Car Restoration Projects
Skoda’s Le Mans contender
Skoda is well known for its rally successes, but lesser known is its sports car racing heritage. The Skoda 1100 OHC sports car is considered a milestone in the 120-year motorsport history of this Eastern European car manufacturer.
One of the two surviving examples of the Skoda1100 OHC with open bodywork is now part of the collection at the Skoda Museum in Mladá Boleslav.
The construction of the Skoda 1100 OHC racing car entered its final phase at the end of 1957. Designated within the company as Model 968, the vehicle was originally intended for long circuit races. Initially, two open-bodied vehicles were built, followed by two coupés in 1959.
Development of the two-seater sports car began in the spring of 1956, with the clear objective of contenting the prestigious 24-hour race at Le Mans. The previous Skoda efforts, in 1950, were with Sport and Supersport cars, based on the robust chassis from the Skoda 1101 production model, but the new model was purpose-built.
Instead of being based on a production car new the model had a lattice frame made of thin-walled steel tubes welded together. To achieve the best possible handling, the load was optimally distributed over both axles, by positioning the clutch, five-speed gearbox and differential in a rear-mounted transaxle unit.
Power for the Skoda 1100 OHC came from a longitudinally-mounted, twin-overhead-camshaft, four-cylinder, in-line engine with dual ignition. From a displacement of 1089cc, it generated an impressive output for the time of 92hp at 7700 rpm, or 85hp per litre.
Originally, the engine used high-octane aviation fuel, fed into two twin Czechoslovakian brand Jikov carburettors, but soon they were changed to side-draft Webers.
Trapezoidal wishbone suspension was fitted at the front and the rear end had swing axles with trailing arms. Front and rear springing was by torsion bars and the 15-inch spoke wheels were manufactured by Borrani.
Thanks to the use of glass fibre-reinforced plastic (GRP) bodywork, the 3880mm long, 1430 mm wide and 964mm tall racing car weighed just 583 kilograms.
With an engine redline of 8500rpm, the Skoda 1100 OHC had a top speed of between 190 and 200 km/h, depending on the gear ratio, with acceleration to match. The low air resistance of the body, created by designer Jaroslav Kindl, was also a contributing factor.
The first model’s flip-up headlights were soon replaced by more practical fixed headlights fitted under aerodynamic glass covers.
The three-spoke steering wheel could be removed to make it easier to get into the compact car.
The Skoda 1100 OHC clinched an immediate victory at its public premiere, on the municipal circuit in Mladá Boleslav, where the experienced works driver Miroslav Fousek won the race in June 1958. Other drivers, Václav Bobek, Václav Čížkovský, Josef Vidner and Jaroslav Bobek, sat behind the wheel in subsequent years.
In addition to motorsport events at home, Skoda drivers chalked up successes abroad, despite being restricted to Communist-country events by the difficult political situation at the end of the 1950s and early 1960s. The plan to take part in the 24 Hours of Le Mans did not come to fruition.
The two open-body cars that had been produced at the end of 1957 and the beginning of 1958 were followed in 1959 by two coupé variants with sheet aluminium bodywork. Skoda’s engineers managed to keep the coupés’ weight to only 555 kilograms each.
All the closed Skoda 1100 OHC coupés were destroyed in accidents during private use. However, experts from the Skoda Museum’s restoration workshop were working in 2021 on rebuilding one coupé, using surviving components.
The open-top versions were still intact in mid-2021 and the model from the Skoda Museum regularly takes part in classic car events at home and abroad. The second vehicle is owned by Skoda UK and is used for promotional purposes, primarily in the UK.
There’s a 32-page brochure and a comprehensive collection of articles and features on various topics from 120 years of Skoda Motorsport on the Skoda Storyboard.