Volkswagen Group’s Škoda brand delivered over one million vehicles to customers around the world in 2020 and is currently focusing its ‘Next Level’ program for the future. The plan is to expand the model portfolio towards entry-level segments, explore new markets for further growth and progress it sustainability efforts. But that hasn’t stopped the Czech company’s designers from participating in a project to re-imagine Škoda’s past design icons.
Škoda has made great strides in the design space since coming under the stewardship of the Volkswagen Group 30 years ago. The company has earned itself a reputation for being one of the most forward-looking brands in the automotive industry and has a rich design history that dates back more than 125 years. During that period, the brand has created a vast array of iconic cars that have come to define the look and feel of Czech design.
As part of Škoda’s 125th anniversary celebrations, a group of designers from across the brand repurposed some of the carmaker’s classic vehicles for the modern era, resulting in the re-creation of five historic models, each model being a personal favorite of the designer responsible.
Felicia Cabriolet by Martin Leprince
The 1959 Škoda Felicia provided interior designer Martin Leprince with the starting point for his design makeover. Like the open-top original, the 21st Century is a masterclass in design elegance – wrapping itself around the passenger compartment while maximizing exposure to the elements.
While working on the project, Leprince spent hours with an original example kept at the Škoda Museum in Prague. Among the many details, he admired the wraparound windscreen and set about updating the look for his new version.
As the design shows, the 21st Century Felicia has a ‘floating’ windscreen that hovers a few centimeters above the body and curves inwards to serve as the instrument panel and infotainment display.
“I studied glass statues, and with the help of photographs and pictures I tried to come up with a way to draw a 3D glass object so that the whole was comprehensible and looked realistic. That kept me busy for quite a few days,” he explains.
130RS Icon by Aymeric Chertier
The 130RS is an icon of the sports car class. The reborn 130RS – a world-beating rally car in its day – is an homage to the original. “I wanted to refresh the original car, not change it.” says designer Aymeric Chertier, explaining the retro feel combined with the distinctive muscular shapes of his car.
The exterior is far more sculpted than the original 130RS but retains its character and general proportions. All that’s missing are the panel vents to cool the rear-mounted engine (if it’s still rear-engined).
“I retained its essence and characteristic lines and added certain details that we know from modern WRC cars, for example,” adds Chertier.
The massive floating screen (consisting of three screens) across the IP and high-mounted shifter all pay homage to the original 130RS, while the integrated roll cage and modern three-spoke Skoda steering wheel have been done in a thoroughly contemporary way.
Popular Monte Carlo by Ljudmil Slavov
As with the 130RS, sporting glory was the inspiration behind the re-creation of the brand’s classic Popular Monte Carlo, designed by interior designer Ljudmil Slavov.
“The Popular Monte Carlo is one of the most beautiful cars ever made and I found its history fascinating as well. It is incredibly elegant and tasteful,” explained Slavov.
The original Popular Monte Carlo was available as a Roadster and a fixed top Coupe in the late 1930s. As part of his makeover, the Bulgarian born designer opted to give the car a dramatic new roadster look. Slavov also chose to replace the traditional center speedo with a floating hologram and a wraparound screen.
Voiturette by Yuhan Zhang
Interior designer Yuhan Zhang’s design takes inspiration from the brand’s first-ever production car, the Voiturette A. The design study is an open-top two-seater carriage designed for use as a fully autonomous tourist car for the streets of Prague.
“I wanted to make a connection between the history of Škoda and beauty of Prague,” explains Zhang. “There is a big display in the car presenting a description of the sights as you go, but it could also show passengers the history of Škoda.”
The interior features a dramatic curved information panel while the wraparound seat takes its inspiration from the single seat unit fitted to the 1905 original.
1203 Camper by Daniel Hájek
The stalwart 1203 van is another Škoda icon to have been transformed, this time into a 21st-century campervan. The brainchild of Škoda interface designer Daniel Hájek, the 1203 formed the backbone of Czech industry through the 1970s, becoming the default choice for trade, governments and emergency services. Production ran from 1968 until the late 1990s.
The 21st Century makeover features an electric drivetrain that allows for even greater space inside, along with a pop-up roof and all the practical touches that Škoda has become synonymous with.
The 1203 Camper’s exterior design features a number of touches that combine old with new. “I thought long and hard about how to reference the original’s round lights without them being too retro,” explains Hájek. “That’s why there’s just a hint of some curves here, but otherwise the light signature is new and bold.”
Although Škoda has no specific plans to develop any of the designs created as part of the icon project, the brand’s design team continues to seek inspiration from the past, the present and future environments.