Skoda 105S

The story goes that three brothers, Czech, Lech and Rus, three sons of a dead king, went hunting for land together after receiving a disappointing inheritance. The eldest and strongest, Lech, set up camp in the Eagle's Nest, a lush verdant plain now called Poland. The surly Rus founded Ruthenia, to the east, and if you can't guess which country the wily Czech founded, you might as well stop reading now, turn off the internet and kill yourself.

Occasionally a winged arrow will find itself flung over the Moravian mountains from the Czech Republic to Poland, and will land slap-bang in the middle of the Eagle's Nest. This time around, it's in the form of a the Skoda 105 S.

At a time of ICBMs, microprocessors and fibre-optics, there was little wonder that a company like Skoda would want to produce something modern, advanced, daring enough to tug the little Bohemian firm into the 1970s, and decisions were made to try and replace the S100 range of rear-engined, RWD cars whose technology was considered old-fashioned even when new. The flying green arrow desperately needed updating, but the Commie overlords stamped "nyet" on the paperwork that would allow a more radical design to be implemented. It was felt back at Iron Curtain HQ that a front-engined FWD car would be too modern; yes, it would show the West that Soviets could make cars like if they wanted to, but it would also be an admission of failure. All of the slow, heavy hulking Ladas and Zaporozets, and especially the newly-released Wartburg, would be made to look even more cumbersome if a small Moravian motor started nipping up and down the Carpathians.

And so, instead, the S100 project was carried over to another decade. And another. And another. It did so in Skoda's 742 package, which was the name for the 105 and its sisters, 120 and 125, all introduced in 1976 and running out of steam in 1990, when the company was neutered by those bastards Volkswagen and their broad bland brush.

Considering the adversity of the establishment towards technological advances, its no small feat that Skoda managed to make the 105 as well as it did. Not allowed to bring in any technologies from its bloc-brothers, Skoda were forced into the mend-and-make-do mentality which has oft produced some rather ingenious little designs. The old powerplants from the S100 and 110 were kept, but this time a front-mounted radiator and enough plumbing to make a cow's intestine look simple were hooked up to pump cool water from one end to the other, accompanied by a pleasant gurgle and an in-cabin heating system (whether it was desired or not.)

This little grunter is a 105, which not only hides a wimpy little 1046cc engine behind those forlorn headlamps, but also bears the apologetic S on the rear badge, marketing it as the lowest of all possible trim levels in the entire Skoda range. That is as low as it got at Skoda; an S added to the end of the car, because absolutely everything else had been discluded. Whilst the humorously upmarket 105L (luxury, ho ho ho) got TWO dash clocks (speed and rev) and an interior light, the 105 S made do with a single linear speedo and whatever glow you could get from the oncoming traffic. Oh, and that internal furnace of a heater, which could get the cabin up to 60 degrees, in case you couldn't afford a summer holiday on the Adriatic coast. This is true poverty-spec motoring.

By 1983, all the glorious chromework on the top models had been ditched for dull black plastic, but this car is pre-facelift, being this glum straight from the factory. With its mismatched green bodywork and home-added roofrack, it's obviously led a working life, tramping around with its 46 horses, lugging Czech's produce along broken roads at an adequate, and frugal, pace.

Considering its conception as a begrudging descendant of '60s technology rather than a completely new model, its borne out its long history rather well. Pointing and laughing might have sullied the Skoda name for many a year in the West, but the single factor that even the lowest-trimmed weakest-engined poorest-assembled Skoda is still slogging on 30 years later should cause some critics to re-estimate its true worth in the annals of motoring. When collectors value the most desirable fully-specced editions for prosperity, the humble little 105S can hold its snout high, proclaiming that it doesn't need heated leather seats or a passenger-side wing mirror to make it into the history books.