The name Octavia is now on everyone's lips. Skoda has produced millions of its mid-range model since 1996; in principle, it is THE Octavia par excellence. But anyone who did not grow up in the former GDR or Czechoslovakia probably does not know that a car with the name Octavia existed decades earlier.

The first two-door Octavia left the main plant in Mladá Boleslav in January 1959. The technical refinements included independent suspension all round as well as coil springs and torsion bar stabilisers on the front axle. The newcomer was the eighth Skoda model after the Second World War. Hence the Latin name Octavia - the eighth.

Gallery: Skoda Octavia (1959-1971)

The robust in-line four-cylinder engine with a displacement of 1.1 litres and 40 PS reached a top speed of 68 mph and consumed 7.7 litres of petrol per 100 kilometres. The more powerful Octavia Super variant was launched in 1959 with a 1.2-litre engine and a peak output of 45 PS.

At the Geneva Motor Show in 1960, Skoda presented the sporty Octavia Touring Sport (TS) version, which even celebrated success in motorsport with an output of 50 PS. Among other things, it achieved a hat-trick of class victories at the Monte Carlo Rally in 1961, 1962 and 1963. The estate car also celebrated its premiere in 1960.

Skoda Octavia (1959-1971)
Skoda Octavia (1959-1971)

Its special feature: the horizontally dividable tailgate. It offered enough space for five people and a boot with a loading length of 0.965 metres and a load volume of 690 litres. When the rear seat backrests were folded down, the load volume increased to up to 1,050 litres.

The last Octavia Combi rolled off the production line at the end of 1971, with around 54,000 vehicles of this type having been built to date. The two-door saloon was only built until 1964 and was replaced by the newly designed 1000/1100 MB series with a self-supporting body and rear engine. There was no estate from the MB, which is why the Octavia Combi was allowed to live even longer.

Skoda Octavia (1959-1971)

By 1971, Skoda had produced almost 300,000 vehicles of the legendary model series, which also caused a sensation in motorsport. The Octavia's greatest successes include a class victory hat-trick in the legendary Monte Carlo Rally from 1961 to 1963 and a class victory in the 4,000-mile race from Montreal across Canada to Vancouver in 1962.

Let's turn to "our" Octavia Combi, which was available for a drive as part of the presentation of the current Octavia facelift. 4.06 metres long, 1.60 metres wide and 1.43 metres high. Today, that is Fabia format, i.e. a small car. It also has a wheelbase of 2.39 metres and 47 PS from a displacement of 1,221 cc under the front bonnet. 85 Newton metres are available at 3,000 rpm to propel around 940 kilograms of car forward.

Skoda Octavia (1959-1971)
Skoda Octavia (1959-1971)
Skoda Octavia (1959-1971)

Without occupants, of course. Who, due to the lack of rear doors, have to be quite agile to slip into the rear. Fortunately, the driver and front passenger seats simply folded forwards. Three-door estate cars were not uncommon at the time, just think of the VW Type 3 Variant. Visually, the Skoda is somewhat reminiscent of the Volvo Amazon estate (P220) from 1962, with the delicate rear rafters standing out. 

Inside, the soft upholstery is striking and the interior is relatively cramped. At least by today's standards, back then many cars were significantly smaller, especially in the Eastern Bloc. Our Czech Octavia tamer takes the wheel, and the journey begins somewhat stubbornly. The steering wheel gearstick needs to be operated with feeling; the four-cylinder engine is certainly not a quiet performer. Even as a passenger, it quickly becomes clear that this car, with all due respect to its age, needs to be driven with vigour. Power steering? Forget it.

Unfortunately, our lap is not particularly long. Nevertheless, the old Octavia attracts a lot of attention from Czech passers-by. Depending on their age, between "Look there!" and "Do you remember?" No wonder, after all, the original Octavia was still present in the CSSR at the time of the fall of communism in 1989. Mainly because there was no estate car in the Skoda range until the Forman which was based on the Favorit.