After 2013 marked the 50th anniversary of the Porsche 911, this month, it is the Škoda 1000 MB which turns 50 years old. The first Czech mass-produced car made its debut on March 21st 1964 as the successor to the Škoda Octavia. It also was the first Škoda with rear wheel drive, a rear engine and unibody construction, making it a milestone in the nearly 119-year history of Škoda, as it marked the beginning of what would eventually evolve into a long line of rear-engined Škodas, although this was still a fairly popular layout for a compact car in that time. Other rear-engined, rear wheel drive models during that period are among others the Volkswagen Beetle, Simca 1000, Renaults Dauphine and R8, NSU Prinz, Hillman Imp and the Fiats 500 and 600.
The 1000 MB was a revolution for Škoda, as it was built in an all-new production plant in Mladá Boleslav (hence the MB in its name), its design was radically different than the brands previous models, and the water-cooled 988cc (explaining the 1000 in its name) 4-cylinder overhead valve engine was constructed with an aluminum block and a cast iron cylinder head, which was pretty revolutionary at the time. In fact, Škoda was the first European car manufacturer to utilize aluminium die-casting in engine block production. The four-speed gearbox case was also produced using this construction method. For this, Škoda drew on a method originally developed in 1922 by the Czech engineer Josef Polák; the main advantage of which was the significantly reduced production time. The engine was located behind the rear axle, a layout Porsche also used during that period for the first generation 911. Modern engine technology in conjunction with the low weight of only 755 kg ensured economical fuel consumption of only 7 to 8 liters/100 km (35-40 Imp.MPG / 29-34 USMPG). Performance was adequate: the top speed was 120 km/h (75mph) and acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h (62mph) took 27 seconds. In 1968, the engine power was increased from 27 kW (37 HP) to 32 kW (43 PS).
In addition to its modern technology, the Škoda 1000 MB signalled significant progress in terms of the brand’s design. The classic three-box design was typical of the 1960s. The sweeping lines and gentle curves, and the circular headlamps elegantly set into the fenders, the originally-shaped taillights, the panoramic rear window and the curved air intakes were among the distinctive identifying features of the new Škoda model. The filler neck was located in the right front fender, cleverly hidden under the hinged Škoda emblem.
With its compact dimensions (4,17 m long, 1,62 m wide and 1,39 m high), about the size of a Ford Cortina, the Škoda 1000 MB offered a spacious and comfortable interior. Its high functionality with individually folding seats also won over customers. The 220-litre boot lay under bonnet and the spare wheel was located under the boot. The advantage was that the boot did not have to be opened completely to access the spare wheel. The exterior design featured a steeply sloping nose that was flanked by rounded front wings.
Having the courage for this fundamentally new course paid off: The Škoda 1000 MB became a bestseller in Czechoslovakia and abroad, as more than half of the production was exported, strengthening Škoda’s position in the European automotive industry and shaping the Czech manufacturer’s model strategy until the late 1980s. Just over 443.000 Škoda 1000 MBs were produced between April 1964 and August 1969.
The 1000 MB was offered in a number of versions: in addition to the Standard version, from 1966 there were versions with increased performance, and the elegant two-door 1000 MBX – a particularly popular model among collectors today, as only 2.517 units have been produced.
The model was replaced by the Škoda 100/110 series in 1969, which would become the first Škoda car to top the 1 million lifetime production milestone. And the Mladá Boleslav factory would be Škoda’s main production facility for decades, reaching a total of 11 million cars this year (2014).
Very special examples of the Škoda 1000 MB and the two-door Škoda 1000 MBX model can be seen today at the new Škoda Museum in Mladá Boleslav, including the unique estate prototype. The vehicles also regularly participate at major antique car shows and classic rallies.