At the end of the century before last, in 1894, a resident of the small town of Mlada Boleslav 26-year-old Vaclav Klement bought a new German bike. Like many young Europeans, he was an avid fan of cycling at that time, participated in competitions. But the new car was unusually brittle. Clement wrote an angry letter to a representative of the company in the Czech Republic, and in response received a demand … to write in German. Indignant, Wenceslas decided to sort out the purchase himself, since he was well versed in bicycles, although he made a living by selling books. And then another decision came - to build two-wheeled cars. He took namesake as companions - Vaclav Laurin, a mechanic from the town of Turnovo. The partners called the company “Laurin-Clement”, and bicycles began to be sold under the brand name “Slavia”.
Companions tried to keep up to date and in 1899 attached a small French motor to a bicycle, laying the foundation for the production of motorcycles. A year later, a four-wheeled double crew was built from motorcycle parts, and in 1905, 100 years ago, a real car called the “Laurin-Clement Type A” was built. Having run in the car, in April 1906 it was presented at the Prague Motor Show.
It took very little time for Laurin-Clement to become the largest manufacturer of motorcycles (1907), and soon cars in Austria-Hungary. Along with several models of cars, little trucks and buses began to be produced little by little. Cars were exported to Germany, the UK, even New Zealand and Japan. By the way, about a third of cars produced were sold in Russia.
A small bicycle factory turned into a solid factory at that time. In 1911, Laurin-Clement even acquired the company RAF. No, the Reichenberg Automobile Factory factory did not have a relationship with Riga - it was located in the city of Liberec and produced cars and vans. After the First World War, the company from Mladá Boleslav, in addition to cars, trucks and buses, was known for other products. For example, 450-horsepower aircraft engines V12. They were made under the license of Lorren-Dietrich. In Russia, especially in the southern provinces, Excelsior motor plows knew more. It was a car 9 meters long with two huge (2.2 m diameter) wheels, equipped with an 80-horsepower 14.5 liter engine. But after October 1917, partnerships with Russia were interrupted for a long time.
Shrinking sales markets was not the only Laurin-Clement issue. The company produced more and more powerful and expensive cars, and there were few buyers, especially after the war. For example, in 1922 the factories of Czechoslovakia built only about 10 thousand cars, half of them - cars. And it was not surprising that three years later the enterprise founded by two Wenceslas became part of the Skoda company, a large engineering concern in Pilsen, founded in 1869.
Skoda, of course, also has its own legend associated with its now famous emblem throughout the world. A winged arrow was born from … a profile image of an Indian in a feather headdress. The founder of the Pilsner enterprise Emil Skoda, traveling around America, allegedly met an Indian, brought him to the Czech Republic and left to live in his family.
The Skoda car biography began a year before the purchase of Laurin-Clement. Since 1924, luxury cars Skoda-Spanish-Suiza have been assembled in Pilsen under a French license. And until 1928 they made about 50 cars with different bodies, including those already built in Mladá Boleslav.
Under the Skoda wing, the plant founded by Laurin and Clement was updated. A model range - too, having launched into production including inexpensive compact cars. However, under the Skoda brand, a variety of cars were made: from the small Popular to the prestigious Superba, as well as trucks, buses, military equipment, which, since 1938, when Hitler occupied Czechoslovakia, began to receive special attention. Especially for the Eastern Front, with the participation of Ferdinand Porsche, they built a kind of hybrid truck and tractor on huge metal wheels. Since August 1939, the plant became part of the German Reichswerk German Goering AG.
At the very end of the war, May 9, 1945, German aviation destroyed the plant in Mladá Boleslav. But already in the same year there little by little they began to assemble the pre-war Skoda Popular and in 1947 5, 334 cars were built. By the way, quite a lot. Say, 9622 cars were produced in the USSR that year. At the same time, the production of Skoda-1101, a modernized version of the pre-war Popular, as well as the Superb model with a redesigned design, began in Pilsen. In socialist Czechoslovakia, the approach to the lineup, of course, has become different. The representative Superb was discontinued, roadsters based on models 1101 and 1102 were intended mainly for export. Of the nearly 1900 open cars of model 1102, only three were sold in Czechoslovakia. Anyway, in 1952 only 53 people bought new cars in the country, the rest diverged among party and state structures. It is interesting that in 1951–1952, at the time of the maximum centralization of nationalized industry, about 2100 cars were assembled at the Skoda plant … Tatra cars.
In the early post-war years, Czechoslovak cars were quite widely exported, up to Australia (!). But from the fifties they began to be delivered mainly to the socialist countries. In the USSR, back in the mid-1960s, Skoda-1200 station wagons worked in ambulance. Skoda truck tractors were especially respected by Soviet truckers. Machines valued for comfort and reliability were made by the plant … LIAZ. The coincidence with the Soviet name is accidental, the former RAF, purchased by Laurin-Clement in 1911, began to be called the Liberec Automobile Plant. And the Skoda brand in the USSR was familiar with railway locomotives and trolleybuses. Today, this unit has no relation to Skoda Auto.