People’s reactions are something you really cannot experience in your everyday car. When a 1939 ŠKODA SUPERB 3000 drives by, they wave, smile, and give a thumbs up – and it matters not whether they are children, adults, or those old enough to remember these cars when they were still brand new. Some drivers are even more likely to give way to the nearly 80-year-old vehicles than they are to others. Probably every participant in the 1000 Czechoslovak Miles vintage car competition that is the impetus for this article could tell of similar experiences.

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ŠKODA 1101 „TUDOR“, sporty roadster with a folding canvas roof

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ŠKODA SUPERB 3000

ŠKODA SUPERB 3000 was one of the ŠKODA vehicles joining the procession of this old-timer rally. Another was ŠKODA 1101 „TUDOR“, sporty roadster with a folding canvas roof. The SUPERB, on the other hand, is a mighty and luxurious limousine that cruises through the landscape in a dignified manner while providing plenty of space and comfort. The latter is enjoyed mainly by those in the passenger cabin, which is separated from the driver’s compartment by a glass partition. The passengers in the back have a comfortable bench seat at their disposal, as well as plenty of space to stretch their legs, and even a built-in footrest to keep their feet at a comfortable angle. On the wall under the partition are two folding seats. When all seats are occupied, the passengers sit across from one another as in a sitting room.

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The driver’s compartment is a little more Spartan. The leather-upholstered bench seat cannot be adjusted, and the steering wheel on the right-hand side also is in a single, fixed position. That means the driver sits on the opposite side from what most Europeans are accustomed to today. The driver’s cabin has neither air conditioning nor heating. The only heat is provided by the engine, which warms the legs of the driver and possibly of a front seat passenger. In hot weather, it helps a little to open a vent above the windscreen. A simple push of a lever opens the way for air to stream between the windscreen and roof into the cabin. This Simply Clever solution was designed, however, primarily to prevent the windscreen from fogging up in wet weather. Another similarly simple solution is the roll-down radiator cover that can be pulled away in winter using a control wire from the cabin.

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Driver’s compartment

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Josef Petříček
ŠKODA Museum

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Simply Clever, external rear-view mirrors

A visible Simply Clever feature consists in external rear-view mirrors that are attached to the spare tyres by leather straps. The tyres are nestled into slots in the wide mudguards, and the mirrors at their top therefore provide a good view. At the same time, they are good indicators of correct air pressure in the spares. If a tyre gets softer, the mirror starts to slip.

Between the mirrors, spares, and mudguards, the view to the front of the vehicle is across a majestic bonnet with its sculpted logo. In the passenger seat, one perceives primarily the dignity and comfort of the drive. The car is suspended on leaf springs and lever arm shock absorbers. The 16-inch wheels are outfitted with tall and (in today’s eyes) relatively narrow tyres. That means the car is quite sensitive to longitudinal bumps, and especially ruts.

Even a calm and slow drive is a bit of a sporting event in this vehicle that is 5.2 metres long and 1.8 metres wide. “The steering is not power-assisted, so when the car is still or driving very slowly it is really difficult to turn. Although the steering wheel moves more easily at higher speeds, it nevertheless requires applying considerable strength. In addition, the car does not have much of a turning radius, so one has to compensate for the understeering when coming into some turns; when negotiating a U-turn or manoeuvring in smaller spaces, one has to drive back and forward several times,” describes Josef Petříček from the ŠKODA Museum, who was behind the SUPERB 3000’s wheel during the three-day 1000 Czechoslovak Miles competition that followed a Prague – Bratislava – Prague route.

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The car has four forward speeds and one in reverse. The driver must shift using a double clutch technique to keep the engine revving at the right speed. An idiosyncrasy is that there are two neutral positions. This is because first gear, second gear, and reverse are all aligned. To prevent errors when shifting rapidly, there is a neutral position between each of those. Therefore, the driver should never accidentally put the car into reverse instead of a different gear.

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Rear folding seats

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There are no levers or controls beneath the steering wheel.

There are no levers or controls beneath the steering wheel. The headlights are switched on using the starter key, which can be turned to one of three positions, thereby selecting headlight intensity. The high beams are turned on and off using a foot-operated switch next to the pedals. In the centre of the steering wheel there is a controller for electrical direction indicators, the predecessors to today’s turn signals. Here, a red arrow flips out of a sheath in the A-pillar. This particular vehicle is also equipped with additional blinking turn signals to satisfy the safety requirements of travelling today’s roads.

The imposing 1939
ŠKODA SUPERB 3000

limousine is on exhibit at the ŠKODA Museum in Mladá Boleslav. Its participation in the 1000 Czechoslovak Miles 2018 competition means the car is standing in for the ŠKODA 637, which had participated in this race in the pre-war years. From 1934 onward, it had utilized instead of a frame chassis and two fixed axles, a progressive solution with a central backbone chassis, forked in the front for mounting the engine. Together with its independent suspension for each wheel, this design allowed new-generation ŠKODA vehicles, including the SUPERB line, to achieve greater driving comfort even on lower-quality roads. Even with ŠKODA SUPERB 3000’s body large enough to seat six, the car’s six-cylinder engine with 3.1-litre displacement and 85 horsepower (63 kW) can accelerate to speeds of 125 km/h.

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ŠKODA SUPERB 3000

Race
1000 Czechoslovak Miles

Inspired by a similarly named Italian event, the Mille Miglia, the 1000 Czechoslovak Miles race was opened for the first time by the Autoclub of the Czechoslovak Republic in 1933 to “touring cars”, which meant versions directly derived from serial production. Even though the event was declared to be a competition, it was in fact a speed race that took place in normal traffic. Every day and night, the participants were confronted with horse-drawn wagons, trucks, cyclists, and pedestrians. The nearly 1,600-kilometre route tested not only the vehicles’ speed and controllability, but also their ruggedness and reliability.

In the first two years (1933 and 1934), the racers started from Prague and drove through Kolín, Německý Brod (today called Havlíčkův Brod), Jihlava, Velké Meziříčí, Brno, and Břeclav to Bratislava, and back. They drove this route twice in succession, totalling 1,592.8 km. In 1935, the route from Brno to Bratislava led through Pohořelice and Mikulov, and the race’s length was reduced slightly to 1,540 km. Primarily due to the deteriorating international political situation, the race was not held in the following years.

Start of the 1000 Czechoslovak Miles

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