Situated just 30 minutes outside the city of Prague, Skoda’s Factory Museum is the focal point of the town of Mlada Bolesav – and with good reason. Once the manufacturer’s assembly plant, the newly refurbished building is a hidden gem charting the firm’s fascinating history from 1895 to the present day. The incredible collection of classics highlights not only Skoda’s ability to endure, at times, a less than enviable reputation, but also its resilience to political adversity.
The classic that greets visitors changes on a weekly basis
Divided into three main groups, part of which is stacked over four levels, the museum houses a stunning collection of vehicles, ranging from founders Vaclav Laurin and Vaclav Klement’s earliest voiturettes and first four-wheeled car through to the luxurious models of the 1920s and 1930s and beyond.
The 125L was one of the last cars to roll out of the Mlada Bolesav plant
Further into the museum and the Czech manufacturer’s later models come to the fore. Smaller, family-oriented cars such as the humble Popular rub shoulders with the gold metallic Sagitta Typ911 – an overt display of the depth of its first owner’s pockets – followed by the once familiar rear-engined 1000MC.
The 1974 200RS Typ 734 rally car marks the beginning of Skoda's performance range of vehicles
If you’re very lucky, it’s possible to arrange access to the museum’s depository. Located at the back of the building, this rarely-visited department is home to Skoda’s prototypes and aborted models. Among the F3 cars, 4x4s and Skoda’s answer to the beach buggy, it’s the two-seater Ferat that truly stands out. It’s humble saloon car underpinnings belie the blood-sucker’s iconic status in Eastern European horror film history.
Skoda transformed its small family car into a rally winning model with its Favorit 136 Typ 781, built in 1993
Don’t be surprised if you see many of the firm’s classics escape the confines of the museum: Skoda works closely with local clubs to ensure that many of its cars are regular sights on the city’s streets.
Ultra rare, the metallic finish on this 1936 Sagitta Typ 911 was an outward display of wealth
Small and elegant lines meant the 1960 Octavia 985 saloon became one of Skoda's best-selling post-war models
Displayed over four levels, visitors can track how the brand developed as the years passed by
One of only three ever built, the 1957 1100 Supersport was Skoda's foray into international road racing
The spider BS Typ 728 from 1972 represents Skoda's efforts in sports car and endurance racing
Built in 1950 and powered by a 1089cc engine, the Supersport Typ 966 still hit a top speed of 170kph
The Vampire Car. Skoda's Ferat became the main star of a 1970s horror film
The 736 Beach Buggy never made it beyond the prototype stage
Back in the 1960s and 1970s, Skoda was a regular participant in F3
The Babeta Typ 973 4x4 was shelved by the Russian government
Words and pictures: Mark Stone