Full of gas, the Czech Skoda 120
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Once in a very great while I have the distinct pleasure of test-driving an automobile so well-engineered that I find it difficult to hand over the keys.

The Skoda 120 is such an automobile; a masterful blend of precision and subtle refinements, responsive and thoughtfully designed.

It has been (unfairly) suggested that the Skoda is the poor man's Volkswagen, which has in turn been denounced as the working man's Porsche. It would be dishonest of me to suggest that I entered the test process without a critical bias, but it is the privilege of the underdog to prove the critic wrong. The 120, though affordable, is by no means the restaurant worker's luxury car.

On the track the surprising beauty of its ergonomic cockpit facilitates an exhilarating flood of adrenaline. The 120's revamped 20:13:1 gearbox behaved with a near intuitive grace, aided in its output by the tailwind-optimized rear windbreak. Within moments I topped 60 km/h, anticipating the first bank of the track with sweating palms.

The carburated power plant has a displacement of 1.2 liters, made lighter by a magnesium engine block. The resulting combination is a serious driver's dream; power well-managed.


Less clutter for the serious driver... Minimalist in intent, the design of the 120 provides amenities such as removable manual window cranks, a driver-side elbow rest and reinforced steel roof supports.


For the technically inclined, a dizzying 20:13:1 gear ratio translates to power; when you need it most. Cutting in front of trams has never been so easy, and as for overconfident pedestrians, nothing teaches prudence like a lungful of oil-laden exhaust fumes!

Every little bit counts...
especially when it comes to hauling space.

The spacious, front located trunk offers plenty of room for groceries, broken furniture, spare engine parts, deported Canadian friends or anything else you might imagine. An improved latch mechanism now allows you the option of locking the trunk as well!

Power and economy... For over 6 decades, the four-stroke engine has been synonymous with both. With oil prices rising daily, what better way to keep your operating costs low and stimulate the economy by creating new jobs in the environmental protection and recovery sector? This rear-mounted 1.2 liter power plant makes its case heard and will make a four-stroke believer out of you.

The discerning Skoda owner will immediately call to my attention certain flaws in the 105. Although primarily cosmetic, these problems marred the reception of an otherwise sturdy automobile. Many of the idiosyncrasies of the popular 105 model have been corrected in this latest effort, most notably the irritating fluctuation in torque experienced mid-turn, ingeniously corrected by the substitution of an all-steel flywheel for the flawed lead-alloy design used in the earlier cars.

This improvement allows the driver to shift effortlessly from second to third gear under any road conditions, including banked inclines.

Coming out of the first turn, all of my remaining skepticism vanished in a thick cloud of smoke. Critics of the four-stroke engine blindly embrace cleaner burning engines to their own detriment: the raw power experienced in a Skoda, akin to dining on a 16 oz. Steak, cannot be remotely approximated by the needlessly complex bowels of these newer engines.

Mark my words, the four-stroke engine is to internal combustion what vinyl is to the audiophile, and it will never be truly out-dated except in the eyes of the dilettante.

And let the family man take heed: his needs have not been forgotten! With the blessings of the Skoda company, I extended my test period to include a weekend trip to my chata in Ricany. While noting a minor decrease in power due to passenger weight, the Skoda once again exceeded all of my expectations.

Foul weather is no longer a problem, thanks to the improved ventilation system, which features "breeze-thru" defrost. The improved floor pans, fitted with the exclusive "tightweave" carpet shrugged off the kid's cigarette ash and my mother-in-law's broken eggs with indifference.

(It was only later that I discovered the egg-crate depressions thoughtfully built in to the rear luggage shelf...) The 120 is a rarity in the auto industry today: a successful hybrid of the sports coupe and the sedan with the elan to seriously compete on both fronts.

Later that evening, my lady friend commented on the 20 watt, two-speaker hi-fi radio (optional). Even at distances of 50 kilometers the tuner pulled in Radio Blanik with very little distortion. And the 120 truly is a car to be seen in. The dual earth-tone paint scheme (optional with Sport Edition) turned many heads that memorable evening. My new Nike tracksuit emerged without a run, thanks to Skoda's seamless vinyl upholstery.

The Plsen plant has stepped up production in anticipation of high consumer demand, but make no mistake - these cars won't even make it to the showroom, so place your request today to make sure you are one of the lucky owners. The Sport Edition, which includes a rear spoiler, dual rear-view mirrors, the Tesla hi-fi system and the dual-tone paint scheme also comes with stain-resistant vinyl seats, a driver's seat adjustable at three points and lists at just under 10,000 KC. The basic edition can, of course, be had for less.



Promising Russian Import Threatens Skoda's Reign on High End Engineering. The Russian-made Lada boasts an admirable array of features, including a new, interchangeable carburetor, but, sadly, it remains woefully under-powered. This solid import will doubtless make a dent in the Central European auto market due to its affordability and attractive exterior, but a pretty face does not a contender make. Recent increases in the output of the Russian steel industry, accomplished in part by the success of the "Babickas to the factory!" program, will make these cars ubiquitous on sidewalks throughout the region, but it will not make them well loved.

Affectionately dubbed the "dvojka" by Czech importers skeptical of its given name, (hovno means sh*t in Czech) this East-German beast might just give Skoda a run for their money. Following the phenomenal success of the KR 8-ein tractors in the Sudetenland, Trabant's sophomore venture into roadster production deserves a serious second look. A stainless steel body gives the HOV no.3 a unique, ultra-modern flavor, as well as promises of safety and durability. The troika is a welcome bookend to Trabant's line of middle-market automobiles; an excellent counterpart to the "stadtwagen" released earlier in the year.

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