The First OCTAVIA Took a Family to the Sea

The First OCTAVIA Took a Family to the Sea

Models Classic Cars

The first cars bearing the ŠKODA OCTAVIA name hit the streets 60 years ago. “From the beginning, the OCTAVIA was a practical and reliable family car, and it has stayed that way to this day,” says Stanislav Melichar, who remembers the original car when it was new, and who owns a beautifully restored example.

11. 11. 2019

This gorgeous white 1961 OCTAVIA, owned by Stanislav Melichar, a doctor of medicine, is admired at many classic car events. Quite recently, the owner and his son took it to the traditional vintage car race, the ŠKODA Classic Tour 2019.

“I call it Bělinka (Whitey) and I’ve owned it for about five years now. During that time, it underwent a ground-up restoration. Me and my son do some work on it every year,” says Mr. Melichar. His son, also named Stanislav, nods in agreement. “Dad always comes with the car to show the family what’s new.”

melichar-stanislav-circleStanislav Melichar
owner of 1961 ŠKODA OCTAVIA

“For me, it’s a return to my childhood first and foremost. It’s a bit of a nostalgia, as our family had a similar car. In 1959, my father bought a new ŠKODA, an interim model which combined the features of the SPARTAK and the OCTAVIA”, Mr. Melichar explains why the vintage OCTAVIA drew him so much that he “had” to buy one. The owner of the white classic was nine when his dad bought his car, but he has vivid memories of it: “I clearly remember my father teaching me to drive on rural lanes,” he reminisces.

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Many more ŠKODA cars passed through the Melichar family, and Mr. Melichar himself later owned several cars by the domestic brand, including six modern OCTAVIAs of the first and second generation. “As our children are adult now, a third generation of FABIA is quite enough for me,” he says, explaining why he switched to a smaller car. Still, his wealth of experience with many ŠKODA cars, both new and old, he can judge the classic OCTAVIA in context.

Practical and reliable

“When I recall the olden days with the first ŠKODA OCTAVIA as a family car, I remember how easy it was to pack the whole family into it and drive to Bulgaria and back without any troubles,” says Mr. Melichar, to demonstrate that the original OCTAVIA was a robust car with a surprising amount of room for passengers. He believes that these are the values the OCTAVIA has kept to this day.

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Its biggest advantage? According to Mr. Melichar, it’s the sturdy and, in his words, “indestructible” engine. “It’s always ready for a drive, and it’s easy to repair just about anywhere,” says the classic car owner. He also praises the first OCTAVIA’s attractive design, durable body parts, predictable handling and comfortable ride. “Those were always the positive things about the OCTAVIA”, he adds.

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It its era, the original OCTAVIA was also quite easy to handle, although this is one of the areas that are relative by today’s standard. Stanislav Melichar admits that the vintage OCTAVIA does require quite a different approach to driving than modern cars. “The car without power steering or brakes doesn’t handle as well as is usual today. For example, the brakes are reliable, but you have to drive carefully and not overload them. You have to think in advance,” the owner explains about driving a 1961 car. It’s similar with the gearbox. If it’s in good condition and the driver is patient and careful, it shifts smoothly, although it may not seem so when switching from a modern car.

A valuable classic

In spite of its specifications, the Melichars, both father and son, clock up about five thousand kilometres in their OCTAVIA every year. Besides several classic car rallies, they mainly take pleasure drives. “We drive the car throughout the summer; when the weather is nice, it calls for a drive,” smiles Stanislav Melichar Jr., and it’s obvious that the car is a sort of family bond.

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According to Mr. Melichar, the first OCTAVIA was a huge step up from the previous ŠKODA 440. “I’m glad that I can present it as a significant leap forward in the motorisation of 1960’s Czechoslovakia. OCTAVIA is one of the pillars of the ŠKODA traditions and advancements,” remarks Dr. Melichar.

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Today, the original OCTAVIA is a sought-after collector’s piece. The prices of well-preserved examples, like the one Mr. Melichar owns, are getting close to the prices of the new cars of the same name. Besides the price, the historic and modern OCTAVIA have another thing in common – they have a wide appeal for families. “I didn’t care about the price that much, that was my father’s business. I know that there were waiting lists in Mototechna car dealerships, but since we went through four examples, I can conclude that my father, a college teacher of history, could afford such a car,” says Mr. Melichar, describing the affordability of the OCTAVIA during his childhood.

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Being happy with his classic OCTAVIA, he isn’t considering buying the new one. “Still, I’m very excited for the new OCTAVIA’s premiere,” Dr. Melichar says. “According to the information available before the launch, I think it will be another qualitative leap in this model’s development and I’m looking forward to getting to know it,” concludes Mr Melichar.

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