Classic Cars

Skoda 1000 MB

It couldn't go over 60 and reeked of petrol, but it kept a stone-cold sober Sean O'Grady from waiting for the bus

I used to own one of these. I ought to think of it as some sort of badge of shame, as the rear-engined series of Skodas made from 1964 to 1992, ending with the Estelle (a few of which can still be glimpsed on our roads), are routinely and rightly regarded as automotive dogs, regular fixtures in all those "worst cars ever" compilations and the butt of many a bad old joke.

Well, I owned one, as a lot of people did, because I had to: because it was all I could afford as a poor student. Really, sensibly, I should have gone without private transport altogether for at least two reasons. First, being a student meant I was too poor to run any car, even a Skoda, and even with four star at £1.50 a gallon and cheap insurance from the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation (I still don't know why it was insuring me).

Second, being a student meant, or should have meant, I was too inebriated to make the best use of it. Yet, like most students who drive a car, and more responsibly than you might think, I used to delight in drinking Coca-Cola all night long or orange squash (cheaper but much less palatable than the real thing), and offering all my mates a lift home when the pub or nightspot (as they were then known) closed its doors. That way I made sure I got to any parties that were going, but the misery of being sober in a houseful of stoned, drunken wanton undergraduates... well I don't need to elaborate further.

Still, I liked my Skoda. I liked the way it looked like nothing else on the road. I liked the fact that it had four wheels and, when I needed it, mostly, that I didn't have to wait for it for 20 minutes while standing by a metal pole with "Midland Red Bus Stop 62/63" on it.

The palates of car hacks can become jaded with the fruits of the world's most fabulous dream machines forced upon them, as if they were particularly literate (or maybe not) geese on a fois gras farm. Yes, Mercedes-McLaren SLR, Lamborghini Murcielago, Ferrari F40: I've been there and done them, but the Skoda was a much bigger laugh.

Actually, I lie. I chose the Skoda 1000 MB as the subject of this week's little essay because it was the original rear-engined Skoda, but the car I owned was the facelifted, updated version of the car released (escaped?) in 1974, the Skoda S1000, a blander-faced affair with much less flamboyant rear air intakes. More's the pity. But it was basically the same old contraption, loosely based in turn on those dreadful rear-drive Renaults like the Dauphine, and the 8 from the 1960s.

Even by the early 1980s there were already none of the original rear-drive Skoda MBs left of the road. An Austin 1100, a Mini, a Ford Escort or a Hillman Imp were the nearest alternatives to the Skoda 1000, and much more expensive they were too. I quite enjoyed hearing the story of a contemporary whose Austin 1100's subframe fatally disengaged from the rest of the Issigonis classic when crossing a humpback bridge near Loughborough, but my smugness was not to last.

The Skoda, I soon learnt, had a number of design flaws. First was the heater. This promised a flow of "ambient air", but with the engine in the back and thus a long way to travel to the cab it was always fairly cool by the time it got to me.

Second, rather more serious, was the engine, which seemed very prone to overheating, and blowing all sorts of pipes and gaskets. The car would never do more than about 60 mph and it always, always smelt of petrol when it didn't stink of boiled anti-freeze. It was pretty bad, but at least it never went fast enough for me to experience the car's "entertaining handling" through tricky corners. So things were miserable enough without all of the Skoda gags. Here are a few:

* How do you double the value of a Skoda?

Fill the tank!

* What do you call a Skoda with a sun roof?

A skip!

* Why does a Skoda have a double rear-window heater ?

To keep everyone's hands warm when they are push- ing it!

* What's the difference between getting out of a Skoda and getting out of a sheep?

You don't get so embarrassed if someone sees you getting out of a sheep.

* What do you call a classic Skoda?

A Lada.

Actually my classic Skoda was called a Saab because I stuck a Saab badge over the Skoda one on the steering wheel. They had the same plastic texture, and the Saab one looked just right. (Blu-Tack was the engineering medium chosen for this exacting exercise in brand reorientation).

So when one girlfriend hopped into the passenger seat and said, "Oh, I didn't know Saabs made cars like this," I'd knowingly and condescendingly assure her that the rear-drive range was little known but much appreciated among motoring cognoscenti. Which, it was, but, then as now, for all the wrong reasons.

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Internal Sales Executive

    £20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive

    £20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Finance / Accounts Manager

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Well established and expanding ...

    Recruitment Genius: Bench Locksmith / Engineer / Technician

    £14000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading Key Cutting equipm...

    Day In a Page

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

    Lobster has gone mainstream

    Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss