This year, ŠKODA AUTO from Mladá Boleslav is among the brands celebrating its foundation’s important anniversary.
125 is the number engraved into the Škoda Auto chronicles. To get to start from the beginning, we must return to the end of 1895. The foundations of this producer, one of the longest active carmakers in the world, were laid by two men – mechanical locksmith Václav Laurin (September 27, 1865 – December 4, 1930) and bookseller Václav Klement (October 16, 1868 – August 13, 1938). Love of bicycles united these two men, Laurin was a very skilled mechanic, and Klement had the gift of a capable businessman. At the time, Laurin was a partner in a bicycle tuning workshop, and Klement even manufactured and repaired bicycles himself. Their meeting meant that they agreed to set up a workshop to fix and service bicycles.
Thus, the company from Mladá Boleslav called Laurin & Klement, was established. They started to repair and manufacture Slavia bicycles. Klement, who was in charge of business matters, was extremely talented. He introduced a two-year warranty and the purchase of bikes in interest-free installments. From the beginning, they were employing five people. It was only a step from bicycles to motorcycles – the first in December 1899 was Laurin & Klement Type 1.
The First Car
After successfully producing bicycles, tricycles, and motorcycles, history changes – in 1905, the first Laurin & Klement Voiturette A car was born. It was put into operation on January 18, 1906, and presented on April 15 at the Prague Motor Show. The chassis had a ribbed frame and two rigid axles with flat springs. The two-seater vehicle weighing 500 kg was equipped with a 1-liter two-cylinder engine with 5.2 kW (7 hp); the maximum speed was 40 km/h. A universal shaft drove the rear wheel, and when request, it was made of the chain.
By 1907, at least 44 pieces had been created. These were good-quality and useful vehicles with an excellent price/performance ratio. Between 1906 and 1914, sales of Laurin & Klement cars increased by more than twentyfold, from a minimum of 21 units to 453 vehicles per year. The offer ranged from two-cylinder models to the in-line eight-cylinder type FF (1907), while many personal and utility versions were available, as well as very successful racing specials. Before the First World War, the “voitureta” successfully addressed customers in several markets. A total of 21 types of cars have been produced under the L&K logo over the years.
The year 1925 (95 years ago) was an important milestone when the merger of Laurin & Klement with the Pilsen engineering concern Škoda Závody in Pilsen was carried out (initially under the name Laurin & Klement – ŠKODA, later only ŠKODA). Since then, cars from Mladá Boleslav bear the unmistakable logo with a winged arrow. This meant the end of motorcycle production. Laurin spent the last years of his life at ŠKODA as a technical director.
A significant event marks 1928; ŠKOD A started using the assembly line to bring it to 85 cars per day.
A Few Milestones
The following lines will focus on some exciting moments from 1930 to 1960. In 1933, the back of the chassis with a central tube was added to ŠKODA vehicles (model Škoda 420 Standard), which created the preconditions for weight reduction and higher economy for other models. A year later, a successful generation of Popular, Rapid and Superb vehicles appeared – they had a backbone frame with a central tube and OHV engines. The models such as Škoda Popular (type 927) Tudor (1938 – 1946), together with the sedan, convertible, roadster, ambulance, and the van exceeded the limit of 5,000 pieces from one model line (6600 pieces) for the first time. The model called Superb was already one of the vehicles with generous space and high driving comfort.
After the Second World War in 1945, Škoda Popular, modernized versions, are leaving significantly destroyed plant in Mladá Boleslav. After nationalization, the car plant was restructured under the name AZNP (Automobile Plant National Enterprise). In 1946, the Škoda 1101, named Tudor after the most commonly used body, started the production.
In 1952, the Škoda 1200 sedan was introduced, and instead of combined constructions made of wood and sheet metal, a new all-metal body was used. The pontoon body was promoted in Europe in the late 1950s. Later, in 1955, the Škoda 440 Spartak came on the scene, and four years later (1959) the 440, 445 and 450 series were subjected to modernization. At this point, the vehicles were renamed Octavia, Octavia Super, and Felicia, which became the design icon of the time.
The Škoda 1000 MB model entered the era of rear-engined vehicles in 1964, and for the first time, received a self-supporting body. The engine block was manufactured using a patented aluminum die-casting process, which underlined the high engineering expertise. The 1970 Škoda 110 R model also used the concept of a drive with a rear engine and rear-wheel drive. The ŠKODA 130 RS, which was successful on racing circuits and competition tracks, was later used as the sports two-door coupe.
