Line-up of Škoda Estelles at the Wartburg/Trabant/IFA Club UK Rally 2006
The Škoda 105, 120, 125, 130, 135 and 136 are six variations of a rear-engined car that was produced by Czechoslovakian manufacturer Škoda Auto in Mladá Boleslav, Czechoslovakia from 1976 to 1990. Each model defines its engine size. The 105 models had a 1.0-liter engine, whereas the 120/125 models had a 1.2-liter engine, and the 130/135/136 models had a 1.3-liter engine.
During the early 1970s, Škoda had originally intended to produce their successor for the S100/110 as a front-engined front-wheel drive model. However, because of the lack of funding (Škoda had even applied for license in Moscow to produce their new car with a front-engine and front-wheel drive), Škoda was refused a license and was forced to update the earlier S100/110 saloon models. The main reason Škoda was not granted a license to produce their new car was because it would have turned out to be a thoroughly more modern car than any other car from the Soviet Union, something of which the Russians wouldn’t have been too happy about. At that time, most cars from the Soviet Union had either a front engine driving the rear wheels or a rear engine driving the rear wheels. There was even a front-engined (as well as front-wheel drive) Škoda 105/120 prototype, which looked almost identical to the rear-engined one. Because imports were banned, Škoda would not have had the proper resources or technology to produce a front-engined car with front-wheel drive.
When the Škoda 105 and 120 saloons finally went into production in August 1976, they included a lot of updates over the previous 100 and 110 saloon models. The cars now had a front-mounted radiator with a thermostatic fan, the heating unit was now inside the dashboard, and the fuel tank was now underneath the rear seat. Initially, there were five models available of the 105/120 range: the 105 S and 105 L were powered by the 1046cc engine (which was an enlarged version of the 988cc engine fitted to the previous Škoda 100 and 100 L), which produced 44bhp. The 120 L, 120 LS and 120 GLS were powered by the 1174cc engine (which was an enlarged version of the 1107cc engine fitted to the previous Škoda 110 L and 110 LS), wbich produced 49bhp for the 120 L and 54bhp for the 120 LS and 120 GLS. All models had much the same mechanical specification as the previous models, with a 4-speed gearbox, independent suspension, worm-and-drive steering, and swing-axle rear suspension.
The cars were initially criticised for unpredictable handling "at the limit" but it is unlikely that most motorists would notice anything untoward under normal conditions. The cars continued to win their class with monotonous regularity on international rallies, and were increasingly popular with budget-conscious motorists across Europe. The location of the radiator at the front of the car had the advantage of keeping the engine cooled more sufficiently on the motorway, but the disadvantage was that the cooling system was much more complex, leaving it prone to airlocks, which often caused overheating.
Basically very rugged and robust vehicles (they were after all designed for the primitive roads of Soviet-dominated Central and Eastern Europe) of which they are still a common sight. Even enthusiasts for the marque would agree that quality control could sometimes have been improved in this era. It was these cars that inspired the famous Skoda Jokes, but re-evaluation of the models with the benefit of many years hindsight means that the cars are much more highly regarded today.
This model of Škoda was imported into New Zealand in the late 1970's and proved to be an affordable, popular and robust 'no-frills' vehicle, comparing well against equivalent English imports. There was a political scandal though in the early 1980's when it was reported that a batch of imported Škodas were made with Czech prison labor (such imports are forbidden under New Zealand law), but the importation was allowed to continue when it was determined that the importer knew nothing about this aspect of the vehicles construction.
April 1978 saw the introduction of the 120 standard model. It was essentially a 105 S with the running gear from the 120 L. Another difference between the 120 and the 105 S was that the former had reclining front seats.
In March 1981, the 105 GL was added to the lineup. It was mechanically identical to the existing 105 S and 105 L models only it featured the equipment specification of the 120 GLS model. Both the 105 GL and the 120 GLS were given black bumpers and horizontal taillights.
In September 1981, the Garde Coupè was added to the range, replacing the earlier Škoda 110R Coupè. Unlike the 105/120 Saloons, the Garde Coupè was manufactured in the Kvasiny factory, where all the special Škoda models were manufactured.
Around this time, the 105 SP was introduced. It was essentially a commercial version of the 105 S, having no rear seats and no glass just solid metal in the rear doors. It was only available in Czechoslovakia where it proved popular with delivery and businessmen.
In November 1982, the 120 LE was added to the range. It was essentially a 120 L with a modified top gear ratio to improve fuel economey (hence 'E' for Economic). This was possibly an early try-out for the 5-speed gearbox!
All existing Škoda 105/120 models underwent a number of updates.
