A few weeks ago Skoda celebrated the 50th anniversary of its 1000 MB model. To begin with, I will say that I am not very fond of commemorations beyond those celebrated for twenty-five in twenty-five years, a period in which I believe that a historical reassessment of the "birthday" object is justified in light of the new times and knowledge that is have on him.
So, this seems like a good time to talk about the 1000 MB of Skoda, especially considering the amount of positive comments made by the Czech brand about the car. Logically, they put it through the roof, But I had always believed that post-war Skodas were, along with other cars from the Soviet-influenced bloc, the caboose of world motorsport in terms of technology.
Therefore, I decided to rummage a bit in the newspaper library in search of a story about the brand that would confirm my suspicions. After finding it, I found that, indeed, it was a model conceived thanks to the help of Renault and that it took as reference the scheme of "all behind" of the French house. The truth is that it is not difficult to find a certain resemblance between the Renault 8 and the car that today we bring to these electronic pages.
The 1000 MB was a small family of outdated technology - when Skoda adopted the rear-engine-drive arrangement, Western brands were already moving towards front-wheel drive - that was sold in capitalist countries at a low price thanks to the competitiveness of which, in this sense, communist Czechoslovakia could show off.
From the beginning, Skoda thought about sweeping, but the inexpensive one-liter, roughly 40-hp model offered in three variants - saloon, sedan coupe and convertible - ultimately saw moderate sales success: 443.000 units produced between 1964 and 1969.
That is the 1000 MB should be valued in context, which is none other than the battered motoring of the communist bloc. It was certainly a breakthrough for cars that were decades behind their Western counterparts; From this point of view, the small Skoda station wagon was close enough to them at a good price, achieving a modernization of the brand that even led to the construction of the new facilities in Mladá Boleslav.
In any case, the 1000 MB is even more interesting if we consider that it was the starting point for the development of the S110 GT, a sports coupe that, had it been released, might have been able to rival Matra and Alpine. The sporting pretensions, much more discreet, were finally left for the S110 Rapid fastback of which I think there is at least one orange copy circulating around our geography.
The splendorous Skoda
Any time was better for Skoda than between 1945 and 1990. Cradled in the lap of the Austrian-Hungarian aristocracy and technical avant-garde, its years of splendor corresponded to those from 1900 to 1920 and from 1931 to 1939, thanks to the work of the technician Vaclav Laurin and the notable engineers Karl Slevogt, Otto Hieronnymous and Adolf Raska, who succeeded each other as chief engineer.
The brand we know today is the result of the absorption in 1925 of Laurent & Klement by the heavy industry group Skoda, which at that time was to the former Austro-Hungarian Empire and interwar Czechoslovakia what the almighty Krupp was to Germany. ; in other words, one of the most powerful business groups in the country.
As a curiosity, we can point out that the L&K was the idea of a bookseller and a mechanic and that it was a pioneer in the manufacture of motorcycles from 1899, even successfully participating in races of the stature of the Paris-Vienna of 1901. Their motorcycles won 1905 of the 65 races they entered in 78.
The first car produced in series did not arrive until 1905, by the hand of the aforementioned Slevogt. By 1907 they were assembling 250 cars and 100 motorcycles a year.
This was the year that arrived Hieronnymous from Daimler and Benz, whose reputation was as an undaunted driver - remember that at that time technicians also got behind the wheel of their creations. In fact, he ran the Paris-Madrid in 1903, reaching Bordeaux, where he was stopped on his unstoppable march to the Spanish capital. He would die in competition after winning the 1922 Targa Florio in his class.
Meanwhile the L&K continued to grow. By 1911 it was already riding 800 cars, 300 motorcycles and 270 industrial vehicles a year. The latter had started producing them two years earlier. Indeed, in 1911 Hieronnymous left, a fact from which the L&K would not recover - due in large part also to the Great War - until its bankruptcy declaration in 1925. And this is when Skoda comes into play, giant manufacturer of weapons and machinery, among many others, that since the end of the world war has sought entry into the automotive sector.
SKODA AND HISPANO-SWITZERLAND
Did you know that Skoda built Hispano-Suizas H6B? Well yes, apparently he bought the license in 1925 and went to work at the L&K facilities. It is very curious to see the Skoda logo -very similar to the one currently used- and the letters Skoda-Hispano-Suiza under our beloved stork.
Laurent and Klement were allowed to continue leading the group's automotive division until 1927, when they were replaced by Jan Novak. The modernization of the production was driven by the new chief engineer, Adolf Raska, who introduced modern chassis, independent suspensions and moderately aerodynamic lines in the new models, of fundamentally popular character. They even wanted to follow in the footsteps of Porsche, NSU or Zundapp in creating a people's car, but the parent company canceled the project.
An expedition of the 420 Popular to India, over 15.000 kilometers, or participation in the Monte-Carlo Rally of 1936 give an idea of the verve of the new automobile subsidiary of the Czechoslovakian giant. World War II ended its development, which would only return to the forefront of technology once Volkswagen acquired it in 2000.