T623, has the distinction of being involved in one of the funniest F1 moments I ever got to watch live, when Taki Inoue took a hit from one while running with an extintor towards his Footwork-Arrows in Hungaroring back in 1995 (funny because it wasn’t serious of course, I wouldn’t be bringing this up if Inoue had been injured; also funny because Inoue was already the laughing stock of F1 at the time for his poor driving skills).


        1. I was trying to figure out what you had been trying to spell, thanks for straightening out. A family friend is French and when she texts us in English but using the French-language keyboard on her phone, hilarious auto-corrects occur.

  7. Kudos to the director for casting such great cars in that movie. It’s close, but my favorite is still Count Olaf’s Imperial Crown Limousine.

    I could have actually afforded to buy this Tatra! That would’ve been it though. Still, it would have been fun just to park in the basement garage as a conversation piece. Hopefully the new owner brings it back to its former glory!

  8. This movie was indeed my first real introduction to Tatra, they’re such a wildly distict vehicle and absolutely gorgeous as well.

    I can’t believe this one has slipped into such a state! I hope the buyer knows that it’s the movie car and brings it back to life.

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