THE first Škoda model ever produced, the Voiturette A, visited Britain for the first time to take part in the recent London to Brighton Veteran Car Run.
The origins of what was to become Škoda Auto began in 1894, when mechanic Václav Laurin and his bookseller pal Václav Klement set up a bicycle repair shop. By 1899 they were manufacturing bikes.
In 1905 they produced their first car, the Laurin & Klement Voiturette A – Laurin & Klement being the original name of the Škoda brand pre-1925 – in the Czech city of Mladá Boleslav, where the Škoda factory remains today.
Around 100 Voiturette A models were produced between 1905 and 1907. The car that took part in the London to Brighton run was built in 1906. It took five years to restore and is housed in the Škoda AutoMuseum, located within the grounds of the main factory in Mladá Boleslav.
The rear-wheel-drive Voiturette A is powered by a four-stroke, two-cylinder SV engine, which produces 7bhp and has a top speed of 25mph. There is no battery, only a low-voltage magneto, and there are no spark plugs, but an originally used ‘breaker’.
Škoda has been picking up accolades galore in recent years and, since its takeover by Volkswagen and subsequent steep climb up market, has won millions of new fans and huge respect within the industry.
The Voiturette A was in Regent Street on view to the public during the LBVCR International Concours event before the rally, which is the world’s longest running motoring event.
A total of 572 vehicles built before 1905 entered the Royal Automobile Club’s 77th rally from Hyde Park to the Brighton seafront, but only 433 made it over the finishing line 60 miles later. Some, in fact, were not even able to cross the start line.
The London to Brighton run was first held in 1896 to celebrate the new 14mph speed limit and has run every year except during the world wars and in 1947 during petrol rationing. It commemorates the passing of the Locomotives on Highways Act, which raised the speed limit for ‘light locomotives’ from 4mph and scrapped the requirement for vehicles to be preceded by a man on foot carrying a red flag.
A spokesman for the rally said: “These cars are all over 100 years old so they’re not the most reliable and many break down along the way.”