Škoda restores last surving convertible 860

Škoda has taken one of its museum pieces and made it good enough to go back on the road to celebrate the Czechoslovakian centenary

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the founding of Czechoslovakia, Škoda has restored the last surviving convertible version of its 860 car, which was built in 1932. It normally lives in Škoda’s own museum in Mladá Boleslav, but has felt the road under its wheels again, in original specification, thanks to two years of work.

The car’s eight-cylinder in-line engine has been completely restored, and its technology hails back to an even earlier time than the 1930s. It was one of the smoother engines of its time, helped by engineers utilising a nine-bearing cranckshaft and a Lanchester vibration damper. By today’s standards it’s still an impressive engine, with the four-stroke petrol having a 3880cc displacement. This does contribute to the vehicle’s 5.5 metre length, but that isn’t necessarily a barter for performance, as it can still go at 110km/h in third (and top) gear. Getting back to a halt isn’t an issue either, with a vacuum brake booster. Impressive stuff for the 1930s.

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As well as bringing the mechanical aspects of the car back up to standard, the restorers have also renewed the paintwork, roof cover and seat upholstery, as well as making minor repairs to the wood construction and bodywork. It not only runs well, it looks good too, although going forward those looks will be based once again in the museum.

Škoda 860 drivers needn’t have had mechanical sympathy, as the car was revealed at the 1929 Prague Motor Show with a dashboard inclinometer, a predecessor to the modern gear shift indicator, and a crucial aspect of making gearboxes last longer. On inclines or slopes, the meter recommends shifting down in advance, then once driving again on level ground, gives the recommendation to shift up.

Travelling in the 1930s was dangerous, as you would expect, but 860 passengers had it all. A retractable glass panel could separate them from the driver, and legroom was in abundance in the rear, meaning three adults could sit there comfortably. In addition, two foldable seats could be installed for smaller folk to join in on the fun. Lots of bodies means lots of heat, but when travelling alone there was also a heating elements in the floor to keep passengers warm, armrests and footrests, a cigarette lighter and side blinds.

This unique piece of Škoda history is one of a rare bunch, and it would be great to see other surviving models, such as a fire engine and a Faux Cabriolet receive the same restoration treatment.

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