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180914-50-years-of-the-ŠKODA-1203-Reliable-all-round-van-with-cult-status

180914-50-years-of-the-ŠKODA-1203-Reliable-all-round-van-with-cult-status

PRESS RELEASE
Page 1 of 3

ŠKODA Media Services
media@skoda-auto.cz
50 years of the ŠKODA 1203: Reliable all-round van
with cult status

› The ŠKODA 1203 with front cab-over body was introduced half a century ago
› Compact van was manufactured at the Czech plant in Vrchlabí and at Trnava in Slovakia
› Independently designed packhorse is deeply embedded in homeland pop culture thanks
to numerous appearances in popular Czechoslovak films and TV series

Mladá Boleslav, 14 September 2018 – The ŠKODA 1203, the most widely used Czechoslovak
commercial vehicle of the 20th century, is celebrating its 50th birthday. The van, which was
designed as a forward-control pickup, premiered on 14 September 1968 at an engineering
fair in Brno. The ŠKODA 1203 was omnipresent in its day and literally accompanied Czechs
and Slovaks from cradle to grave – because ambulance and hearse versions were available,
as well as countless other variants including microbuses, delivery vans and trucks,
workshop vehicles and many more.

The history of the ŠKODA 1203 reflects many peculiarities of the centrally controlled planned
economy in post-war Czechoslovakia. The development of a light commercial vehicle with an
advanced self-supporting body in a practical one-box design had begun in Vrchlabí in the second
half of the 1950s – but production was not launched until 1968. The ŠKODA 1203 celebrated its
premiere on Saturday, September 14 1968 at the International Engineering Fair in Brno. However,
the debut was overshadowed by the occupation of Czechoslovakia by the armies of five Warsaw
Pact countries who invaded on 21 August 1968 in response to the ‘Prague Spring’ freedom
movement. Nevertheless, the ŠKODA 1203 was the only newcomer to the domestic automotive
industry to cause a sensation – and was to have a fascinating career ahead.

Pick-up truck in one-box design
The light commercial vehicles ŠKODA 1201 and 1202 were built at the Vrchlabí plant in the late
1950s. However, they were based on passenger car models and therefore only offered limited
loading space and payload. Their central tube frame was also considered outdated. So, in the
spring of 1956, engineers started developing a modern pickup truck. From the beginning, they
followed a ‘cab-over’ body concept where the engine is placed at the height of the front seats. This
means the transporter had no protruding engine compartment, which is nowadays referred to as a
‘one-box design’. This concept enabled optimal use of the enclosed space. The body of the ŠKODA
1203 was self-supporting, without the frame that had previously been commonplace. Since as
many identical parts as possible needed to be used across the model range, the ŠKODA 1203
utilized numerous proven components from other ŠKODA models. The 1,221 cc OHV four-cylinder
engine with an output of 49 hp (39 kW) was derived from the 1202. The cockpit instruments and
taillights, on the other hand, unmistakably came from the ŠKODA 1000 MB. The high demand for
the popular notchback model 1000 MB at home and abroad meant that from the middle of 1967,
engine construction for the 1202 and the coming 1203 was successively relocated from ŠKODA’s
main plant in Mladá Boleslav to a company called Kovosmalt in Trnava, Slovakia, which was later
renamed Trnavské automobilové závody (Trnava Automobile Factory).

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PRESS RELEASE
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ŠKODA Media Services
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From ambulance to workshop vehicle
The series production of the ŠKODA 1203 started on November 20 1968, at the comprehensively
modernized Vrchlabí factory, alongside its predecessor – the 1202, which continued to be produced
until 1973. Initially, the ŠKODA 1203 was manufactured exclusively as a delivery van. With
compact exterior dimensions of 4,520 mm in length, 1,800 width and 1,900 mm height, it offered 5.2
m3 of cargo space. The maximum payload of a respectable 950 kilograms was almost equal to its
unladen weight of 1,170 kilograms. The maximum speed was 90 km/h; its consumption – then
measured at a steady 60 km/h – was 11 liters of petrol per 100 kilometers. A sheet metal wall with a
window separated the two-seater cab from the loading area. A wide side-sliding door on the right
side and the horizontally split tailgate gave a generous and flexible access to the cargo space.

By 31 December, 192 of these delivery vans had been produced – plus three microbuses with all-
round glazing. Later, ŠKODA expanded the range to include numerous derivatives – from platform
trucks, workshop vehicles and hearses to the ambulances that were a common sight on
Czechoslovak roads.

