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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 By the 1980s its cars were out of date and largely out of favour.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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1966 Skoda 1000MB (1964-69)

This is it – the Skoda we most wanted to take home. From the looks to the drive, the 1000MB has got it all. Its rear-mounted, water-cooled 988cc, four-cylinder OHV engine might produce ‘just’42bhp at 4650rpm, but it won’t hold up the traffic. Inside, it’s a fairly ergonomic driving position – although we’re not sure the digit-threating indicators would comply with modern type approval standards. Everything about this particular example is well set up, from the steering to the brakes and the willing engine. When it was new, it cost £580 – that made it cheaper than a Ford Cortina or a Hillman Minx. No wonder it was yet another successful Skoda export.


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