A-Z of Marques No 64: Skoda

The marque: Once-great Czech engineering combine, making everything from guns to trams, which faded under communism; but now the car division flourishes again under Volkswagen ownership.

The history: The make has its origins in the Laurent & Klement firm, which started producing cars in 1906. Skoda took over the factory at Mlada Boleslav in 1924. During the 1930s, the Popular and Rapid enjoyed good sales, Skoda cars progressing to overhead-valve engines just before the war. Post-war, the company made products under the planned economy then in force. The pleasant Octavia and Felicia of the 1950s gave way to rear-engined models in the 1960s, seemingly inspired by the Renault Dauphine. The position of the power unit and a swing axle gave Skodas of the 1960s and 1970s something of a poor reputation for handling in extreme conditions, but they were sold cheaply in Western markets and earned plenty of hard currency for the Czech government. The front-wheel drive Favorit of 1989 was a much more acceptable concept. Since takeover by the VW Group in 1991, Skodas have shared floor plans and engines with equivalent VW, Audi and Seat models. The modern Skoda Superb lives up to its name, while the Fabia continues the tradition of value.

Defining model: Skoda Estelle (1977).

They say: It's a Skoda. Honest.

We say: What's the joke?