You could make a freshly built, historic sports coupe disappear into gloomy catacombs. Or let loose on early-morning Prague while playing four-cylinder music and round off the evening with a philharmonic concert on the Vltava.
It's a special day, November 17th: For us it begins in the dark in front of the Rudolfinum in Prague and will end there, 16 hours later. Then when the Czech Philharmonic gives Rachmaninoff's Second Piano Concerto with pianist Lukas Vondracek conducted by Jakub Hrusa. On commemoration day in honor of the Velvet Revolution of 1989. A day of democracy, freedom and non-violence. A day that worthily documents Czech values - the love of freedom, of art.
This is how this Wednesday begins at four o'clock in front of the still dim Rudolfinum, where a red coupe and four men shiver. But it will soon be lighter. Not because of the sun, it's still lounging around much further east. No, because of the imposing lanterns. I've already told the guys in there that the lamps will be really bright in a moment, promises Skoda man Vita, who organizes the whole thing here.
Perseverance meets tradition
And it's quite exclusive. The Rudolfinum has existed once, the 1100 OHC Coupé has existed twice, but ours is the only one in existence. More precisely: restored. Not repaired or restored, but reconstructed. From the ground up, with staying power, expertise and the combination of modern technology and traditional craftsmanship. They also understand that in the Czech Republic – and how! Especially when it comes to a car that is over 60 years old, and an important one in Škoda Motorsport’s 120-year history. After the end of their racing career in 1962, the coupés were allowed to romp in traffic, which cost both their lives. Not that of the drivers, but that of the 1100s. One even caught fire. After all, leftover parts such as the rear axle with integrated gearbox and the half-timbered frame including the front axle are saved for the museum.
With the 1100 OHC standing there, you might not believe that the first plans for it began in 1956. The orange-red coupé looks like a scaled-down Ferrari, which unites it with the completely open-top roadster on which it is based. In contrast to its plastic body, the closed variant is surrounded by aluminum with a sheet thickness of 0.8 to one millimeter - a design by the factory designer Jaroslav Kindl - whose roof could be ripped off if necessary. The complete dress is created on a wooden model based on original documents, on which a group of plumbers manually hammer out aluminum plates, weld and rivet individual parts.Helpful: the colleagues from the prototype construction department, who use CAD to create a three-dimensional mesh and 3-D models from scans of 2-D drawings, which are then compared with the original photos in the virtual studio and corrected before final approval. The team is also benefiting from the experience gained with the restoration of the roadster, which was completed in 2015.
Spartak on steroids
And the result now shines in the glow of the Rudolfinum's now bright lanterns, luring inside through the lightweight doors. Time to wake up Prague. Because the sound insulation of the freshly made Spartak four-cylinder audibly undercuts the other technical finesse. So: ignition, fuel pump and start. At first, the aluminum 1100 wheezes a bit asthmatically, coughing in the fresh morning air. But then he picks up the scent. The dual carburetors take a deep breath, the optimized combustion chambers compressing at 9.3:1 before dual ignition and permissive exhaust do the rest. Well friends, 92 hp at 7700/min - because the base makes "440 Spartak" with their sparse 40 hp thick cheeks. But the high output per liter means work. Especially since the maximum torque appears quite late to the latter.
What literally roars the plaster off the walls in Prague at half past four in the morning. downstairs? Nothing. In the middle? It's going ok. Above? But hello! So it stays in first and second gear, at traffic lights and in slow traffic the beast wants to be kept happy with the gas, otherwise it defiantly snots its airways. And then turn them freely again with relish.
So the drive requires full concentration, the rest of the 200 km/h fast 555-kilo athlete with double-triangular wishbones at the front and coupling axle with drag links at the rear plays a supporting role. At least on the way from the Rudolfinum past the Klementinum along the banks of the Vltava, back over the Vltava and up towards Letna. Its rock-solid tubular space frame with transaxle five-speed gearbox could handle a lot more than the two or three sharp curves put on the Borrani spoked wheels.
Omit instead of petabytes
But the sound in the dim light of the yellow lanterns makes up for it. And the lesson in minimalism. Low weight has different fathers - and a history. Long before petabyte-fired simulations or exotic materials from the autoclave or elsewhere, the combination of concentrating on the essential and omitting the unessential was enough to produce driving dynamics. Where some nowadays applaud a manual transmission as the highest of emotions, the historic Skoda shows pure dynamics. Just how they placed the gearbox and the rear drum brakes nestled on the left and right to further centralize the center of gravity, including the pilot.
Fascinating to this day.Literally unfiltered and uninsulated, it clamps you in its small seat, hands you the large steering wheel with the thin rim, leaves you alone and yet holds you captive. When steering, braking, shifting gears. Nothing goes by itself here, everything calls for rhythm. And works in the end as a grandiose interaction of all participants.
Whoa, just got around to Rachmaninoff's sonority, the virtuosity of Lukas Vondracek, which closes our evening in the Rudolfinum. Just a special day, this 17.11. in Prague.