Have you ever heard of the “Porsche of the East”? That’s the nickname given to the Skoda 130 RS, the sportiest derivative of a car launched 50 years ago, the Skoda 110 R.
It was in September 1970 that the Czechoslovakian automaker introduced its rear-engine sports coupe at a trade fair in Brno. The 110 R would spawn several spinoffs, including race- and rally-winning 180 RS, 200 RS and the 130 RS.
The 110 R traces to the 1000 MB, a notchback sedan introduced in 1964. The 1000 MB was a breakthrough for Skoda with a unibody chassis, rear engine and rear-wheel drive, and it was a sales success in country and in the export market.
However, when it launched the 1000 MB, Skoda ended production of its most sporty car, the Felicia convertible.
“Demand for sports models remained strong, particularly in Western European markets,” the company notes as part of its anniversary celebration. “Skoda responded to its customers’ wishes with a vehicle that would give the brand an image boost despite remaining a niche product in terms of the planned number of units.”
That niche product was the 110 R, a 1000 MB-based coupe with new bodywork, front disc brakes and enhanced safety features.
The initial prototype was built in 1968 and underwent testing on the German autobahn, where it reached 90 mph. A second prototype was produced but this one had with twin carburetors instead of a single unit.
From its debut at the trade show, the 110 R was displayed at major auto shows in Paris, London and Turin.
“Demand for the 110 R rose sharply, but the ramp-up of Skoda’s production encountered problems due to the political conditions at the time,” the company noted. “By the end of 1970, only 121 vehicles had been built, and it was not until the second quarter of 1971 that the first units of the coupé could be delivered to customers overseas.
“Subsequently, the Czech car manufacturer concentrated primarily on exports: of around 3,000 units produced in 1971, only 442 vehicles made it to the showrooms of the then Czechoslovak monopoly dealer Mototechna. The 110 R came with a hefty price tag of at least 78,000 crowns, which at that time was the equivalent of around 40 months’ wages.
Skoda noted that the car’s light weight (less than 2,000 pounds) and excellent traction (it rode on radial tires) produced a “dynamic driving experience,” even with its 52-horsepower 4-cylinder engine.
Inside the 110 R, the steering wheel had perforated spokes and the dashboard featured five round instruments, at first set in wood paneling. As in a Porsche, the primary gauge was the tachometer.
“Skoda made an exciting new statement with the compact 110 R sports car and achieved considerable sales success with the vehicle on demanding export markets,” the company reports. “In 1973, 93 per cent of the approximately 6,000 coupés built were shipped outside of what was then Czechoslovakia.
“The international demand for the 110 R was also boosted by the success of the Skoda coupe’s motorsport derivatives on circuits and rally courses, which began in the 1973 season with a modified factory car. A little later Skoda presented a 180 RS and two examples of the 200 RS. The prototypes inspired by the series coupé made their debut at the Barum Rally in June 1974. These road racing cars had OHC engines with a capacity of up to 2.0 liters and a five-speed gearbox made by Porsche. In addition, a newly developed trailing arm rear axle was installed, which had a positive effect on the coupés’ handling.”
In the spring of 1975 Skoda released the “legendary” 130 RS, which is proudly notes “would become one of the most successful racing and rally cars in the (under) 1,300 cc class” into the early 1980s.
“The 110 R’s body structure was slightly modified, and a robust roll cage was added. Škoda made the roof, bonnet and outer skins of the doors from aluminum, while the fenders and bonnet were made from glass fiber reinforced plastic. These lightweight construction measures reduced the weight of the 130 RS to just 720 kilograms (1,587 pounds), making the 1.3-liter four-cylinder model comparatively easy to handle.”
The liquid-cooled engine pumped out 130 horsepower, had dry-sump lubrication, twin Weber carburetors and a top track speed of nearly 140 mph. The car won its class in the 1977 Monte Carlo Rally and took the European Touring Car Championship in 1981.
Skoda would continue coupe production with its Garde and Rapid models until 1990, and the company notes that the preserved examples of the Garde and Rapid “are now sought-after collector’s items with a steadily increasing market value.”
In 1991, Skoda became part of the Volkswagen Group. While little known in North America, Skoda has manufacturing plants in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Russia, Algeria, India and China.