The development of a two-seat open racing car with the internal designation 968 began in 1956. At the end of that year, the prototype ŠKODA 1100 OHC was presented to the world. It was built on a chassis based on a welded frame of thin-walled tubes and designed for endurance circuit races.
This red beauty was 3.88 metres long, 1.43 metres wide, 0.96 metres high and had a wheelbase of 2.2 metres. Because of its very light fiberglass body, the entire car weighed just 550 kilograms.
At the car’s heart was a straight-four engine with 1,089 cm3 displacement and two overhead camshafts. It had an output of 92 horsepower at 7,700 rpm but it could rev up to 8,500 revolutions per minute. To produce 85 horsepower per litre of displacement was admirable at its time. It used high-octane aviation gasoline for fuel. The engine was in the front, whereas the clutch, five-speed transmission, and final drive were concentrated in the rear, forming a single assembly unit.
Its low weight, the low aerodynamic resistance of the elegant body, and the high-performance engine gave the car excellent acceleration and a maximum speed of up to 200 kilometres per hour. The car’s ideal weight distribution contributed to its greatly advantageous driving characteristics. With a 75-kilogram driver, the weight distribution ratio was 49.7 to 50.3 percent to the benefit of the driven rear axle.
Contributing importantly to the driving characteristics, too, was the independent wheel suspension. While there was a trapezoidal-link axle at the front, the rear axle used triangular semi-trailing arm suspension. The drivers praised the accurate and quick steering as well as the removable three-spoke steering wheel, which facilitated getting into the driver’s seat. In the late 1950s, the advanced elements also included suspension of the 15-inch wire-spoked wheels with torsion bars.
The first public demonstration of the new car ended in a racetrack victory. Miroslav Fousek, an experienced factory driver, drove the ŠKODA 1100 OHC to victory at the Mladá Boleslav city circuit in June 1958. Europe’s complicated political situation at the turn of the 1950s and 1960s destined the car primarily to remain on circuits in socialist countries.
Coupé with a hope for resurrection
At the end of 1957, two open prototypes with light fibreglass bodies were built. In 1959, the designers in Mladá Boleslav built two more 1100 OHC Coupé vehicles but with enclosed aluminium bodies. The engineers managed to maintain the excellent driving characteristics while keep the total weight to 618 kilograms.
In later years, both coupés suffered ruinous damage in crashes during normal road traffic. Today, the experts from the ŠKODA Museum’s restoration workshop are trying to bring one of these beautiful cars back to life, using the preserved chassis and engine of the original prototype.
One of the two ŠKODA 1100 OHC prototypes is owned by a British ŠKODA importer. ŠKODA UK uses it mainly for various events in the United Kingdom. The second one is a jewel at the ŠKODA Museum in Mladá Boleslav and participates in old-timer gatherings in the Czech Republic and abroad.