Theme: Brochures – 1964 Skoda 1000MB

In 1964 the Skoda 1000MB went on sale, replacing the first Octavia of 1959 (which stayed in production anyway). It had a 1.0 litre  four-cylinder engine.

1964 Skoda 1000MB brochure front covers.
1964 Skoda 1000MB brochure front covers.

And it started a long series of rear-engined Skodas. It’s not a car I know a lot about. The Wikipedia web-page reeks of fandom: “Apart from the use of cooling vents in the rear wings and rear panel, everything else about the 1000 MB’s styling was normal, which was undoubtedly in an attempt to appeal to all the conservative-minded buyers in export countries like the UK. This car was highly successful both for Škoda and the Czech economy”.

1964 Skoda 1000MB brochure
1964 Skoda 1000MB brochure

The brochure itself has strongly geometric, Modernist styling. The model name is repeated on the cover to become a pattern, set over an abstract shape that might be a road. The Skoda badge playfully stands in for a zero. The car is placed on a black background and stands out. I’m not a big fan of rear-engined cars; the 1000 MB is more appealing because it’s a saloon and has pleasingly odd proportions though they are based on some science: the engine is in the back. Science aside, another 20 cm at the front would have helped hugely. The 700 kg target was commendable but it did leave the car looking peculiarly truncated at the front. Aft of the A-pillar it’s quite appealing.

skoda3

 

The claims made are that the car has flexibility, pace and climbing ability. While many people still have faint recollections of the eventually tedious routine of jokes, for me Skoda has always been about toughness. It is easy to imagine this softly sprung, light car gliding up muddy Czech hill lanes in winter quite without difficulty. A Morris Minor, I suspect, would not have lasted long in 1960s Czechoslovakia.

skoda4

Which leads me to the counterfactual of what would have happened if the Czech Republic had not fallen behind the Iron Curtain. Like Tatra, Skoda might have emerged from the second world war and enjoyed a vibrant 1960s just like the rest of Europe. I am not sure they would have made this car though. In the 1950s the firm considered fwd and rejected it on cost grounds but in a healthier economy they might very well have gone down that path as Peugeot, Fiat, Renault and others did.

 

skoda5

This summer I saw a nicely preserved Wartburg 312 and its quality left a good impression on me. Unless someone writes in to tell me otherwise I will assume this car was quite as well made.

skoda6

We have here another car that has no grille at the front and manages to look correct. The oval chrome frame around the magnificent Skoda badge provides enough substance to avoid the impression of something missing. Why did Tesla have to make such a meal of this particular problem?

skoda7

Things have come a long way since then. Dacia have taken the position of the cheapest cars you can get and Skoda now sells what might be the most luxurious family car on sale for the money, the Skoda Superb Lauren & Klement edition. I have seen a few of these and it is interesting how they give off a marked aura of cosy quality missing in other much more expensive cars. It is also worth noting that people are loading their Skodas with features which are driving the price into the point where you think they might otherwise opt for a more “prestigious” brand but they are not. That tells you the customers are anchored in the brand and might, conceivably, view a low-end Audi or BMW as a something of a come down. Ford and Opel should think hard about this as much as BMW and Audi. Or even Mercedes.

[Text amended 15.23 Feb 4, 2017. The car had a water cooled engine not air-cooled as first stated.]

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

8 thoughts on “Theme: Brochures – 1964 Skoda 1000MB”

    1. My guess is that the MB was water-cooled because that was what Škoda had always done. Tatra were the air-cooled specialists, and unlike a certain German manufacturer, Škoda had more scruples than to rip off Hans Ledwinka.

      They did however have a keen eye on what Renault were doing, probably more on the Dauphine than the R8, given the chronology. There are strong similarities, but the Škoda is more generously proportioned.

  1. The 440 / Octavia has more than a little Borgward influence:

    The transverse leaf spring arrangement is similar to the Hansa 1500/1800, which also had a backbone chassis and outriggers. The Hansa also had supplementary coil springs at the rear. The Isabella which replaced them in 1954 had a unitary body and coil springs front and rear.

  2. Back in the early nineties I had a soft spot for Skoda and the Fiat 124 based Lada for owning them was akin to driving something from the past, sort of a nostalgia trip without silly money being spent.
    I collected several immaculate models for a pittance and enjoyed stepping back in time. They proved durable, solidly built but uninspiring to drive except for the last a Skoda 136 Rapid coupe. It was hardly deserving of the term Rapid although I seem to remember it would run to about ninety five which considering it was not so aero, packing a bit of weight and only had a 1.3 litre pushrod unit is not too bad.
    The fun part was the intro of a decent rear suspension which allowed it to be thrown into curves like an older Porsche, several car mags of the period made the same comparison.
    I also remember Skoda’s were the butt of standup comedians in that era and this sometimes reflected how other drivers perceived the car or its driver. One such incident I recall was being tailgated too close by someone as I approached a series of S bends I knew well and instead of slowing increased speed only to glance in the mirror to see them frantically trying to stay on the road.
    That day it was Skoda 1, comedians nil.

    1. If the Czechs could make cars that good under such conditions, it asks a lot of British firms who made so many mediocre cars at the same time. What’s with that? I’d be very keen to visit the Skoda museum. It’s very far away though.

  3. When I was growing up, I used to gawp at a bloke’s shoes whilst they were sticking out from underneath various cars in his garage. For a long time he was prepping what looked like a rally spec Rapid. He went the whole hog: stripped out, roll cage, rally suspension, a pseudo-Shell orange and red over white paint job and a full set of Hellas on the front. I don’t know whether he campaigned the car, but it looked like a terrific piece of kit.

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