ŠKODA 1100 OHC (1957): The beautiful dream of Le Mans

› The ŠKODA 1100 OHC racing car is considered a milestone in the 120-year motorsport history of the car manufacturer from Mladá Boleslav
› Aerodynamic shape, lightweight construction, 92 hp and 200 km/h top speed testify to the expertise of ŠKODA AUTO’s designers
› One of the two surviving examples of the ŠKODA 1100 OHC with open bodywork is now part of the collection at the ŠKODA Museum

Mladá Boleslav, 22 July 2021 – The construction of the ŠKODA 1100 OHC racing car entered its final phase at the end of 1957. Designated within the company as 968, the vehicle was originally intended for long circuit races. Initially, two open-bodied vehicles were built, followed by two coupés in 1959. The open-top, red-painted racing car is now part of the collection at the ŠKODA Museum in Mladá Boleslav.

In addition to the full selection of images accompanying this press release, the 32-page brochure and a comprehensive collection of articles and features on various topics from 120 years of ŠKODA Motorsport can be found on the ŠKODA Storyboard.

Development of the two-seater sports car began in the spring of 1956 with one clear objective – the racer was to take up where the first and only ŠKODA works car had left off in the prestigious 24-hour race at Le Mans (1950). The model was based on a lattice frame made of thin-walled steel tubes welded together. This distinguished it from its predecessors, the ŠKODA SPORT and SUPERSPORT, which used a modified version of the robust chassis from the ŠKODA 1101 production model. To achieve the best possible handling, the load was optimally distributed over both axles. The clutch, five-speed gearbox and transfer case were installed in the rear, where they formed a cohesive assembly unit.

The drivetrain of the ŠKODA 1100 OHC was a longitudinally-mounted four-cylinder in-line engine with double ignition and two camshafts located in the cylinder head. From a displacement of 1,089 cm3, it generated an impressive output for the time of 68 kW (92 hp) at 7,700 rpm (maximum speed was at 8,500 rpm), which corresponded to a litre capacity of just under 63 kW (85 hp). Originally, the engine ran on high-octane aviation fuel, which was fed into two twin carburettors made by the Czechoslovakian brand Jikov and later by the Italian manufacturer WEBER.

The independent wheel suspension also played an important role; while a trapezoidal wishbone axle was fitted at the front, the rear wheels, spaced 2,200 mm apart, were mounted on a swing axle with trailing arms. The steering, which was as precise as it was direct, was controlled by a three-spoke steering wheel that could be removed to make it easier to get into the car. Another progressive element for the late 1950s was the torsion bar suspension of the 15-inch spoke wheels manufactured by Borrani.

Thanks to the use of glass fibre-reinforced plastic (GRP), the 3,880 mm long, 1,430 mm wide and 964 mm tall racing car weighed just 583 kilograms. This enabled the ŠKODA 1100 OHC to achieve competitive acceleration rates and a top speed of between 190 and 200 km/h, depending on the gear ratio. The low air resistance of the body created by designer Jaroslav Kindl was also a contributing factor.

The combination of practicality and elegance was reflected in the first model variant’s two flip-up headlights, which soon had to be replaced by a more practical solution suitable for racing; the second model featured two fixed headlights mounted under aerodynamic glass covers.

The ŠKODA 1100 OHC clinched an immediate victory at its public premiere; on the municipal circuit in Mladá Boleslav, the experienced works driver Miroslav Fousek won the race at the end of June 1958. Racing drivers Václav Bobek Sen., Václav Čížkovský, Josef Vidner and Jaroslav Bobek also sat behind the wheel in subsequent years. In addition to motorsport events at home, ŠKODA drivers also chalked up successes abroad despite the ŠKODA 1100 OHC only being able to compete in Communist countries due to the difficult political situation at the end of the 1950s and 60s. The plans to take part in the 24 Hours of Le Mans did not come to fruition.

The two vehicles with open GRP bodies, which had been produced at the end of 1957 and the beginning of 1958, were followed in 1959 by two more spacious coupé variants with closed bodies made of sheet aluminium. Nevertheless, the engineers managed to keep the coupés’ weight to only 555 kilograms while maintaining the same top speed.

Both closed ŠKODA 1100 OHCs were destroyed in accidents during private use. However, experts from the ŠKODA Museum’s restoration workshop are currently working on rebuilding one ŠKODA 1100 OHC coupé using surviving components including the frame, chassis and engine.

The open-top versions of the racing car are still intact. The model from the ŠKODA Museum regularly takes part in classic car events at home and abroad. The second vehicle is owned by ŠKODA UK and is used for promotional purposes, primarily in the UK.

Related Stories Based on tags: 1100 OHC, 120 years of ŠKODA Motorsport, 1956-1965, 2021, motorsport - history, museum