50 years ago, the legendary ŠKODA 110 R Coupé celebrated its trade fair premiere in Brno, Czech Republic. The elegant sports car with a rear engine was a huge sales success and served as the basis for the Czech car manufacturer’s legendary rally and racing cars. Alongside the ŠKODA 180 RS and 200 RS prototypes, the ŠKODA 130 RS, which later became known as the “Porsche of the East”, was also derived from the 110 R.
At the same time as celebrating the 125th anniversary of its founding, ŠKODA AUTO is also looking back in 2020 on the market launch of several models that have played a significant role in the automaker’s history. These vehicles include the 110 R, which added a dynamic sports coupé to ŠKODA’s model range at the beginning of the 1970s.
In 1964, ŠKODA began producing the ŠKODA 1000 MB notchback saloon. With its self-supporting body, rear engine and rear-wheel drive, this model heralded a new technological era at the Czech car manufacturer. ŠKODA invested heavily in modern production facilities for the new series and soon concentrated fully on the production of this newcomer due to the sales success of the rear engine saloon in export markets. For this reason, ŠKODA discontinued production of the FELICIA convertible. However, demand for sports models remained strong, particularly in Western European markets. ŠKODA responded to its customers’ wishes with a vehicle that would give the brand an image boost despite remaining a niche product in terms of the planned number of units. While the development of the ŠKODA 100/110 L series was underway (the successor to the 1000 MB that received body upgrades, front disc brakes and improved safety equipment), work began on the two-door coupé version ŠKODA 110 R.
Constructing the first prototypes and test drives in the former GDR
The development of the 110 R, nicknamed ‘Erko’ in the Czech Republic, began in 1966, and in March 1968 the first prototype with the internal designation Š 718 K rolled out of the ŠKODA factory in Kvasiny. The coupé body differed from the notchback version not only with its elegantly sloping rear end but also with a steeper sloped windscreen and two wide doors with frameless windows. During test drives, which took place on motorways in the GDR, among other places, the coupé reached a top speed of 145 km/h. The second prototype was completed in March 1969. This was equipped with a double carburetor and an AC generator instead of a dynamo.
ŠKODA invited many journalists to the world premiere of the 110 R, which was held in the halls of residence at the company’s vocational school in Mladá Boleslav. After the press conference, the guests were given the opportunity to try out the new sports coupé nearby at Hoškovice airport.
Presentation at international motor shows and start of production
The public caught their first glimpse of the 110 R on September 5, 1970, at the engineering fair in Brno, where ŠKODA exhibited three copies. The foundation stone for the success of the sports coupé on export markets was laid at the motor shows in Paris, London and Turin, which opened their doors in quick succession in October 1970. Demand for the 110 R rose sharply, but the ramp-up of ŠKODA’s production encountered problems due to the political conditions at the time. By the end of 1970, only 121 vehicles had been built, and it was not until the second quarter of 1971 that the first units of the coupé could be delivered to customers overseas. Subsequently, the Czech car manufacturer concentrated primarily on exports: of around 3,000 units produced in 1971, only 442 vehicles made it to the showrooms of the then Czechoslovak monopoly dealer Mototechna. The 110 R came with a hefty price tag of at least 78,000 crowns, which at that time was the equivalent of around 40 months’ wages.
Low weight and excellent traction ensure a dynamic driving experience
The 110 R measured 4,155 millimetres in length, 1,620 millimetres in width and, at a height of 1,340 millimetres, was 40 millimetres shorter than the basic notchback model. The wheelbase was 2,400 millimetres. The four-cylinder in-line engine equipped with an oil cooler generated an output of 38 kW (52 hp) at 4,650 rpm with a displacement of 1,107 cc, a compression ratio of 9.5:1 and twin carburettors, and coupled with its low unladen weight of 880 kilograms, it offered a thrilling driving experience. The cylinder and crankcase, as well as the bell of the direct-shift four-speed transmission located in front of the rear axle, were manufactured using the aluminium die-casting process based on an original Czech patent. On its radial tyres (165 SR 14), the 110 R reached a top speed of 145 km/h, the sprint from zero to 100 km/h took 19 seconds. A dual-circuit brake system controlled the deceleration, with disc brakes at the front and drum brakes at the rear. The brakes were manufactured by ŠKODA under licence from the English brand Dunlop. As 57 per cent of the vehicle weight was on the driven rear wheels, the sports coupé had excellent traction. The average fuel consumption was 8.5 litres per 100 kilometres, and the volume of the fuel tank in the front was 32 litres. Under the front bonnet, there was enough space for 250 litres of luggage, the second boot behind the rear seats had a capacity of 120 litres and could also be accessed on the go.