Just in case you didn’t know… Škoda’s wonderful Sagitta prototype was the unassuming miniature classic that paved the way for the brand’s best-selling car between the two world wars…
Its often forgotten by those who’ve just grown into long trousers that Škoda didn’t always make cars that look much like every other generically produced ‘white goods’ transport we see in those clinical showrooms nowadays.
Rewind your memory a few months and you’ll probably recall the brand celebrating its 125th anniversary with a historic convoy that included vehicles ranging from the first automobile of the brand in 1905, all the way through to the camouflaged ŠKODA ENYAQ iV.
It was those early years that laid the solid foundations for the Czech car manufacturer, witnessing some of the best designs the company has ever seen.
While Stylish and breathtaking weren’t two words often uttered in one sentence about your precious Škoda when Dancing Queen was top of the charts, the 1930s Superb, Tudor, Monte Carlo, 860 and among others, 935 Dynamic, have all since gained the ability to stop any wandering onlooker in their tracks.
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The Popular was unveiled in 1934 and easily achieved best selling status for Mladá Boleslav, continuing its success for many years to follow, albeit with a larger engine and dimensions. It was this mid-class transport that paved the way for a model range that was to be more affordable – the 995 Popular ‘Liduška’ with its water-cooled four-cylinder engine. Development began in 1936 with the usual prototypes being used for any experimental testing on future drive systems. Two of these Škoda Sagitta prototypes still exist to this day.
By the time any optimism of the ‘Golden 20s’ had faded, Václav Laurin and Václav Klement had opened a plant with a modern assembly line in Mladá Boleslav and was able to manufacture at much lower prices. Škoda also took an important step towards making cars affordable to a larger segment of the population. The company was already thinking outside the box testing various engines and vehicles including the air-cooled V2 four-stroke 850cc.
While constantly searching for smaller and more economical options, the brand developed the Sagitta prototypes, Latin for ‘arrow’ with a direct reference to the marques Winged Arrow (1923 – 1993). The exact date of development seems to have been lost in the fog but history points firmly between 1936 – 1938 although Škoda’s own auto-archive is sketchy at best. Dimensions were of minuscule proportions with a 2,100 millimetres wheelbase, 3,400 mm long, 1,320 mm wide and 1,420 mm high.
ŠKODA models 1926 – 1935, from the L&K 110 to the 935 Dynamic. Such a wonderful era…
Posted by Classic Car Curation on Thursday, 13 August 2020
Bizarrely, due to its narrow stance, the ingenious Sagitta had no differential but did have 16-inch wheels, rack-and-pinion steering and tipped the automotive scales at only 580 kilograms; when fully loaded, it could weigh up to 860 kilograms.
Power came from the previously tested V2-cylinder four-stroke engines with SV (side valves) and could whizz around at 3,000rpm, but was air-cooled instead of water with a four-blade fan made of lightweight metal and a capillary thermometer behind each of the ribbed cylinder heads. The prototype could reach a respectable top speed of 70 km/h with average fuel consumption of around 5.5 litres per 100 kilometres.
The two wonderfully rare Sagittas are now displayed as part of the Škoda Museum’s collection in Mladá Boleslav. One coupé, dressed in a sumptuous period metallic brown, is now fully restored by the skilled heritage team and an integral part of the permanent exhibition. It even has sliding windows in the side doors – a well-thought-out solution that didn’t require any winding mechanism allowing more space for any over-excited occupants to wave their arms around if needed. A second coupé, in the museum warehouse, will be fully restored in due course.
Whilst these incredibly attractive classics never passed the full production chequered flag, they did serve their purpose with many ideas filtering into other vehicles at a later date.
Just think of the interest if the Sagitta was reimagined as an EV?