The first OCTAVIA COMBI: a huge boot and a comfortable bed

The first OCTAVIA COMBI: a huge boot and a comfortable bed

The OCTAVIA is ŠKODA’s current bestseller. The present-day estate version continues the tradition begun by its predecessor, which started production 60 years ago in the summer of 1961. One amazing feature of the first OCTAVIA COMBI was that it converted into a comfortable bedroom.

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The OCTAVIA COMBI was presented to the public on 11 September 1960 at the International Engineering Fair in Brno. Road testing continued until April 1961, though, with homologation taking place in mid-May. Mass production got underway in July.

Up to 1000 litres of boot space

The first OCTAVIA COMBI prototype, with an attractive two-tone paint job, was completed at the Kvasiny plant in September 1959. The boot door was horizontally split into two sections. The lower section was connected to the base of the boot that had a capacity of up to 690 litres (measured to the ceiling). But the undivided rear seats could be folded down to create an area measuring 1495 x 1355 mm, so two occupants could travel with up to 1050 litres of luggage from floor to ceiling. Despite that, the estate had surprisingly compact exterior dimensions of 4065 x 1600 x 1430 mm.

A very practical, and in today’s terms simply clever, feature of the newcomer from Kvasiny was a separate compartment for the spare wheel, stored under the boot floor and accessed by a separate hinged cover above the bumper. When the OCTAVIA COMBI was modernised in 1969, this feature disappeared and was replaced by horizontally mounted rectangular lamps taken from the new ŠKODA 100/110. That meant the spare could only be accessed after unloading some of the luggage, but the penetration of moisture into the "pocket" for the spare was reduced.    

Separate compartment for a spare tyre

From Norway to Australia

Strong demand abroad, where about two-thirds of estate car production headed, combined with the scarcity of other new cars in this category on the domestic market, led to the decision to continue production in Kvasiny after April 1964. That was when the last OCTAVIA Super with a stepped rear rolled out of the main plant in Mladá Boleslav and the company concentrated its efforts on the launch of the Š 1000/1100 MB series with a rear engine.

ŠKODA OCTAVIA COMBI, 1969 version with the horizontal array of rear lights

However, even the estate that was due for discontinuation was given the care that kept it competitive. By 1966, a record 72% of the estate cars went abroad. In some markets it was offered as a two-seater light commercial vehicle with the second and third pair of side windows blanked out. In addition to the countries bordering Czechoslovakia, in particular East Germany and Hungary, hundreds of OCTAVIA COMBI models were sold to the British Isles and Norway, for example, while dozens more found their way to Australia and Iceland.   

Why the name OCTAVIA?

The ŠKODA OCTAVIA was the culmination of a successful development line with a rigid yet lightweight chassis frame and independent all-wheel suspension. And since the OCTAVIA was the eighth in a series of models built in this way, that was referenced in its name taken from the Latin numeral octo, meaning eight, or octava – eighth. This gave rise to the woman’s name Octāvia in antiquity, which has been used since the Middle Ages in the form Octavia. The ideologically tinged interpretation of the time was that it was a celebration of the eighth model of all types since the nationalisation of the Mladá Boleslav car factory in October 1945, though an alternative explanation refers to its position in the specific development line begun in 1934 with POPULAR model.

Sleeping version at no extra charge 

Another Simply Clever feature was the sleeping interior, which all OCTAVIA COMBI cars offered at no extra charge from 1961 onwards. After moving the driver and front passenger seats fully forward, the backrests could be folded down to an almost horizontal position, so that they were at the same level as the rear seats. The rear backrest could then be removed to serve as a pillow. Beginning with the 1968 model, reclining comfort was further improved by the ability to fold the estate’s rear seatbacks backwards as well as forwards.

The generous interior could be filled with bulky luggage or a sleeping family.

In 1970, the ŠKODA 110 R coupé became the pride of the Kvasiny factory. And the OCTAVIA COMBI had to free up production capacity for it. Before the Christmas holidays in 1971, the last estate car rolled off the line with serial number 50,244. But it stayed inside the factory gates as the property of the Czech carmaker. 

The OCTAVIA COMBI was also a hit in Norway, Australia and Iceland.

After 1971, buyers had to wait another 22 years for a family estate bearing the winged arrow: that was the FORMAN model. The famous OCTAVIA COMBI designation was revived in 1998 with the first generation of the current best-selling model range

The man behind it all: Vladimír Matouš

The man largely responsible for the design of the hugely successful development line of cars with a backbone frame and independent all-wheel suspension was engineer Vladimír Matouš (1896-1963). He retired symbolically in 1959, when the last development stage of the OCTAVIA hit the road. After graduating from the Czech Technical University in Prague, Vladimír Matouš worked on the licensed production of the ŠKODA Hispano Suiza luxury car at the Pilsen plant and was appointed chief designer of passenger cars and light commercial vehicles in Mladá Boleslav in 1928. From 1936 he was deputy director of the company, and after a short post-war break in the service of the Ministry of Industry, he returned to Mladá Boleslav in 1948 as technical director. Before he retired at the age of sixty-three, he ushered in the production of, for example, the ŠKODA 1200 and 1201 and the Š 440, the “Spartak intermediate-stage people’s car” that was later given a facelift and transformed into the OCTAVIA.