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Nine of the best classic Skodas

This year, Czech car maker Skoda celebrates its 120th birthday. It’s come a long way since its beginnings in 1895. Back then, its first production model used two wheels rather than four. It wasn’t called Skoda, either. The story starts when two cycling fanatics got together to make and sell bikes. Mechanic Vaclav Laurin and bookseller Vaclav Klement sold their two wheel offerings under the name Slavia. The bikes sold so well that by 1899 they were knocking out motorbikes under the name Laurin & Klement.

The pair’s first car, called the Voiturette A, arrived in the early 1900s. The outbreak of war in 1914 meant the company swapped motors for munitions. In the face of tough economic conditions in Czechoslovakia, the pair needed help from a strong industrial partner. That help came from engineering firm Pizen Skodovka and the subsequent merger in 1925 created Skoda.

After some success, challenging political and economical conditions meant the future of the company was uncertain. By the 1980s its cars were out of date and largely out of favour. But with the collapse of the Berlin Wall, a new free market economy arrived and Skoda was once again able to look for a strong partner. A joint venture with Volkswagen followed in 1990 and the rest, as they say, is history.

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1958 Skoda 1201 (1955-61)

Its quirky styling reminds us of a Standard Vanguard phase two estate, although without the rear wheelarch covers. The 1201 was available as a four-door saloon, three- or five-door estate, as well as a panel van and pick-up truck. Sadly, despite its standout looks, it’s a little disappointing to drive, with vague steering and plenty of body roll. Power comes from a four-cylinder 1221cc OHV water-cooled engine that makes 45bhp at 4200rpm. There’s synchromesh on the top three ratios while drive is sent to the rear wheels via a jointed propshaft. Inside, there are plenty of nice details (and a huge steering wheel). Still, at least it’s as - umm - ‘interesting’ to drive as it is to look at.


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