By on June 29, 2010

I still remember when I accompanied a big cheese of Volkswagen to (then) Czechoslovakia in 1990, shortly after the iron curtain had rusted out. We went to Mladá Boleslav, near Prague, to inspect VW’s latest acquisition: Skoda.  The place was pretty much empty.

“Where are the workers?” asked my guy.

“We sent them home,” answered the man in charge.

“You did what?”

“We were told to release them.”

“Why in God’s name would you do that?”

“They were prisoners. They wanted to go home.”

And now, another piece of Skoda history is going home: The Skoda Octavia Mk1. After 14 years of faithful duty, the old Octavia is being retired, writes Automobilwoche [sub]. End of October, the last of 1.4 million produced will roll off the lines. If you want one, hurry up: It can only be ordered until June 30.

The Octavia was Skoda’s first “western” car, based on the Volkswagen erector kit. For a few years, Skoda had to subsist on their Communist-era Favorit (renamed “Felicia”). 1996, the Octavia was released, based on the Golf 4 platform (then known as “A4”, to confuse the guys in Ingolstadt, later renamed “PQ34”.)

When the Gen 2 Octavia came out in 2004 (based on the Golf 5 platform, a.k.a. A5, or PQ35), the Gen 1 Octavia was not simply sent out to pasture, but lived on as “Octavia Tour.” For a while, I had one, with a 180 hp (officially …)  turbocharged engine, and nothing on the outside. Fun on the Autobahn, to hustle Porsche drivers with. In many countries, it performed its civic duty as a taxi, or as a cop car (sometimes with said 180 hp engine …)

Unassuming, well made, reliable, and reasonably priced, the Octavia Tour was one of those cars you had to forcibly retire, lest they would live on forever. And as the saying went at Volkswagen, the guys at Skoda “built them with love.”

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29 Comments on “Say Good-Bye To An Unassuming Classic: The Old Octavia...”

  • avatar

    Rode in one of these in taxi form in the Greek isles. Very impressed with it at the time, and I thought the 5 door design in a 4 door-looking body was incredibly clever.

    Still wish the Octavia would make it over to these shores in some guise. There has to be a bigger market for a useful hatchback than just the Mazda 3. Might be a good way to snap up some of the disaffected Saab-o-files who miss their 900 hatchbacks.

  • avatar

    Good enough for Schmitt to hustle Porsche drivers with? Good value for the money? Dang the U.S. truly misses out on the good stuff from the rest of the world!

    @salhany slap a Saab grile on the sucker and while Saab-o-files will know the difference, most of the country will think it’s a really well maintained old Saab.

  • avatar

    Sounds like the Tour is the European version of our Panther platform twins.

  • avatar

    What a Skoda Octavia Mk.1 might look like:

  • avatar

    I lived in Czechoslovakia for 20 years and I never heard that prisoners were building Skodas. If indeed that was the case it was very unusual.

    Prison labour was not normally used in the old socialist regime to the best of my knowledge. And in general the old regime was a lot more humane towards its citizenry than for instance the most “democratic” (USA) country is towards its own citizens. Police abusing (shooting, beating etc) its own citizens by accident or on purpose as happens in the US on a daily basis was unheard of. Just about the worst case of police abuse was when a drunk policeman (usually off-duty) killed somebody in a car accident and either got off completely or with very minor punishment. Interestingly enough I would be willing to bet that the ratio of uniformed police to its citizens was a lot lower in the old socialist Czechoslovakia than it it is in the “democratic” USA.

    I am convinced that one day historians will be able to reconsider the question of what constitutes a totalitarian police state.

    • 0 avatar

      They didn’t tell you. They told us.

      As far as the rest of your post goes: I tend to agree. Even if it upsets some.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah one day perhaps you will learn of some of the injustices that occured in Czechoslovakia while you lived there if all the records aren’t distroyed first. The US has a free press so events including things where civil employees break the law are reported immediatly and can be readly quoted by people as evidence that North Korea is actually a very nice and safe place to live.

    • 0 avatar

      (Although I hope I’m wrong) Flame war in 3… 2… 1…

    • 0 avatar

      Here in the Republica Bolivariana de Venezuela, where you know who is trying to impose a socialist regime, you fear the police as much as the thieves… or a bit more.

      Press is starting to get censored… not directly, but by auto-censoring.

      I don’t know, but I’d rather go with a capitalist regime than the POS rubbish they’re trying to impose here.

    • 0 avatar

      jacksonbart: the US press might be “free,” but it is also oligopolistic and monotone. Is this by accident? Or has Operation Mockingbird been taken to a whole new level? You have to wonder how the entire American media allowed the “Saddam has weapons of mass destruction” fairy tale to go unchecked. Americans live their entire existence in one myth after another without realizing it, and the “press” is there to reinforce the myths.

    • 0 avatar

      It existed on a massive scale. But maybe you did not know because of something called “censorship”.

  • avatar

    Bertel, I was in Italy the past 2 weeks and I’m amazed of how much Skoda has advanced. Saw a Superb Wagon and a Felicia on the streets and the evolution is like going from Fred Flinstone’s car to a space ship.

    Here in Venezuela, VAG have tried to sell the brand, bringing the Fabia, Roomster and Octavia (both the old and then the new ones).

