This Super Rare Skoda Racer Was A Nightmare To Restore

Classic Cars / 5 Comments

It certainly wasn't easy, but we're glad it's been done.

Little-known to consumers stateside, Skoda is a Czech carmaker owned by the VW Group. Known for its value-driven range, the brand enjoys great popularity in Europe, where car buyers can't seem to get enough of the high-quality offerings. Despite this reputation, the brand's vRS performance cars are rather exciting, providing plenty of thrill for not much outlay.

The most recent model is the 295-horsepower Enyaq Coupe vRS, which boasts a 0-62-mph time of just 6.5 seconds - not bad for an all-electric SUV. But Skoda's performance legacy stretches back as far as the 1950s, with the obscure 1100 OHC Coupe. A prominent figure on endurance racing circuits in the early '60s, the lightweight sports car was deceptively quick, despite the rather asthmatic 90-hp four-cylinder engine. Amazingly, it could reach speeds of up to 124 mph, courtesy of a featherweight mass that would make a Mazda MX-5 Miata look obese. Interestingly, the 1100 OHC was originally only a spider, or open-top racer, derived from a humble family car called the 1101.

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At around 1,223 pounds, the Coupe racer was exceptionally light. Just two were built and, when amendments to racing regulations signaled the end for Skoda's racecar, both were sold to private buyers in 1966. Sadly, the pair both met with crashes.

This would make the ultra-rare racer's restoration all the more difficult, even for a manufacturer with untold amounts of money at its disposal. Somehow, Skoda pulled it off - but it wasn't easy. One of the 1100s was destroyed in a fire and, as such, was pretty much useless when the time came to source parts.

Thankfully, the important components were found. Before it was installed in the rebuilt Skoda, the original engine was on display at a Czech vocational school. Similarly, the brakes, chassis, and several smaller parts came were sourced from a private collection. The unique rear axle with its integrated gearbox was already in Skoda's possession. Smaller trim details would prove hard to find, the restoration team borrowing several pieces from period Skodas.

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The biggest challenge throughout this painstaking process was the reconstruction of the aluminum body. When new, the sleek panels were hammered out by hand, with the separate parts then welded or riveted together. 3D scanning and modeling technology were significant in returning the racer back to its former glory. Together with historic photos, designers were able to recreate the 1100 on a 1:1 scale.

This proved invaluable, especially when it came to the more intricate parts of the vehicle's bodywork, such as the front end and around the rear lights. As Skoda had done in the past, the 0.8- and 1-millimeter thick aluminum sheets were manually welded and beaten into shape for restoration.

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Finished in red, the final product pays tribute to the original color scheme worn by both cars in the 1962 racing season. The gorgeous Coupe, once again, looks incredible and is a great way for the brand to celebrate its 120th motorsport anniversary. The new addition joins a pair of surviving Spider derivatives (these came with plastic bodies rather than aluminum); one is on display at the Skoda Museum while the other is used by Skoda UK for brand promotion. The third spider no longer exists.

This isn't the first time a carmaker has set out to restore iconic models of years gone by. Very recently, Porsche refurbished a 1972 911 2.4 Targa for an exhibition to commemorate Porsche Design, the brand's bespoke service providing customers with tailor-made Porsches. Whatever the reason may be, we're all for carmakers paying tribute to the past by restoring special models from varied and rich histories. Modern EVs, as pictured in green, are far less special.

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