In 1936, its production volume and export to over 50 countries around the world made this Mladá Boleslav carmaker the leader in Czechoslovakia. Its key to success lay in vehicles that were ingeniously designed, highly reliable, and affordable to purchase and operate – the ŠKODA Popular and the larger Rapid. These cars held substantial extra value in their excellent drivability, guaranteed by their independent all-wheel suspension, lightweight yet rigid backbone chassis, and extra space for the driver and co-driver’s legs by moving the gearbox to the rear axle.
In the first series of the Popular, delivered without a differential, the rear wheels engaged uniformly, rarely spinning on wet grass, mud, and debris. In 1934, a team of four Populars took on a challenging expedition from Prague to Calcutta via Turkey, Iran, and Afghanistan. The next year, Břetislav J. Procházka overcame a rocky hiking trail to reach the top of Sněžka Mountain!
In February of 1935, Mladá Boleslav technicians set out to the Špindler’s Mill ski area to test out new accessories designed to ease the supply of mountain chalets in the winter. The gendarmerie and finance guard also needed a similar vehicle for patrolling the border along the mountain ridges, since up to that point they had been forced to rely on their own skis or slow horse-drawn sleighs.
Metal skis were attached to the steered front wheels of the Popular, while the rear drive wheels were fitted with chains. The tests showed that the skis needed to be welded instead of riveted, had to be about 2 cm narrower than the front tracks, and the skis should be made of waxed ash wood to prevent snow from sticking. Driving in first gear allowed for the twenty-horsepower engine torque to be put to full use, and ŠKODA’s ingenious new design could now tow several skiers behind it. Modified with the ‘Simply Clever’ philosophy in mind, it actually substituted for the ski lifts, which back then were still in little use.