Friday 14 August 2015
The Škoda 105, Škoda 120 and Škoda 125 were three variations of a rear-engined, rear-wheel drive small family car that was produced by Czechoslovakian car manufacturer AZNP in Mladá Boleslav, Czechoslovakia between 1976 and 1990. Engine sizes were 1.05 and 1.2 liters respectively. The range was face lifted in 1984 with a revised front design and engine improvements, together with the introduction of a new 1.3 liter version known as the Škoda 130, followed in 1987 by the Škoda 135/136.
All 105/120/125 and 130 models known by their Škoda internal reference as Type 742, and the later 135 and 136 models as Type 746. In the UK the 105/120 models were known as the Super Estelle until 1984 when the face lifted models were called Estelle Two.
In the early 1970s, Škoda had originally intended to produce their successor to the S100/110 as a front-engined front-wheel drive model. However, because of the lack of funding (Škoda had even applied for license in Moscow to produce their new car with a front-engine and front-wheel drive), Škoda was refused a licence and was forced to update the earlier S100/110 saloon models. The main reason Škoda was not granted a licence to produce their new car was because it would have turned out to be a thoroughly more modern car than any other car from the Soviet Union, something which the Russians wouldn’t have been too happy about. At that time, most cars from the Soviet Union had either a front engine driving the rear wheels or a rear engine driving the rear wheels. There was even a front-engined front-wheel drive Škoda 105/120 prototype, which looked almost identical to the rear-engined one. Because imports were banned, Škoda would not have had the proper resources or technology to produce a front-engined car with front-wheel drive.
The Škoda 105/120 went into production in August 1976. Despite being basically the same as the previous S100/110 under the skin, the new cars featured a lot of improvements, such as a front-mounted radiator with a thermostatic fan. The heating unit was now inside the dashboard, and the fuel tank was now underneath the rear seat. All models had much the same mechanical specification as the previous models, with a 4-speed gearbox, independent suspension, worm-and-drive steering, and swing-axle rear suspension. An interesting feature found on the 105/120 was the side-hinged bonnet, which opened up like the top of a concert piano.
The Škoda 105/120 was initially available in three model forms with a choice of two engines: the 105 S and 105 L were powered by the 1046cc (44 bhp (33 kW; 45 PS)) engine, while the 120 L was powered by the 1174cc (49 bhp (37 kW; 50 PS)) engine. The 120 LS and 120 GLS models, which had the more powerful 1174cc (54 bhp (40 kW; 55 PS)) engine and higher levels of equipment, joined the line-up in 1977 and 1978 respectively.
The cars were initially criticised for unpredictable handling "at the limit" but it is unlikely that most motorists would notice anything untoward under normal conditions. The cars continued to win their class with monotonous regularity on international rallies, and were increasingly popular with budget-conscious motorists across Europe. The location of the radiator at the front of the car had the advantage of cooling the engine much more efficiently on the motorway. However, because it was much more complex than in the earlier models, the cooling system was very prone to airlocks, which often led to overheating and even head gasket failure.
Rugged and robust vehicles, they were designed for the primitive roads of Soviet-dominated Central and Eastern Europe, where the best traction layout of a two-wheel drive car is a significant benefit. They were once a common sight in Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland.
Even enthusiasts for the marque would agree that quality control could sometimes have been improved in this era. It was these cars that inspired the famous Škoda jokes, but re-evaluation of the models with the benefit of many years hindsight means that the cars are much more highly regarded today.
- engine: 4 cylinders
- capacity: 1046 cc
- horsepower: 45 HP
- gearbox: 4+1
- top speed: 130 km/h