Sunday, October 6, 2013

1961-1964 Škoda Felicia Super Cabriolet



"The successful man knows what he wants — his sports car must be a thoroughbred of first class performance coupled with comfort and elegance. Choose the best for your money. Make trial runs and select the car that will not only serve you dependably, but will also represent you well and be a source of permanent pleasure to you. ŠKODA Felicia is a fast, elegant car of high performance, and a happy union of the sporting motorist's demands with the requirements of a comfortable passenger car. It is equipped with every important feature of modern technical development. An elegant body, equipped with all modern comfort, including a safety steering wheel, adjustable seats, perfect air-conditioning with a very effective heater, and an extra large  luggage boot."

Here's proof that socialist car companies occasionally could do beautiful, too. The czech Škoda Felicia sure is one of the most dashing cars that were ever produced behind the Iron Curtain. No surprise, we think, as Škoda, founded in 1895 as Laurin & Klement and building automobiles since 1905, is one of the world's oldest car manufacturers. And who could produce elegant limousines and license-built Hispano-Suiza in prewar times, certainly still knew how to make a good looking car in Cold War times, even if the company increasingly lost track with the technical advances of the western automotive world.

The design of the Škoda Felicia convertible stems from the postwar Škoda 440 sedan, built between 1950 and 1959. In 1957, the convertible was launched as the Škoda 450, and two years later renamed Felicia. However, by political order, this model should be only an interim solution before a "true" people's car from Škoda would hit the road.

In 1961, the Felicia became the Felicia Super. This facelift, pictured here, received trendy tailfins, a larger 1,200cc engine and a floor mounted shifter that was quite oddly implemented: the shifter pattern was a familiar "H" pattern, but with first gear at the upper right and fourth gear at the lower left. Another odd detail is the indicator stalk that protrudes directly from the dashboard instead of the steering column. Pushing it up activates the left turn signal, switching down the right one. 

Despite these oddities, the Škoda Felicia was a handsome car that enjoyed a loyal fan base even in the western world. But after seven years and 16,000 Felicia convertibles produced, the Škoda factory in Mlada Boleslav had to make room for a true socialist "people's car". The beauty finally got replaced by the beast, as the new Škoda 1000 MB was a typical creation of the Eastern Block: practical and cheap to produce, but severely lacking any gracefulness.

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