55 years ago, the ŠKODA 1000 MB marked a turning point in the history of the Czech automobile manufacturer. The compact car benefitted from a self-supporting body and 1.0-litre rear engine. With advanced technology, comfort and design, the 1000 MB set new standards in the mid-1960s.
Comprehensive expansion of the Mladá Boleslav plant
More than 300 companies, including 134 from abroad, were involved in constructing and equipping the more than 40 halls and other buildings. The plant was now among the most modern automobile factories, also setting standards beyond the borders of the communist countries. A new, 13-kilometre road network through the 80-hectare site, added ten kilometres of railway tracks, which led to a marshalling yard, and eleven kilometres overhead conveyor. The four-door body of the 1000 MB consisted of 665 pressed parts and was built with 6,900 welding points.
ŠKODA used an aluminium alloy as well as a special die-casting process for the engine’s crankcase as well as the four-speed manual transmission, which was unique in Europe. It was based on a patent registered by the Czech engineer Josef Polák in 1922. At the same time, the intelligently designed crankcase weighing just 105 kilograms did not require holes to be drilled in it – threads in the castings simply needed to be cut. This contributed to shorter production times and lower energy consumption.
Tests under extreme conditions in the former Soviet Union
The new generation of vehicles still had the designation NOV (Nový Osobní Vůz, ‘new passenger car’) in the development phase. Before the start of series production, it was put through its paces. By May 1962, 50 prototypes had covered a total of 1,598,840 kilometres, including in the extreme cold of the former Soviet Union. The tests on the brake, fuel and cooling systems took place in the Caucasus, where three vehicles had to perform in extreme temperatures of up to 45 degrees Celsius.
The final type designation of the four-door notchback model 1000 MB referred to its cubic capacity rounded to 1000 cm3 and ‘MB’ in reference to the production at ŠKODA’s headquarters in Mladá Boleslav.
The compact car with self-supporting body
Following its successful predecessor, the chassis-based OCTAVIA with a front engine and rear-wheel drive, the ŠKODA 1000 MB took off with an entirely new concept: It had a self-supporting body with all-round independent wheel suspension. Thanks to its advanced design and the consistent use of aluminium alloys, the family car weighed in at only 755 kilograms.
The water-cooled OHV in-line four-cylinder was shifted to the rear and drove the rear axle. The light engine generated 27 kW (37 hp) in the first phase from a displacement of 988 cm3. The modern vehicle reached a top speed of 120 km/h with a very favourable consumption for that time of 7 to 8 litres of petrol per 100 kilometres. In 1966, the power increased to 32 kW (43 hp) and with the ŠKODA 1100 MB, a second engine variant was added, which provided 38 kW (52 hp) from a 1.1-litre displacement. The rare two-door MBX version is particularly sought after among classic car collectors today.
‘Simply Clever’ with great attention to detail
ŠKODA design took a leap forward with the 1000 MB, building on the classic, three-wheeled body layout of the 1960s with timeless elegance. The large panoramic rear window improved the all-around visibility at the rear. The design of the fuel filler neck also testifies to the attention to detail: it was cleverly concealed in the right-side wing by a swivelling ŠKODA emblem.
Despite its compact dimensions (length 4.17 m, width 1.62 m and height 1.39 m), the ŠKODA 1000 MB boasted a very spacious and functional interior. For example, as standard, the seats could be transformed into a mobile accommodation option. The car featured with two luggage compartments: the one behind the rear seats was also accessible while on the road; the one at the front of the car had a capacity of 220 litres and sat above the spare wheel. To access this, only a portion of the front had to be folded forward – without needing to first unload the luggage.
International sensation: premieres in Brno, Paris and London
The end of OCTAVIA production marked the start of the ŠKODA 1000 MB production on 11 April 1964 in Mladá Boleslav. In September of the same year, the new model was introduced to the general public at the traditional engineering fair in Brno, and in October the compact was presented at the motor shows in Paris and London. In May 1965, more than 1,000 vehicles were rolling off the assembly line each month. By the end of the year, the company had been able to ramp up its daily production to at least 150 units, making the 1000 MB the first Czech vehicle to be truly mass-produced. More than half of the 443,000 ŠKODA models built between 1964 and 1969 went to several dozen countries around the world. In 1965, for example, the proportion exported reached 70%. The 1000 MB’s success in famous rallies also led to high demand from abroad.