|The Skoda Octavia was introduced in January of 1962.|
Skoda opened its doors as an arms manufacturer in 1859 in Pilsen, Bohemia, a province in the Austrian Empire. The company wanted to broaden its base. Under the patriotic name of Slavia, it began to manufacture bicycles in 1895, motorcycles were introduced in 1899 and, under the name Laurin and Klement, automobiles rolled out the factory’s doors beginning in 1905.
|The last Laurin and Klement passenger car was built in 1914.|
The conglomerate grew to become one of Europe’s largest, building massive industrial power plants, locomotives. cars, trucks, buses, aircraft engines and agricultural implements, including self-propelled ploughs. War broke out in 1914 and the firm picked up military contracts with the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The firm merged with Pizen Skodovka in 1925 to become ŠKODA.
Introduction of technologically-advanced automobiles in the 1933 saved the company’s corporate bacon during the Great Depression. A new kind of chassis appeared. It boasted a backbone tube with all-around independent suspension, and bowed on the Škoda 420 Standard. The novel configuration went a long way to solving the lack of torsional stiffness of the traditional ladder frame.
The same frame was used in the Popular, Rapid, Favorit and the Superb models. Škoda sales soared. It owned a 14%-share of the Czechoslovak car market in 1933 and ranked third, after domestic competitors Tatra and Praga. Skoda’s state-of-the-art line-up pushed it into the Number One spot by 1936, and two years later Skoda had a whopping a 39% slice of the pie.
The winds of war blew across Europe yet again and Hitler coveted the German-speaking parts of Czechoslovakia. The Third Reich established the German Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia on March 15, 1939.
Skoda was immediately absorbed into the production scheme of the Reichswerke Hermann Göring. The Krupp Company was chosen to administer the day-to-day activities of the vast manufacturing complex. Workers—thousands of them prisoners and slaves--produced trucks, cars, components for vehicles and weapons, military planes, hand grenades and cartridge cases.
Allied aircraft bombed the Škoda works repeatedly between 1940 and 1945. The last air raid on the Pilsen complex was conducted on April 25th, 1945 resulting in the complete destruction of the Škoda armament works. An estimated 1,000 workers were killed or wounded.
After the war, the country was occupied by Soviet troops. The newly formed People’s Republic of Czechoslovakia had close ties to the Soviet Union. Skoda was nationalized and auto production of the Skoda Popular resumed in a small factory north of Prague in July of 1945.
In 1946 the Skoda 1102 was introduced as a two-door sedan. During its eight-year run, 67,000 units were built, of which 50,000 were exported.
The updated Skoda 1200 debuted in 1952 as a four-door sedan, a five-door station wagon and a three-door delivery van. Records show that 2,000 left the factory as ambulances. The 1200 was replaced by the 1201 in 1954.
The Skoda 440, 445 and 450 models were introduced in rapid succession. The sedans were renamed Octavia and the convertible became the Felicia in January of 1959. The name Octavia was chosen because this was the eighth model to be produced in the post-war company.
Exports of the redesigned compact car were launched in a big way. Targeted western countries were the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and the USA. Skoda had an excellent reputation and the vehicles sold well, though Skoda withdrew from the American market in 1960.
The Octavia carried redesigned front axles with coil springs and telescopic shock absorbers replaced the leaf springs that the 440 had used.
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Four-cylinder, overhead-valve engines boasted aluminum blocks and dual carburetion. Sedans weighed in at 1,270 kilos (2,800 pounds). They were powered by a 1089-cc (66.4 cubic inch) engine that generated 30 kW (40 horsepower). The Kombi wagon weighed 1,365 kilos (3,009 pounds) and zipped around with 1.2-litre (73 cubic inch) engines. Top speed was 115 kph (71 mph) and the thrifty motor sipped gas at the rate of 6.6 litres/100km (43 miles to the Imperial gallon). Mills were mated to floor-mounted, four-speed synchromesh standard transmissions.
The wheelbase for the compact packaged measured 2,400 millimetres (94.5 inches). The design envelope was softly rounded, yet assertive, with overtones of sporty cars. A fine mesh grille was framed in an oval of chrome. SKODA was spelled out in chrome letters on the hood. The gently rounded hood kissed a curved glass windshield. Single headlights were positioned at the leading edge of the fenders, also crowned in chrome.
|The 1962 Skoda Octavia Combi listed for $1,990 f.l.b. Montreal.|
A body crease began under the headlight and carried along the otherwise slab sides, swelling over the front wheel well, ending neatly under the taillights. A second body crease ran from the top of the headlight to the crown of the modestly finned taillights. A ribbed, split chrome bumper, with bumperettes, offered protection in the event of accidents.
|Skoda was imported into Canada by Omnitrade Limited of Montreal.|
Most Skodas were sold with hubcaps but full wire chrome wheel covers were available in some markets. A radio was optional.
Though never a huge seller, Skoda had a loyal following in this country and enjoyed a good 30-year run in Canada.
|The winged arrow was adopted as Skoda’s logo in 1923.|
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