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Premieres and revelations, the Skoda Popular Montecarlo of 1936

When a Popular Sport single came second in its class at the 1936 Monte Carlo, Skoda was encouraged to create a commemorative version. In it, the mechanics of the base model were not altered, but an interesting central beam chassis was incorporated together with a transaxle gearbox. An excellent example of the level reached by Skoda before the Second World War

Although it was born as a bicycle brand founded by a former bookstore employee, Skoda went on to make motorcycles, trucks and, of course, cars. In this way, in the years prior to World War II, the Czech brand already had a consolidated range in which there were mid-range and mid-high range models. And even, some casual and sporty option. Thus, in 1934 the 418 Popular was presented. A small convertible with a 903cc engine. Obviously nothing performance, but extremely charming in order to enjoy simple, relaxed and idle driving.

However, for 1935 Skoda presented the Popular Sport. A more powerful model, in which the light open bodywork of the Popular was combined with the engine of the Rapid II. A four-door station wagon launched that same year. Powered by a four-cylinder block with 1.386cc and 31CV to reach 100 kilometers per hour. That's the way it is, at last there was within the range of the Czech manufacturer a vehicle that could be called sports both in appearance and behavior. Made used by local drivers with more competitive whims. Who little by little were registering this car in the first races for touring cars held in the area.

In any case, among the first sporting feats of the Skoda, what happened in Monte Carlo in 1936 is surely the most iconic. Let's see. Designed to attract tourism to Monaco even in the winter months, the Monte Carlo Rally began in 1911 to become one of the key events in the sporting calendar. Thus, after a fleeting appearance in 1912, the first notable Skoda model in this test was registered in 1936. It was a Popular Sport with Zdenek Pohl as driver and Jaroslav Hausman as co-driver. Undoubtedly two intrepid motor lovers still remembered today by the brand's museum.


After an exhausting trip from the Czech Republic to Monaco, those two men and their Skoda Popular Sport finally reached the starting line of Rallye Montecarlo 1936. Aware of the complexity of the track, they equipped themselves with thermal clothing that served as a test for their subsequent production. and sale. Something very common at the time. Where racing was used as a makeshift laboratory for the exponential advancement of automotive technology and all its derivatives. In addition, they incorporated an additional tank, thus achieving a range of up to 1.500 kilometers.

However, otherwise that Skoda Popular Sport was a strictly series version. Thus, achieving the second position in its class -less than 1,5 liters- was a very important feat for the brand. And it is that, after all, this opened a small hole in the Olympus of sportsmanship rubbing shoulders with the best manufacturers of the moment. Many of them are little or not at all aware of the automobile development given in the Czech Republic. Where Skoda itself even manufactured Hispano-Suiza models under license.

Those intrepid Czechs of 1936 with their Popular Sport. Note the special clothing against the cold, especially the gloves of the person on the right of the image

In any case, after that brief rise came the Second World War and later the Cold War. The Iron Curtain split the Old Continent in two and, inevitably, the builders who had fallen on the socialist side found themselves ostracized. In fact, only on very few occasions did they manage to overcome it to compete in the West. In this sense, it is worth noting the Performance of the Trabant 601 at the 1970 Monte Carlo taking victory in his class. This was followed by other apparitions such as the one made at the Acropolis in 1977.

Octavia TS. Three years in a row winning in his class

In addition, more established manufacturers such as Skoda also managed to open small windows to the West. Usually at the Monte Carlo Rally, where various models of the brand became dominant in the class for vehicles with less than 1,3 litres. That's the way it is, from 1961 to 1962 the Octavia TS won three times in her. And in 1977 the 130RS took the first two positions. In addition, more recently the Favorit 136 L also won in its class between 1991 and 1994. Of course, already with the Iron Curtain shattered and the Warsaw Pact disappeared. In total, eight victories in the class focused on cars with less than 1,3 liters. This information is not bad at all in the biography of Skoda.

Favorit 136 L. Four years in a row winning in its class


After that second place in its class conquered by the Popular Sport in 1936, those responsible for Skoda wanted to take advantage of the situation to launch a model capable of promoting the sportier side of the brand. And they did. That is why the Popular Montecarlo was born. A really careful variant in its design of which only 72 units were made, adding the coupe and convertibles. A real gem for collectors, since it is estimated that only a dozen may have survived.

Regarding the mechanics, it was the same as the one exhibited in the Popular Sport. With a block of four cylinders and 1.386 cubic centimeters to deliver up to 31 hp with the ability to reach up to 110 kilometers per hour. However, the main novelty lay in the chassis. Rigid and light thanks to its center beam design as years later they would exhibit the Lotus Elan or Alpine A108. In addition, to improve weight distribution, the Skoda Popular Montecarlo was equipped with a transaxle gearbox. Something that, let us remember, brands like Ferrari did not begin to mount in a large series until the end of the sixties with models like the 275 GTB. which, interestingly, tested at the Monte Carlo Rally as part of its experimental phase.

Thus, the truth is that the Skoda Popular Montecarlo was a fairly refined model at a technological level. With those two elements playing the role of technological avant-garde in the Czech house. All this with a weight only 60 kilos higher than the roadster from which it was derived, even being here before a completely closed model that, by the way, has a delicious aerodynamic rear. Undoubtedly an excellent example of the quality achieved by Skoda in the days before the Second World War.

Photographs: Skoda

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Written by Miguel Sánchez

Through the news from La Escudería, we will travel the winding roads of Maranello listening to the roar of the Italian V12; We will travel Route66 in search of the power of the great American engines; we will get lost in the narrow English lanes tracking the elegance of their sports cars; We will speed up the braking in the curves of the Monte Carlo Rally and we will even get dusty in a garage while rescuing lost jewels.


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