All praise to the Editor’s fine sense of the egalitarian for including a letter from the owner of a Wartburg in December’s issue! One effect of this action, at least, is that it decided me to write a word or two on going foreign with a similar workaday vehicle.
I spent £520 on a 1,221 c.c. Skoda Octavia saloon six and a half years ago and now, 58,000 miles later, have yet to regret my choice. The original decision was made after inspections of contemporary vehicles costing up to £600 and what was considered to be the seeming cost to value index offered by each product. Depreciation did not enter the calculations since I proposed to own the vehicle to destruction. Like your Wartburg correspondent, I have been delighted by the absence of dubious, penny-pinching, expedients in the car’s construction which has obviously benefited, too, by the built-as-an-entity concept relying on an absolute minimum of bought-out components. The massive chassis must have started life somewhere as a tractor and one observer has been moved to describe the underpinning as “drawbridge engineering”.
The car has been in daily use since purchase and the mechanical and other components, often bearing unpronouncable inscriptions, have proved every bit as reliable as their hard-advertised Western equivalents. Major expenditure has been incurred for new wheel bearings to front nearside, 17,000 miles, a clutch replacement at 40,000 miles and a reconditioned radiator, resulting from a minor shunt, at 55,000 miles. The original exhaust system lasted three and a half years. The engine has lost its first youth now but is still extremely reliable: gearbox synchromesh remains unimpaired. All is not perfect, however, handling can be tricky with the usual dramatic oversteer associated with most all-independent layouts and the ride is hard and quite vintage. Furthermore; the Czechs do not appear to have done their rust-proofing homework on these earlier imported vehicles; later cars are much improved.
All in all the keynote of the car is simplicity with an ease of accessibility which I continue to find most welcome.
One has wondered why the Octavia chassis has not attracted the attention of the trials special builder since it would appear to provide an excellent foundation and units should be readily available not to say cheap. The enclosed prop-shaft, “tractor-mounted” control pedals, sensible 15 in. wheels and all independent suspension are obvious initial advantages. In addition, the alloy engine has, thanks to a hefty flywheel, plenty of low-speed torque ideal for tick-tocking one’s way out of a morass. The gearbox already provides climb-a-house bottom and almost VTO reverse ratios; moreover the engine with standard radiator is virtually boil-proof. Spares, incidentally, are no problem. May I also mention for those interested that there is in existence a Skoda Owners’ Club: Secretary, Mr. R. Desborough, 39, Oaks Avenue, Worcester Park, Surrey.