Photo stories: the Tudor conquers Alpine passes

Photo stories: the Tudor conquers Alpine passes

ŠKODA WORLD HERITAGE

120 years of ŠKODA Motorsport success is brought to life by another colourised photograph. This one is from 1950, when the ŠKODA 1101 “Tudor” took centre stage on the Swiss Interlaken Rally.

29. 10. 2021

The ŠKODA 1101 Tudor was a symbol of post-war renewal. The first of the new cars rolled out of the Mladá Boleslav plant on 6 May 1946. At first glance, it differed from the 1940 POPULAR 1101 by its modern body design. The basis of the wide Š 1101 range was a two-door enclosed car body - and “two-door” gave rise to the nickname Tudor.

Minimally modified ŠKODA 1101s were soon excelling at many racing events, including the steep climbs and descents and hairpin bends of mountain courses. Such as the 13th Interlaken Rally, where this photo comes from. By the way, the paint colour of the bodywork is not the imagination of a computer graphics artist: it is based on a period brochure and a Tudor from the collections of the ŠKODA Museum in Mladá Boleslav.  

Slide and compare Slide and compare

September 1950: a ŠKODA 1101 Tudor slaloms between hay bales at Interlaken airfield.

Unlike earlier iterations of this Alpine event, this time the route of the Interlaken Rally led through less rugged mountain terrain in Switzerland. The event required participants to drive at least 2,200 km to the starting point in Lausanne. Starting from Prague on 4 September, for example, the route to Lausanne passed through Nuremberg, Darmstadt, Utrecht, The Hague, Brussels and Paris. Valuable points accumulated along the way were reflected in the overall ranking, of course. 

The actual International Interlaken Rally started with a 165 km “regularity rally” to Interlaken. And at the local airport, a slalom between about thirty straw bale gates awaited the participants. This is where our photo comes from. The 350 kilometre Alpine Rally proper started on Monday 11 September 1950. It took the drivers through the Swiss passes of Grimsel, Oberalp, Furka, Gotthard and Susten, with the checkpoints placed, according to the press of the time, “very artfully”.  

The ŠKODA 1101 Tudor was made from 1946 to 1951 and came in a wide range of body modifications: Tudor, sedan, cabriolet, roadster, van and even ambulance.

The joy at the Tudors’ performance was tempered by a system of handicaps set by the organisers according to engine displacement. The originally well-intentioned attempt to favour cars with smaller engines was taken to absurd lengths and, after strong criticism, was again scaled back by the rally organisers in the following year, 1951. The system disproportionately favoured mainly French 750cc cars. These won six of the seven trophies in the overall standings, which would otherwise have been taken by crews of cars with larger engines - the four-cylinder 1089cc ŠKODAs, for example. 

Nevertheless, the ŠKODAs finished 8th, 10th and 11th in the overall standings, and 2nd place among the teams was also an excellent result. The Tudors were piloted on the rugged route by factory drivers Václav Bobek, Jaroslav Netušil and Miroslav Fousek, whose creativity earned him the nickname Nobel at the factory.

On the production line, the backbone frame and independent suspension of all wheels and the body were mounted on the robust chassis.

The ŠKODA 1101/1102 also recorded a number of other significant achievements in the field of motorsport. In the 24-hour race held on 11 July 1948 at Spa, Belgium, for example, three Tudors achieved an impressive victory in their class. Despite prolonged heavy rain, they managed to cross the finish line in close pursuit after covering 1,972 km. Only about half of the participants completed the demanding 24-hour race, with the ŠKODA team alone finishing without penalty points. The Czech brand’s standing in South America was boosted in 1948 by the victory of a Uruguayan architect named Arturo Porro in the Montevideo-Melo-Montevideo race. Borrat Fabini, the brand’s representative, came in second place with his Tudor, building on his many pre-war successes with ŠKODA POPULAR cars.

03-ilustracne_jizni_amerika_1948_11_cervenec_var02-copyJust two years later the ŠKODA 1101 Tudor was achieving motorsports success, including architect Arturo Porro’s victory in the 1948 Montevideo­–Melo–Montevideo race.

Between 1946 and 1952, 66,904 standard Tudors were made. International customers accounted for more than 65% of the ŠKODA 1101/1102s sold: in 1951, for example, these international customers were spread across 76 countries. The most important national markets were Poland, the Netherlands, Belgium and the Federal Republic of Germany, while more distant destinations included Australia, Brazil, India, South Africa and Canada.

On the trail of colours

Even before the First World War, fascinating colour photographs were being produced. Prestigious photographic studios working with conventional black and white material rightly valued their retouching and manual colouring specialists who modified the glass negatives with fine brushes. Their work was made easier by their intimate knowledge of the realities and colour range of contemporary clothing and everyday objects. Our task is akin to detective work - colourising with the professional tools of Adobe Photoshop software, informed by the study of period documents. For reference we can turn to original motorcycles and cars from the collections of the ŠKODA Museum in Mladá Boleslav and brochures for the respective vehicle types, but we also leaf through fashion magazines from times long gone. 

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