Czechoslovakia once had an illustrious and enviable reputation for automotive engineering and construction. As in most industries, the nation's communist takeover snuffed that out, leaving cars like today's Nice Price or Crack Pipe Škoda 120 to do the country proud. Is this rare and rusty rear-enginer also priced for pride of ownership?
A Škoda isn't a refreshing beverage that teens behind the former Iron Curtain drank as a show of adolescent solidarity. Instead it's an auto manufacturer presently owned by Volkswagen and once part of the largest industrial enterprise in all of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. That Eastern European block eventually became Czechoslovakia, and in 1924 Škoda - then a maker of heavy armament and public transportation - acquired the Laurin-Klement car manufacturer which was renamed Škoda Auto.
Today the commies are pretty much all gone and Škoda is a holding not of the Soviet Empire but that of Volkswagen. Modern Škodas are imbued with all the VW-y goodness possible while still maintaining its inherent Czech-ness. But that wasn't always the case, and this 1987 120 GLS hails from an era before the Iron Curtain was replaced by the Velvet Revolution. Mmmmm, velvet.
The 120 is an odd amalgamation of modern and antiquated technologies. Its engine is an wet-liner aluminum block displacing 1.2-litres. Atop that was bolted a cast iron head. The water cooled mill was good for a claimed 54-ponies and put power forward through a 5-speed gearbox in the GLS, to which was mounted a swing axle arrangement, just like that of the Corvair, the car that fat capitalist swine built to kill themselves in. Oops, sorry comrade. Argh, dammit!
The 120 wasn't Škoda's first choice for their 1970s replacement for the Renault Dauphine-based 100. The company initially wanted to produce a modern front-engine/front wheel drive compact of the same dimensions, but as the communists felt its quality and capability overshadowed those of all other Eastern Bloc products, it was naturally crushed as decadent and bourgeois. Despite that communist edict at mediocrity, the 105/120 proved to not long serving but a competitive contender in rallying, winning its class year after year.
This one won't be winning any races anytime soon, but its price puts it squarely in contention for LeMons. The seller claims the car blew its head gasket sometime a couple of decades ago, and hasn't run since. Blown head gaskets are a common issue with the 120 as the convoluted cooling system can cause airlock and overheating. The seller says he has the gasket to fit between aluminum block and iron head, but lacks the will to put it all together.
Another issue with this car is the rust which not only has eaten at least one of the rockers like it was a Kit Kat bar, but has also replaced the maroon paint with a patina of abject resignation. The rest of the car looks surprisingly intact, and in fact the headliner seems to have outlasted its communist overlords. Sure it all needs a good cleaning to remove the capitalist detritus, but overall it doesn't look like anything too onerous to fix.
Former commie cars seem to have a particular attraction here in America - and the Škoda is of particular interest as it is a product of a company that you get the feeling never really bought into the whole socialist manifesto. This one, sporting side markers and a clear Oklahoma title is a rare opportunity to turn back the clock - which being Eastern Bloc made is probably only accurate twice a day - and see what it may have been like to be on the other side of the curtain.
To do so, you'd have to come up with the $450 asking price, and likely have access to a flat bed and an industrial sized container of POR. Parts for the Škoda may have been problematic back in the nineties when it was originally allowed to go fallow, but with the Internet today, are there really any cars - no matter how obscure - for which parts aren't just a few clicks away?
You're a couple of clicks into this NPOCP, and now it's time to do one more. You need to take a good look at this Škoda and its condition and determine if you think that $450 price is worth writing the Czech.
H/T to Lane for the hookup!
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