125 YEARS OF ŠKODA: clever ideas have a long tradition

125 YEARS OF ŠKODA: clever ideas have a long tradition

Clever and practical, but often very simple solutions have been making life easier for ŠKODA owners since day one. Find out more about the surprising history of Simply Clever.

24. 11. 2020 125 years Škoda

An ice scraper tucked away in the fuel tank cap, an umbrella inside the car door, removable lamps in the luggage space, a funnel integrated into the cap of the windscreen fluid tank – everybody knows about today’s Simply Clever features in ŠKODA cars.

But it all started a long time ago. At the very beginning of ŠKODA’s history, similar smart yet seemingly simple features were the result of painstaking work by developers. Rigorous testing made sure that the innovations satisfied uncompromising safety demands.


Engine in the frame of an L&K motorcycle

Václav Laurin, co-founder of the firm and constructor of its first bicycles, motorcycles and automobiles, came up with a number of improvements we wouldn’t hesitate to call Simply Clever today. At the end of the 19th century, for example, he developed bearings with excellent damp resistance, so riders of SLAVIA bicycles made in Mladá Boleslav didn’t need to get out the grease when it started to rain. The first LAURIN & KLEMENT motorcycle, unveiled on 18 November 1899, brought an even more trailblazing innovation. Its engine was mounted on the lower part of the frame – not in the impractical position above the front wheel found on earlier French motorbikes. This made the motorcycle much easier to handle and much more stable. What’s more, the rider was protected against oil spray and ran less of a risk of burning himself on the engine. So it was Czech technician Václav Laurin we have to thank for the motorcycle design we take for granted today.   

Start of the 20th century

Farmers’ universal helper

Motor vehicles were luxury items at the start of the 20th century. “Will buying a car be worth it?” hesitant customers wondered. They were swayed by the Czech carmaker’s quality, motor sports successes and value for money, and that included ingenious solutions that made its motorcycles, automobiles and special vehicles even more practical. One huge bonus for farmers, for example, was the possibility of using LAURIN & KLEMENT motorcycles to power machinery like straw-cutters, circular saws and irrigation pumps. They’d leave their L&K motorbike on its stand with its rear wheel spinning freely, and hook it up to a piece of machinery using a long leather strap. Bigger farming machinery could be powered by the L&K Excelsior motor plough with the help of a belt pulley mounted in front of the radiator, like in the photograph of a harvest scene in 1916.


Two in one

In 1925 a strong partner, the Pilsen-based giant ŠKODA, took control of LAURIN & KLEMENT, but that was not the only clever combination of the time. The basic model in the company’s wide range at the time was the LAURIN & KLEMENT ŠKODA 100/110. This comfortable automobile may have offered enough room for large families, but few could afford it. And in those days there was little time for weekend excursions, because most people worked on Saturdays as well. But an ingenious two-in-one body solution made it possible to use the vehicle seven days a week. The front of the car was fixed as far as the front seats, but after loosening a few screws you could take off the rear part and easily replace it with a flat-bed attachment offering 1750 x 1580 x 400 mm of load space. All of a sudden, traders had a sturdy goods vehicle that could carry loads of up to 500 kg and converted into a six-seater family car on Sundays. The idea might have been inspired by service centres that boasted of being able to convert a car from a winter to a summer vehicle in just seven minutes. Incidentally, in Czech estate cars are called “kombi”, which comes from the term “combined body” that was used in those days to mean two vehicles in one: a passenger vehicle and a service/goods vehicle.   


Instead of a ski lift

Skiers arriving at the Špindlerův Mlýn resort in the Krkonoše mountains in North Bohemia in 1935 couldn’t believe their eyes: a ŠKODA POPULAR was ploughing through deep snow drifts! In winter the car was used to deliver supplies to remote chalets, while police and customs officials used it for patrols in the mountains. This was all made possible by one clever accessory. Special metal skis were attached to the POPULAR’s front wheels, while chains on the rear tyres that were powered by the four-cylinder one-litre engine hugely increased the car’s grip. Testing had shown that the skis had to be welded and not riveted on and had to be around 2 cm narrower at the back than at the front. The ideal skid surface material was waxed ash wood, which stopped snow from sticking. The driver kept the car in first gear so that he could make full use of the 20 horsepower engine’s torque. The modified POPULAR could pull several skiers holding onto a rope behind it, which was very welcome in those days when ski lifts were rare.


