The fact that there were sporty cars on the other side of the Iron Curtain has spread to Western Europe in the meantime. However, most readers probably think more of the Melkus from the GDR than of vehicles from Škoda from Czechoslovakia. Wrongly so, as the 110 R and the derivatives based on it have proven in the long term. This was preceded in 1964 by the market launch of the 1000 MB mid-range sedan, whose self-supporting body carried the engine in the rear. As demand for this model was constantly hight, Škoda phased out all other model series, including the sporty Felicia, which was very popular in Western Europe. Nevertheless, enough customers continued to ask for sportier cars, which, although only niche products, were suitable both for advertising and as basic vehicles for racing. Thus, when developing the 1000 MB successor 100 L and 110 L from 1966, the team in Mladá Boleslav also set about creating a sporty coupé version. This was to be known by the abbreviation 110 R, but it soon received the Czech nickname ‘Erko’. The prototypes, which were produced in the branch factory in Kvasiny, were given the project code Š 718 K.
Test drives on GDR Autobahns
Instead of simply shortening the sedan body by two doors and possibly creating a more attractive rear end, Škoda used only the platform for the 110 R, but had a separate body with a flatter windshield and a 40 millimeter lower roof drawn for it. The doors were considerably wider and had frameless windows. In March 1968, the first prototype went into road testing. Among other things, the tours led to the well-developed Autobahns of the GDR, where top speeds of up to 145 kph (90 mph) were recorded. It wasn’t until a year later that a second prototype was on its wheels, with double carburetors and an alternating current alternator instead of a dynamo as improvement measures. For the world premiere of the 110 R in 1970, Škoda invited a few selected journalists to the dormitory of the company’s own vocational school in Mladá Boleslav. From there, they went to the nearby Hoškovice airport for their first test drives. Inside, the coupés offered space for four people, with headroom limited by the roof line at the rear, as well as 250 liters of luggage under the front hood and another 120 liters of luggage space behind the rear seats. In front of the front passengers was the dashboard with five round instruments, two large ones behind the two-spoke steering wheel and three smaller ones centrally.
In contrast to other car brands in the Eastern zone, Škoda had a functioning dealer network in Western Europe throughout the Cold War and was able to earn important foreign exchange through exports. The 110 R was therefore presented not only at the engineering fair in Brno in September 1970, but also in London, Paris and Turin in October of the same year. This actually generated a great deal of interest, which couldn’t be satisfied by the capacity of the factory at first. The entire 1970 production of 121 cars remained on the domestic market, and only from 1971 cars were exported. As a result, only 442 customers received a new 110 R via the then monopoly dealer Mototechna in Czechoslovakia, but around 2,600 abroad. The price for a new car was 78,000 crowns – about 40 monthly salaries of an average worker. In 1973, 90 percent of the approximately 6,000 units built went to export countries, for which a right-hand drive version had also been available since September 1972. Some new vehicles even went to Kuwait, Nicaragua and New Zealand. In the final production year 1980, Škoda concentrated exclusively on Spain an Yugoslavia.
Basis for many racing cars
Behind the rear axle of the Škoda 110 R was a 1.1-liter inline four-cylinder engine with aluminium crankcase and cylinder housing, dual carburetors and an output of 38 kW/52 hp. This power met a kerb weight of only 880 kilograms and was transmitted to the rear wheels via a four-speed gearbox located in front of the rear axle. The sprint to 62 mph took around 19 seconds. Disc brakes at the front and drum brakes at the rear provided the deceleration. In 1973, Škoda changed the front end to four headlights and reduced the size of the wheels from 14 to 13 inches, while headrests on the front seats became standard in the interior. In addition to the 110 R, there were various motorsport offshoots of the rear-engined Coupé for circuit racing and rallying. Škoda itself presented the 180 RS for this purpose in 1974, as well as the 200 RS, which had only been built twice, with a further lowered roof and a five-speed transmission from Porsche. For the cubic capacity class of up to 1.3 liters, the 130 RS followed in 1975. Thank to doors, roof and front hood made of aluminium as well as hood and fenders made of fiberglass-reinforced plastic, it was possible to reduce the kerb weight to 720 kilograms despite the permanently installed rollcage. This was contrasted by up to 130 hp and a topspeed of 220 kph (136.7 mph) in the circuit version. This car achieved a double victory in the 1977 Monte Carlo Rally and won the Manufacturers’ Championship for Škoda in the European Touring Car Championship in 1981.