Another important milestone is the arrival of the Škoda Favorit, designed by the Bertone design studio. In 1987, Škoda joined the “everything in front” car manufacturers. The Octavia model from 1996 is again the first model of the Škoda brand, wholly developed under the Volkswagen Group (it has been a part of it since 1991). Škoda Auto entered the SUV segment in 2009 with the Škoda Yeti (followed by Kamiq, Karoq, Kodiaq, and the future ENYAQ iV model, which we presented in the news). The Scala model from 2018 is again the first vehicle that is always online in terms of connectivity.
Round Anniversary of Some Škoda Models
This year is a celebration of the ŠKODA AUTO brand’s round anniversary, and several other vehicles are commemorating their birth.
Eighty-five years ago (1935), the eye-catching prototype Škoda 935 Dynamic with a jet-shaped body was presented to the public. At that time, the unique car boasted an excellent air resistance coefficient of 0.37, becoming a model for some production vehicles. However, it was also impressive with other technical elements, such as the four-cylinder two-liter engine of the “boxer” type, which improved driving properties by mounting in front of the rear axle and low center gravity. The cherry on the top was also a French four-speed Cotal electromagnetic transmission with a preselection, allowing semi-automatic shifting. Today, the only produced copy of the Škoda 935 Dynamic vehicle adorns the collections of the ŠKODA Museum in Mladá Boleslav.
Sixty years ago, in September 1960, the practical Škoda Octavia Combi premiered at the engineering fair in Brno, and in 1970 the elegant 2 + 2 local coupe Škoda 110 R debuted.
And if we continue commemorating the milestone anniversaries, twenty years have passed since the premiere of the first generation Škoda Fabia Combi. Among the exceptionally successful operation of the ŠKODA brand in the field of motorsport, we can mention, for example, 70 years since the factory crew with a Škoda Sport vehicle was at the start of the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1950. This special weighed only 600 kg of the Škoda 1101/1102 “Tudor” model powered by a four-cylinder 1.1-liter engine (37 kW/50 hp) and started in the class up to 1100 cm3. Václav Bobek and Jaroslav Netušil were in second place in their group after 13 hours, but they suffered a technical failure.
In the mid-seventies, an interesting 5-piece series of four-seater Škoda Buggy type 736 with Š 110 sedan technology was created. The drive was provided by a 1.1-liter engine (33 kW/45 hp), the curb weight was only 710 kg. The crew was protected from the weather by a textile roof and sidewalls with transparent foils. The prototype reached 107 km/h with a half load; the average consumption was 8.3 l/100 km. The Škoda Buggy type 736 underwent demanding driving tests as part of a verification project, but this marginal vehicle did not finally go into series production.
Another story is associated with the bright yellow Škoda Felicia Fun pickup, which was produced between 1996 and 2000 (a total of 4,016 pieces made). The number of seats could be increased from two to four with a funny solution (through the folding and sliding rear wall of the two-seater cabin and folding seats, while maintaining space for sports equipment. Today, this vehicle, initially intended for entertainment, is one of the most sought-after youngtimers.
Other Interesting Information
In the vicinity of Mladá Boleslav, as part of the Time Travel celebrations, twelve car milestones of the company’s history took place. The Voiturette A models, 1000 MB, and a camouflaged electric model ENYAQ iV were there. Christian Strube, Member of the Board of Directors of ŠKODA AUTO for Technical Development, said: “Each of these extraordinary models from ŠKODA’s 125-year history has significantly influenced the company’s development. The values of our brand have a long tradition. High driving comfort dates back to the first generation of the Škoda Superb model. An extraordinary design can be found in the Škoda Felicia, a modern body construction has already characterized the Škoda 1000 MB, and the first Škoda Octavia model impressed with its generous space. With the new ENYAQ iV, electric vehicles’ modular platform allows us to combine all the advantages into one car, which, thanks to a purely electric drive, runs locally emission-free and is therefore exceptionally environmentally friendly. “
Škoda Auto currently offers customers 9 model lines of passenger cars: Citigo, Fabia, Rapid, Scala, Octavia, Superb, Kamiq, Karoq, and Kodiaq; in 2019 it provided more than 1.24 million vehicles worldwide.
Text: Peter Stano, photo: ŠKODA AUTO