Today, the Škoda brand is associated with passenger cars, but in the past, trucks and buses also carried the winged arrow symbol. Among the most famous buses is the Škoda 706 RTO, which was actually very close to trucks.

The foundation in the truck

The still-known bus used the modified chassis of the Škoda 706 RT truck. This step was of course aimed at reducing development and production costs. In addition, it was not unusual at the time, even the previous Škoda 706 RO was based on the 706 R truck model.

At the same time, the original plans from the early 1950s envisaged that the replacement for the 706 RO would use a self-supporting body, without a base in a truck. In the end, however, this did not happen and the resulting vehicle relied on a semi-self-supporting body combined with a modified 706 RT truck chassis. After all, the name also referred to it – the abbreviation RTO stands for frame, trambus, personal. The number 706 again resembled the used engine.

But you wouldn’t guess the affinity with “er-teček” from the external appearance. The handsome rounded shapes are completely different from the 706 RT. A solution with a square mask more similar to that of the truck brother was also considered, but in the end a rounder solution with an oval mask won. This is still popular after decades, and perhaps that is also why well-preserved “er-té-očka” are offered for millions today.

Photo: Škoda

This is also how the Škoda 706 RTO could have looked – one of the prototypes had different shapes than the final serial version.

The technology itself was closer to the original truck, and not only in terms of the chassis. The drive was provided by the Škoda 706 engine, which was a water-cooled six-cylinder diesel engine with a displacement of 11,781 cm³, tuned to 118 kW and paired with a five-speed manual transmission. The basis was the same as that of the unit in the 706 RT, but it used upgraded cylinder heads as well as different injection nozzles and a pump.

It was because of the engine that the bus was sold with the Škoda name, which was internationally known. The assembly itself, however, took place at Karosa in Vysoké Mýt, where the bodies were also created. On the contrary, the chassis were produced in Liberec, in the then newly founded Liberec Automobile Works (LIAZ).

The Škoda 706 RTO was first presented to the public at the Czechoslovak Engineering Exhibition in Brno in 1956, in the form of a prototype. Production subsequently started two years later.

Various derivatives

The bus measured 10,810 mm in length, was 2,500 mm wide and 2,980 mm high, with a wheelbase of 5,450 mm. Gradually, the model was offered in several versions.

The basis was a city bus with a pair of double doors known as MTZ or MEX. The first design was intended for Czechoslovakia, the second for export markets, which was distinguished by, for example, more massive bumpers. Different configurations were available, depending on which a different number of passengers could fit inside. Space for a guide was also an option.

The KAR had one door, it was intended for intercity lines, therefore it also used storage spaces above the seats or a roof rack. Depending on the configuration, up to 44 passengers could fit inside. For long-distance routes (domestic and international) there was the LUX with more comfortable leather seats, curtains and most importantly the characteristic glazed roof arches. Up to 40 people could fit inside.

Photo: Škoda

A look into the interior of the most luxurious version of the Škoda 706 RTO.

The specialty was the RTO-LUX for the EXPO 58 exhibition, which had a unique luxury cabin with comfortable seats, a Tesla TV or a buffet with a gas stove and refrigerator.

The RTO-K was a three-axle articulated bus, which was intended as a replacement for the used combination of a bus and a tow truck. At that time, the progressive large-capacity solution with the possibility of transporting more than 100 people was finally created in 1960 in a single example. Serial production could not be started.

Photo: Škoda

The progressive articulated version remained only a prototype.

The Škoda 706 RTO was finally produced between 1958 and 1972, when 14,451 vehicles were produced. In Czechoslovakia, it served in practically all cities, but it was also exported to Egypt, Cuba or Romania. It was subsequently replaced in production by the Š series Karosa with a completely new design.

In addition to the home Vysoké Mýt, the cars were also built in Holýšov, where, as part of general repairs, the previous Škoda 706 RO was mounted on the original body chassis from RTO. In addition, “er-té-čko” was also produced under license in Poland under the name Jelcz, until 1977.