End of production for the 120 Rapid Coupé.
The 136 L and 136 GL saloons and 136 Rapid Coupé were added to the lineup. See Škoda 130-136 for more info.
All that now remained of the 105/120 range was the 105 L and 120 L.
The 135 L and 135 GL Saloons and 135 Rapid Coupé were introduced as replacments for the earlier 130 series.. See Škoda 130-136 for more info.
The 105 L and 120 L were joined by the 125 L, which was the 5-speed version of the 120 L.
The 105 L was discontinued. By now all the rear-engined Škodas, with the exception of the 120 L, had a 5-speed gearbox fitted as standard.
1990 - The End Of An Era
Production of the very last rear-engined Škoda finally ended in 1990, marking the end of 26-year era for Škoda. Out of the first five models of the Škoda 105/120 series that were introduced back in 1976, only the 120 L remained in production right through to the very end.
- 1046cc, 44bhp: 105 S (76-87), 105 L (76-89), 105 GL (81-83), 105 SP (82-88)
- 1174cc, 49bhp: 120 (78-83), 120 L (76-90), 125 L (88-90), 120 GL (84-87)
- 1174cc, 54bhp: 120 LS (76-87), 120 LX (84-87), 120 GLS (76-87), Garde (81-84), 120 Rapid (84-86)
- 1289cc, 58bhp: 130 L (84-88), 130 GL (84-88), 130 Rapid (84-88), 135 L (88-90), 135 GL (88-90), 135 Rapid (88-90)
- 1289cc, 61bhp: 136 L (87-90), 136 GL (87-90), 136 Rapid (87-90)
Below is the list of models sold in Czechoslovakia:
Škoda 105 S (1976-1987)
Škoda 105 L (1976-1989)
Škoda 105 GL (1981-1983)
Škoda 105 SP (1982-1988)
Škoda 120 (1978-1983)
Škoda 120 L (1976-1990)
Škoda 120 LE (1982-1983)
Škoda 120 GL (1984-1987)
Škoda 120 LS (1976-1987)
Škoda 120 LX (1984-1987)
Škoda 120 GLS (1976-1987)
Škoda Garde (1981-1984)
Škoda 120 Rapid (1984-1985)
Škoda 125 L (1988-1990)
Škoda 130 L (1984-1988)
Škoda 130 GL (1984-1988)
Škoda 130 Rapid (1984-1988)
Škoda 135 L (1988-1990)
Škoda 135 GL (1988-1990)
Škoda 135 Rapid (1988-1990)
Škoda 136 L (1987-1990)
Škoda 136 GL (1987-1990)
Škoda 136 Rapid (1987-1990)
The British Market
- May 1977: Introduction of the Estelle 105 S, 105 L, 120 L, 120 LS and 120 GLS in the UK market.
- November 1979: Introduction of the 120 LE and 120 LSE saloons. These models featured an airdam, rear spoiler and black bumpers. The 120 LSE additionally featured alloy wheels, vinyl roof, sunroof, tinted glass and stereo system.
- December 1981: All models received rack-and-pinion steering.
- October 1982: Introduction of the 120 Rapid Coupe.
- January 1984: Introduction of the Estelle Two in 105 S, 105 Lux, 120 L, 120 LS, 120 LSE Saloons and 120 Rapid Coupe forms.
- March 1985: Introduction of the 130 L and 130 LSE Saloons and 130 Rapid Coupe.
- March 1987: Introduction of the 120 LX and 120 LXE saloons. These models had the same engine as the 120 LS and 120 LSE models plus a standard 5-speed gearbox and semi-trailing arm rear suspension from the Estelle 130 models. The 120 LX was equivalent to the 120 LS, while the 120 LXE was equivalent to the 120 LSE.
- July 1987: The 130 GL saloon was introduced. It featured the existing specification from the 130LSE plus the interior from the Rapid coupe plus cream and black upholstery, moulded front head rests and door cappings.
- August 1987: The 120 L Five saloon was introduced as the replacment for the 120 LS, 120 LSE, 120 LX and 120 LXE saloons. It was essentially a 120 L with a five-speed gearbox, alloy wheels, a sunroof, a stereo system, digital clock and front door pockets.
- August 1988: The 136 Rapid Coupe was introduced.
- December 1989: The Rapid 135 RiC Coupe was introduced in the UK. See Škoda 130-136 for more info.
Importantly historically as the last mass-produced rear-engined family cars made in Europe, the models are becoming increasingly rare in the UK, with prices of good examples rising. They were a lot better than the jokes suggested, but there were a few areas that could have been better such as the interior trim quality finish.