The ŠKODA 1203 was sold exclusively to the ‘communist sector’, i.e. state-owned enterprises or
cooperatives. Private customers had to be patient until these vehicles were retired to be sold on as
used vehicles. The reason for this was not only the lack of them, but mainly due to their nature as
commercial vehicles; private industry was undesirable in communist Czechoslovakia.

Monopoly position in the Czechoslovak commercial vehicle market
The ŠKODA 1203 was not only homologated for the domestic market and other Eastern bloc
countries, it was also sold on the French and Belgian markets as well as further afield in exotic
locations such as Egypt. Two extended custom-built versions were used in numerous international
settings from 1971 onwards, serving, for example, as racing transporters for the ŠKODA 100 L,
which started in the European Touring Car Championship.

The production of the ŠKODA 1203 ended at the Vrchlabí plant in 1981 after 69,727 vehicles had
been built. Production of the all-rounder continued with many technical optimizations at the car
factories in Trnava, Slovakia, until the second half of the 1990s.

In its homeland, the 1203 is considered to be an icon of automotive and popular culture – not only
for the fact that it almost monopolized the commercial-vehicle sector for almost a quarter of a
century; it was immortalized thanks to its numerous appearances in Czechoslovak film and
television productions.

For more information:
Vítězslav Kodym
Head of Sponsorship and Classic
Communication
vitezslav.kodym@skoda-auto.cz
T +420 326 8 11784

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mailto:vitezslav.kodym@skoda-auto.cz
PRESS RELEASE
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ŠKODA Media Services
media@skoda-auto.cz

Media image:

50 years of the ŠKODA 1203: Reliable all-round van
with cult status
The ŠKODA 1203 was by far the most widely used light
commercial vehicle of the 20th century in
Czechoslovakia. In Vrchlabí alone, a total of 69,727
vehicles were built between 1968 and 1981. The self-
supporting cab-over body was also available as a
microbus version.

Download Source: ŠKODA AUTO

ŠKODA AUTO
› was founded during the pioneering days of the automobile in 1895, making it one of the longest-established
automobile companies in the world.
› currently offers its customers eight passenger-car series: the CITIGO, FABIA, RAPID, OCTAVIA, KAROQ, KODIAQ,
as well as the KAMIQ (in China) and the SUPERB.
› delivered more than 1.2 million vehicles to customers around the world in 2017.
› has belonged to Volkswagen Group since 1991. The Volkswagen Group is one of the most successful vehicle
manufacturers in the world. In association with the Group, ŠKODA AUTO independently develops and manufactures
vehicles, as well as components such as engines and transmissions.
› operates at three locations in the Czech Republic; manufactures in China, Russia, Slovakia, Algeria and India mainly
through Group partnerships, as well as in Ukraine and Kazakhstan with local partners.
› employs over 35,000 people globally and is active in more than 100 markets.
› is pressing ahead with the transformation from a traditional car manufacturer to the ‘Simply Clever company for the
best mobility solutions’ as part of the ŠKODA 2025 Strategy.

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https://cdn.skoda-storyboard.com/2018/09/180914-SKODA-1203-3.jpg
https://cdn.skoda-storyboard.com/2018/09/180914-SKODA-1203-3.jpg
50 years of the ŠKODA 1203: Reliable all-round van with cult status
› The ŠKODA 1203 with front cab-over body was introduced half a century ago
› Compact van was manufactured at the Czech plant in Vrchlabí and at Trnava in Slovakia
› Independently designed packhorse is deeply embedded in homeland pop culture thanks to numerous appearances in popular Czechoslovak films and TV series
› was founded during the pioneering days of the automobile in 1895, making it one of the longest-established automobile companies in the world.
› currently offers its customers eight passenger-car series: the CITIGO, FABIA, RAPID, OCTAVIA, KAROQ, KODIAQ, as well as the KAMIQ (in China) and the SUPERB.
› delivered more than 1.2 million vehicles to customers around the world in 2017.
› has belonged to Volkswagen Group since 1991. The Volkswagen Group is one of the most successful vehicle manufacturers in the world. In association with the Group, ŠKODA AUTO independently develops and manufactures vehicles, as well as components suc…
› operates at three locations in the Czech Republic; manufactures in China, Russia, Slovakia, Algeria and India mainly through Group partnerships, as well as in Ukraine and Kazakhstan with local partners.
› employs over 35,000 people globally and is active in more than 100 markets.
› is pressing ahead with the transformation from a traditional car manufacturer to the ‘Simply Clever company for the best mobility solutions’ as part of the ŠKODA 2025 Strategy.

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Published: 14. 9. 2018

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