Thursday, 1 November 2018

Classic: Skoda 860 (1932)

Skoda 860 made its debut on October 23, 1929 at the Prague Motor Show. At the time, this
model was the top-of-the-range passenger car from the Mladá Boleslav brand, produced on an assembly line in a modern factory.

The type designation indicates the number of cylinders and engine power. The basic model, the ŠKODA 422 with a four-cylinder engine, had an output then of 22 hp (16 kW). Equipped with an eight-cylinder engine, the Skoda 860 had an output of 60 hp (44 kW) at 3,000 rpm. The vehicle was built around a sturdy lead frame – long, wide leaf springs with hydraulic shock absorbers supported the two rigid axles. The chassis of the Skoda 860 weighed 1,460 kilograms without the body; the complete car weighed around two tonnes.

Skoda860 offered some highly innovative equipment for the ’30s, such as the dashboard inclinometer, which is considered the predecessor of the modern gear shift indicator. On inclines or slopes, the meter recommends shifting down in advance, then once driving again on level ground, gives the recommendation to shift up. Another feature is the retractable glass panel, which can separate the driver’s cabin from the comfortable passenger compartment and can therefore ensure discretion whenever necessary.

Even during this period in the traditional Czech brand’s history, the models boasted above-average space: for example, up to three adults could sit comfortably on the upholstered back seat of the Skoda 860, and thanks to the generous legroom, two foldable seats could be installed so that children or accompanying personnel could also sit in the rear. The high level of driving comfort was enhanced by the heating elements integrated in the floor, armrests and footrests, as well as cigarette/cigar lighter and roller blinds on the side windows.

By the summer of 1931, a total of 49 chassis had been built, the final two receiving bodies in the spring of 1933. Despite the high- quality equipment and impressive engine performance, the Skoda 860 was not hugely successful mainly due to the global economic crisis. The starting price for the saloon was 125,000 kroner, the convertible started at 140,000 kroner. In addition, Skoda offered at that time the so-called Faux Cabriolet, i.e. ‘false convertible’. The car had a solid roof, but from the exterior it had the appearance of a folding roof. Wealthy customers had their vehicle customized by specialist coachbuilders, such as the Prague company J. O. Jech or Theodor Petera in Vrchlabí.

This unique open-top model originally served as a demonstration car and has been part of the Skoda Museum collection since 1998. Today, there are very few fully preserved Skoda 860 saloons in existence. Among the surviving models there is one fire engine and one Faux Cabriolet.