Lesser-known models from Skoda Auto’s 125-year history – The Skoda Type 990 estate prototype
The legendary Skoda 1000 MB with a rear-mounted engine and rear-wheel drive was one of the world’s most modern vehicles in the one-litre class in the mid-1960s. The basic version of the model, also known as Embecko in the Czech Republic, was a four-door notchback – though there were also plans for a coupé, a roadster and an estate. The only estate Skoda Type 990 ‘Hajaja’ (1963) ever produced can be seen today as a permanent exhibit at the Skoda Museum in Mlada Boleslav.
Estates have traditionally played an important role in Skoda’s model range. The L&K 110 model, which was offered with an exchangeable or combinable rear module in the mid-1920s, is considered a pioneer. On weekdays, the vehicle would be used as a delivery van by tradesmen, on Sundays, it became a family car for excursions.
From 1934 onwards, the light commercial vehicle variants of the Popular model series with 300kg payload were so popular that well-known companies such as Bata (yes, the shoemaker) and Julius Meinl began using them as fleet vehicles. At the end of the 1940s, the estate car or ‘station wagon’ (STW) was developed, alongside van bodies, based on the Skoda 1101/1102 Tudor. In addition to a significantly larger windscreen and more extensive equipment, it was distinguished by its interior versatility. A loading area up to 1490mm long and 980 to 1390mm wide was created by folding down the rear seat. The production version, which rolled off the assembly lines in Vrchlabi and Kvasiny, was preceded by numerous prototypes. The spacious Skoda 1200 STW estate was built in Vrchlabi from the spring of 1953; a modernised version – the 1201 STW – was produced until October 1961. This was followed by the Skoda 1202 STW that was part of the Skoda model range for the following 12 years.
But Skoda’s most popular estate model was the Octavia Combi. Yes, we did get one from 2005 to 2009. However, the Octavia we know is the one designed by Luc Donkerwolke, whereas the first prototype of the one we’re talking about here was created in September 1959. In 1960, the vehicle attracted considerable interest at its premiere in Brno. From 1961 to 1971, 54,086 units left the plant in Kvasiny. The car was also in demand abroad. In 1966, a remarkable 72 per cent of all estates manufactured were exported.
Now, getting back to spring 1959, preparations began in Mladá Boleslav for the ŠKODA 1000 MB model, one of the greatest technological innovations in the history of the company, which at the time was almost 65 years old already. The construction with a chassis frame was to be replaced by an innovative self-supporting body. In addition, the company turned away from the classic concept of a front-engine and rear-wheel drive and shifted the entire drivetrain to the rear – a very modern concept worldwide at the beginning of the 1960s (remember, this was a few years before the Porsche 911, when the only other car with the same configuration was the Porsche 356 sportscar).
At the same time, the Mladá Boleslav plant built new, state-of-the-art production facilities from where the first notchback model of the 1000 MB rolled out in April 1964. With the help of the plants in Kvasiny and Vrchlabi, Skoda’s total production almost quadrupled in just ten years between 1963 and 1973 – from 42,550 to 162,208 units per year.
Project 990 NOV (novy osobni vuz – new passenger car) led the way to the production model Skoda 1000 MB. Its development began in 1959 in Mladá Boleslav, and by October 1961, a series of fifty prototypes had been produced. Besides several variants of the closed four-door notchback bodywork, development was also carried out on alternative four-door versions without an upper B-pillar, similar to the later production vehicle Skoda 1000/1100 MBX. An open Skoda Type 990/991 Roadster with 2+2 seats and rear engine was also created as a prototype.
In February 1963, the conversion of the 34th prototype from the Nov series comprising 50 vehicles was completed. A notchback vehicle with more than 31,000 kilometres on the clock was converted into an estate. The designers were faced with the problem of having to place the engine in the rear under the boot floor. The 988cc inline-four engine, making 41.5bhp at 4650rpm, was positioned horizontally with the cylinder head to the left. This engine mounting position was given the nickname ‘Hajaja’, which was the name of a Czech radio series of bedtime stories at that time. To the right of the engine was a water cooler because unlike similar models designed by foreign competitors, Skoda did not rely on air cooling.
The cargo area was accessible through an upward opening tailgate fixed in the upper position with a metal strut. Objects with a length of up to 1600 mm could be transported in the 4150mm long, 1620mm wide and 1400mm high estate. The wheelbase of 2400 mm corresponded to that of the standard notchback. The position of the engine behind the driven rear axle made space for a second luggage compartment in the front of the vehicle, which at the same time served as a crumple zone. After deducting four persons each weighing 75 kg from the 380 kg payload, 80 kg remained for luggage. The unladen weight of 811.5 kg was 61 per cent on the rear axle, but this figure fell to 59.5 per cent when fully loaded.
During its three-week test programme, the prototype completed around 7000km in May and June 1963, with an average fuel efficiency of about 13kmpl at an average speed of 74 kmph. The prototype was capable of a top speed of 115 km/h. The vehicle’s advantages included its spacious interior and generous amount of room in the two luggage compartments.
Its disadvantages, however, were considerable, chiefly the complicated engine installation under the luggage compartment floor, which made maintenance considerably more difficult. Additionally, there were problems with cooling the four-cylinder engine due to the limited space available. This was one of the reasons for the decision not to include this estate car in the model range. Skoda instead focused on launching the series production of the hugely successful notchback 1000/1100 MB. Between 1964 and 1969 440,639 units of this model were delivered to customers. The only derivative of the series-produced notchback model was the attractive two-door 1000/1100 MBX without upper B-pillars (1966 – 1969: 2517 units delivered). Due to customer demand for a practical estate model, the Octavia Combi was produced until 1971.
Today, the only prototype of the Skoda Type 990 ‘Hajaja’ ever produced is now on display at the Skoda Museum in Mlada Boleslav.