Mind your head

In its 125-year history ŠKODA has developed several cars tailored to the needs of local markets. One of these is the Skopak (Skoda-Pakistan) made in Karachi in 1970 and 1971. The vehicle was a pick-up based on the ŠKODA OCTAVIA model. But its design was modular, allowing various practical modifications. What’s more, the Skopak had a clever windscreen: it could be folded down to reduce the vehicle's clearance to 1100 mm. That made it easier to drive under obstacles like fallen trees across tracks through ravines. The cheapest two-seater version of the Skopak was a pick-up that had no doors: just straps preventing the occupants from falling out on corners or bumpy roads. This seemingly primitive alternative to car doors was welcomed by the armed forces, because the vehicle’s occupants could get out and deploy faster.


The FELICIA Fun’s party trick 

A car designed for free-time adventures, the FELICIA Fun, developed in 1996, was based on the ŠKODA FELICIA PICKUP. The body was given a “holiday” yellow paint job. Besides head-turning plastic mouldings, the car abounded with ingenious solutions. One of these was its “party trick”. This was the rear wall of the originally two-seater cabin that could be slid out, so two more seats to could be added. These seats were exposed to the sun and wind, because the rear of the vehicle was an uncovered flat-bed. Extra safety was provided by a sturdy roll bar above the occupants’ heads, while an effective wind blocker like we see in modern cabriolets made the experience less turbulent. Four thousand of these eye-catching FELICIA modifications were made (compared to 1.4 million standard FELICIA cars). Today they are a good investment for collectors.


SUPERB II “sedan/liftback”

In 1996, the Czech carmaker expanded its range to include a lower mid-range model with a name revived from the past: OCTAVIA. The hatchbacks, estates and pick-ups were joined by another practical body design with a sloping rear and easy access to a large luggage compartment: the liftback. But in the upper ranges of the car market, customers were used to the sedan design with a stepped rear. This classic body gives cars a more dignified air, but its weakness is a smaller luggage hatch. In spring 2008 ŠKODA launched the second generation of the modern SUPERB, which combined the advantages of sedans and liftbacks. The Czech manufacturer’s flagship car featured the unique TwinDoor design. If you opened just the rear part of the boot lid, the opening was easily large enough for standard articles like shopping bags. What’s more, this hatch could be opened faster and with less effort. The rear windscreen and the parcel shelf remained in place, so the heads of passengers in the back were not exposed to cold or hot air from outside. But the entire boot lid that stretched to the roof could be raised simply by pressing another switch above the number plate. Even when the SUPERB had its full complement of five occupants, there was still 565 litres left for luggage.


Simply Clever electric car

The latest ŠKODA model, the electric ENYAQ iV SUV, can hardly be expected not to include a few Simply Clever features. In fact, the ENYAQ iV uses a total of 36 existing Simply Clever solutions and adds its own, which are often linked to the car’s very essence – its electric powertrain. That’s why the much-loved ice scraper has moved from the fuel tank cap to a compartment in the tailgate. Several innovative features can be found in the boot, such as a simple cable cleaner that makes it easier to clean the cable after charging. In the winter months a special sleeve covering the charging connector and attached cable will come in useful, because it prevents water from causing the cable to freeze to the connector while charging. What’s more, it keeps the connector clean. In addition, the ENYAQ iV can be fitted with a special cable bag that can be stored in a luggage compartment recess behind the mudguard. The bag is easy to wash, so the driver doesn’t have to worry about handling a dirty cable.

Simply Clever in the 21st century

ŠKODA unveiled the Simply Clever concept in 2003. Since then, over 60 of these innovative solutions have made life easier for the company’s customers. The ice and snow scraper comes in handy in winter. You know what it’s like when you have to search the entire car to find where your scraper has got to. Thanks to ŠKODA developers, you know it’s always to hand in an easily accessible place: inside the fuel tank cap, or in the tailgate in the new ŠKODA ENYAQ iV SUV. And when snow turns to rain, ŠKODA drivers know there's an umbrella tucked away inside the car door. It wouldn’t be great if the umbrella then stayed wet after use, so the designers came up with an integrated drainage solution. First featured in the SCALA model in 2018, the funnel integrated into the cap of the windscreen fluid tank is one of the most recent Simply Clever ideas. This feature is also available for older models from ŠKODA Genuine Accessories. The funnel’s technical design and aesthetic look were a long time in the making.