Look at this little guy. He’s a special little guy, and there isn’t another little guy in the world like him. Back in 1959 Skoda produced a little 1100cc racing car with overhead cams and a roof called, creatively, the 1100 OHC Coupe. At the time it was literal state of the art technology, an advanced fiberglass endurance race car that kicks all kinds of ass and punches above its weight class. Of course two were built in period, but only one remains. This one is freshly restored, thanks to the factory engineers at Skoda.
The project, known internally as code 968, began in 1956 with a pair of open top roadsters. Using production Skoda parts to build the race cars, the engineers knew it would stand the rigors of endurance racing. The cars were knocked together lickety split, and off they went to the battlefield. The engine was cribbed largely from the 440 Spartak, but with a higher compression head and OHC tech, plus a larger rack of carburetors, the 110 OHC produced a whopping 92 horsepower [up from 40!] and made a quite nice racing engine. Pair that with a limited slip differential and a five-speed gearbox, and you’ve got a decent outfit.
With a long nose and the engine sat well back behind the front axle, the 110 OHC was quite advanced for the 1950s. The chassis was assembled from thin-wall tubes forming a truss frame, with a metal and glassfiber body built around it. The front suspension was double wishbone in a time when such a thing was extremely advanced F1 shit. Out back the inboard brake rear axle (with integrated transmission) was suspended with tried and true multi-link trailing arms. All told, the whole thing weighed just 1223 pounds!
The restoration was an ambitious project for Skoda, as the car had been pretty beat up in its life as a private racing car after it left the factory’s care in 1966. This one had been disassembled along the way, and Skoda needed to purchase different bits of it from different sellers around the world. The body was damaged beyond repair, so lots of pieces needed to be fabricated from scratch to bring the car up to snuff. The engine had been on display at a vocational school, and the one-of-a-kind transaxle was part of the collection at the National Technical Museum in Prague. The Skoda Museum acquired the frame, which had been cut into three segments, along with the complete front axle and some other original parts from a private collector in 2014.
The chassis was rebuilt in 2015, and the plan was to display it bare in the museum alongside the freshly restored open 1100 OHC. The museum later decided to return the full car to its former glory, restoring it to working as-raced condition.
Thankfully the car wasn’t all one-off components. Skoda was able to pull lots of parts off the shelf to make this project complete. The door handles, for example, are from a Skoda 1200 Sedan, while switchgear was used in the Octavia. The three spoke steering wheel came directly from the Skoda Popular, one of the company’s historically best selling models.
It’s nice to see Skoda working so hard to preserve its history. It doesn’t hurt that the 1100 OHC Coupe is pretty damn cute. I’d love to drive this thing, you know, assuming I would actually be able to climb aboard. It looks pretty small.