Czechoslovakia’s Ford T: celebrating 60 years since introduction of Škoda 1000 MB

Škoda 1000 MB

The new Škoda 1000 MB was unveiled in Mladá Boleslav on March 21, 1964. Designed to be an inexpensive family car, it was Czechoslovakia’s answer to the Ford Model T: the first mass-affordable automobile, making car travel available to more people in the country than ever before.

Although the Škoda 1000 MB made its debut in 1964, the first prototypes had already been developed several years earlier. Petr Kožíšek, head of the Road and Water Transport Department at the National Technical Museum in Prague, elaborates:

"The first prototypes of the Škoda 1000 MB had already been created in 1956, and various design layouts were considered: front-engine, rear-wheel-drive; front-engine, front-wheel-drive. In the end, it went the way we know it today, i.e. with the engine in the back.”

Škoda 1000 MB | Photo: Lukáš Řezník,  Czech Radio

Fondly nicknamed the “Embéčko” by Czechs and Slovaks, the MB in its name stood for Mladá Boleslav, where it had its world premiere. However, it also had another nickname: the 1000 MB was jokingly said to stand for „Tisíc malých bolestí“ or “A thousand little nuisances”. Petr Kožíšek explains why:

“It had a lot of useless design features which made life difficult for the car’s owners. For example, the rubber hoses that went from the fuel tank through the rear engine wall to the engine would very quickly begin to degrade – after a short time they would dry up and crack.”

For this reason, the car also became the butt of various jokes, such as these:

Q: “When does the 1000 MB go at its top speed?”
A: “On the assembly line.”

Q: “Why are the instruction manuals for the 1000 MB so thick?”
A: “Because at the end they have all the bus and train timetables, just in case.”

That doesn’t change the fact, however, that the Škoda 1000 MB was immensely popular, says Petr Kožíšek.

“The Škoda 1000 MB was for Czechoslovakia something like the Ford T was for America – exceptionally influential. Almost 450,000 of them were produced.”

The 1000 MB was highly successful for both the Škoda Works Company and the Czechoslovak economy in general. As well as success at home, it was also exported abroad to countries like the UK, where it was priced at a reasonable £579, making it cheaper than similarly sized domestic four-door saloons like the Ford Cortina 1200 (at £592) and Hillman Minx Deluxe (at £636).

Škoda 1000 MB | Photo: Lukáš Řezník,  Czech Radio

For this low price, the 1000 MB was well equipped, with reclining front seats, a heater and demister, full tool kit, and a generously-sized boot, causing British car salesmen to describe it as “a lot of car for the money.”

At the time, the price of a new Škoda 1000 MB started at 44,000 Czechoslovak crowns. Nowadays, an original Škoda 1000 MB in excellent condition can be valued at several hundred thousand crowns.

Although it was only produced for five years until 1969, the 1000 MB had an enduring popularity long after it had stopped being manufactured. Folk singer Slávek Janoušek even sang a song about it at the Czech music festival Porta in 1987, almost 20 years after production had ended – a testament to its enduring cultural significance.

Authors: Anna Fodor , Luděk Hubáček , Agáta Faltová | Source:
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