    I bet you performed a chip or something else change in your “180 HP” Octavia.

  • avatar
    Jack Baruth

    I was a big fan of that old Octavia… would also like to own a Superb.

    • 0 avatar

      I saw a current gen Superb wagon… and seeing inside from the curbside looked luxurious to me. And it’s a beautiful car. I guess it had a diesel under the bonnet, like most of the cars I saw.

      After 2 weeks, I was starting to get a bit tired that every car sounded like an Iveco Daily.

    • 0 avatar

      I had a Superb once. I never owned it. As a matter of fat, I didn’t really know who owned it. It showed up one day and I was told I could “use” it for an indefinite time. I was well appointed, all leather, there was even a fridge in the back. Trouble was, I was commuting back and forth between the U.S. and Germany. It was sitting in a garage in Germany, and the battery was always empty when I returned. I learned to throw one of these yellow emergency starting thingies in the trunk. But the battery didn’t like the many deep discharges and died. All that car cost me was a new battery. One day, after a year or so, a man showed up, asked where the car was, and it was gone.

    • 0 avatar

      Did you ever look in the trunk, fridge, or under the back seat?

      French connection?

      Helmut Kohl’s missing slush funds?

      Judge Crater, Jimmy Hoffa?

  • avatar

    I remember when it came, and how truly unbelievably low it was priced. It wasn’t only a bargain, it was a steal. I couldn’t actually understand how it was possible even to begin with to make such a large car so cheap, and yet maintain the quality. It felt like it was dumped and underpriced with at least 20% of its worth. People made the equation of german quality parts + cheap labor from the east, found the outcome satisfactory, and bought it in droves.

  • avatar

    In theory the press in the US is free; in practice it reads like Moscow’s Pravda in the 70-seventies and CNN is little more than the unofficial US government mouthpiece with a few right-wing wackos in-between to compete with Fox and its hilarious “Fair and Balanced reporting”. Anywhere else on the planet Fox News is Comedy-central channel.

    • 0 avatar

      If you think communism was so great, you could migrate in Cuba; Castro needs manpower to make cigarillos.
      There you will enjoy free press, democracy, humanely treated prisonners, and the joy of workers fraternity.

      Media in the USA are free, and there is actually more debate than in left-wing propaganda media in Canada.

    • 0 avatar

      Can anyone say Red herring! A poster commented that Socialist controlled Czechoslovakia had in their opinion less police/citizen battery conflicts than in the US and commented about some examples that are well reported in the US where police had unjustly treated citizens. (Yes I agree it happens) So I mention that well in the US, the people who make their living reporting on “news” stories are free to report on such travesties (infact they can make their career to due so), implying such actions in Czechoslovakia have happened but not been reported to the public, ie the orginal poster. Now some posters object to the word free…. saying the press is biased even bring up WMD.. How is it politically biased to report that a drunk cop killed someone or a cop beat some one unjustly? Is it biased to report on a none police officer who kills a person while driving drunk? If these events happened, how did we learn about them? I don’t argue that they happened. Bias is all around us, I have it, you have it, reporters have it, but there are facts regarding actions that happened… no… Should we assume because there where no assults logged in the socialist prague newspaper that none occured and that its reported in the US that its false or has occured more?… Anyway the Octavia seems like a Jetta with a nice interior where such a long model run gave the local engineers the ability to message out any issues IMHO. Nice car IMHO. Cheers

    • 0 avatar

      ra_pro: +1

  • avatar

    For a very long time whilst I was growing up, Skoda’s were cheap, ugly and unreliable. They were the butt of every automotive joke going.
    “Why do Skoda’s have heated rear windows? To keep your hands warm whilst you push it.”
    But the Octavia changed that. Solid, unassuming and impossible to kill, the local Taxi firm in my old home town ran a fleet of Mk1’s which all clocked up well over 300k miles with no problems.
    It took some years to overcome a generations worth of bad press, but excellent customer service, good value and the Octavia has made Skoda the sensible choice for anyone looking for a new car.

    • 0 avatar
      Tal Bronfer

      300,000 miles aren’t much for a well maintained Octavia. Israeli cabbies and Police use them and they simply don’t die. I’ve heard stories of those cabs racking up close to 600,000 miles on an original engine, running 24/7 with multiple drivers.

      The 1.9 TDI engines are very reliable. I took a taxi the other week – a previous generation VW Bora (Jetta) with 590,000 miles on the clock. The engine has been replaced around 180,000 – due to a flood, mind you.

  • avatar
    Uncle Mellow

    The problem with the Octavia was that the electrical bits that went wrong in VWs and Audis would go wrong in Skodas as well. Like windows opening when you press the “Lock” button on the fob.

  • avatar

    After 2 weeks, I was starting to get a bit tired that every car sounded like an Iveco Daily.

    A diesel that is lacking in sound absorbing material can really gets onto your nerve.
    aka a bunch of marbles in a coffee can.

    One Golf dsl I had was like that, but it does have torque, very nice to drive on the hwy with abundant of T.

    It got to be some kind of conspiracy to not bring Dsl to our Colonial market.
    The 80’s GM 350 dsl probably the biggest culprit.

  • avatar

    Bought an Octavia in 98. Excellent car, very reasonably priced. No major repairs, still a pleasure to drive, probably the most reasonable car in the market

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