Today, Škoda cars are associated exclusively with passenger cars, the Mladá Boleslav manufacturer no longer even offers commercial vehicles, but in the past, trucks were also an integral part of the offer. Among them was the Škoda 706 model series, which eventually lasted half a century in production.
The history of the series began as early as 1939, but unfortunately the promising ramp-up of production was gradually halted by the Second World War. The lack of parts for civilian purposes and the necessary orientation to military production meant that part of the vehicles produced went straight to the German army.
There were several variants of this truck with a ladder frame and cab behind the engine, which was a characteristic interwar design. The basic flatbed (Škoda 706) was complemented by versions with a low frame for mounting a bus body (706 N and extended 706 ND) or a version with an extended chassis for a longer flatbed (706 D). Specifically, the buses created, for example, at Sodomka were used by the then Česko-Moravian railways or the Brno transport company.
The drive was provided by an in-line, water-cooled diesel four-stroke, six-cylinder with a volume of 8.6 liters, which reached an output of 81 kW. Later, wood gas variants were also created, required by the war, or by the then lack of fuel.
With the end of the war, the Škoda 706 R (R as reconstructed) appeared on the scene, but its production had to be moved from Mladá Boleslav to Letňany, to the former Avia aircraft factory. The Mladoboleslav car factory was destroyed by bombing in May 1945, so post-war production could not start quickly here. In addition, in the future, it was planned that the plant would be reoriented exclusively to passenger cars. On the other hand, in Letňany there was suitable free space at Avia, which did not have much use – immediately after the war, the production of airplanes was no longer expected here.
At the beginning of the 1950s, however, the top management of the republic changed its mind, and Avia was to focus again on the production of aircraft, primarily licensed Ilyushins. Production of the Škoda 706 R thus moved again, this time to the vicinity of Liberec as part of the efforts at the time to industrialize this region. However, this was not without difficulties, the problem was the necessity of training employees who had no experience with automobile production, as well as the overloaded railway line complicating logistics.
The Škoda 706 R differed from its predecessor mainly in a more powerful engine, which was secretly developed during the war. It was an in-line, water-cooled diesel four-stroke, six-cylinder with a volume of 11.8 liters, which reached an output of 99 kW.
Different variants were again available, whether a basic flatbed (706 R), a tipper (706 RS) or a derived bus (Škoda 706 RO). For export there was a reinforced eight-ton tipper (806 RS) or even a nine-ton flatbed (906 R). After all, the numbers also explain the logic behind the naming of this model series. The first two digits indicated the carrying capacity of the car, the last the number of engine cylinders. Nevertheless, the car became popular under the nickname “Barča”, or “muzzle Barča” after the characteristic cabin.
The successor arrives from LIAZ
In the mid-1950s, however, the Škoda 706 R, still based on the interwar period, proved to be outdated, so it needed to be updated. The result was the Škoda 706 RT, which was created by the development center of the newly founded Liberec Automobile Works (LIAZ).
The novelty called the Škoda 706 RT (reconstructed, trambus) was distinguished from its predecessor by a completely new cabin, which was already trambus, i.e. without a hood. For its time, it impressed with its modern shapes, even in the context of international competition.
However, the technical basis continued to be based on the existing 706 R, although thanks to the new cabin, the wheelbase was shortened by a meter and the axles were also changed. The engine was also preserved. However, the 11.8-liter inline six-cylinder diesel engine was newly supplemented by direct fuel injection, thus replacing indirect injection into the vortex pre-chamber. Thanks to this, the power increased to 118 kW. All-wheel drive was completely new.
Production of the Škoda 706 RT started in 1958, again various derivatives gradually arrived on the market. The basic 706 RT as a flatbed or as a basis for superstructures was complemented by the 706 RTS dump truck, the 706 RTH sprinkler truck, the 706 RTHP fire trucks or the 706 RTK garbage truck. There was also a semi-trailer tractor 706 RTTN, a long flatbed 706 RTD or 706 RTP, a flatbed with four-wheel drive. On the same basis, a bus was created again in the form of the Škoda 706 RTO.
The “Erťák” gradually became the most widespread truck on Czechoslovak roads – after all, the Praga and Tatra models were more intended for tasks off paved roads.
The improvisation lasted 20 years
However, as the years progressed, it became more and more obvious that the car would need to be replaced. In the 1960s, work began on the series later known as the LIAZ 100. However, the central socialist planning did not have the strength to enforce such innovations, so the production of the newly designed car was considerably delayed. Perhaps also due to the fact that there was nowhere to manufacture new cabins. The originally intended production in Letňa’s Avia went bankrupt, in connection with the start of license production by the French Saviem there. There was suddenly no room for the production of cabins for LIAZ.
So it was necessary to improvise, which resulted in the Škoda 706 MT, an “intermediate type”, which was originally supposed to be only a temporary solution. It used some of the components already ready for the upcoming LIAZ 100, which could start production.
Specifically, it was about new axles with reductions in the wheels of the rear axle or new drive components. The engine thus strengthened to 132 kW, later up to 154 kW. It was combined with a modern five-speed Praga gearbox. On the contrary, the cabin remained practically identical.
The introduction of individual components into production was gradual, which is why the so-called Škoda 706 MS intermediate stage was created with a new engine, but existing axles. An interesting fact is that the existing Škoda 706 RT continued to be produced.
The offer basically copied the existing one. In addition to the flatbed 706 MT, there were many types, namely a three-way tipper (706 MTS 24), a three-way tipper with all-wheel drive (706 MTSP 24), a chassis with 4 × 4 drive and a reinforced frame for road superstructures (706 MTSP 25), chassis with 4 × 4 drive and auxiliary drives for agricultural attachments (706 MTSP 27 Agro), semi-trailer tractor (706 MTTN) or extended flatbed (706 MTV 5).
The originally intended intermediate type thus became a de facto full-fledged vehicle. After all, this facelift nicknamed “Mates” lasted over twenty years in production! The 706 MT model began to be produced in 1966, but the last pieces were produced in the second half of the eighties. Although the expected LIAZ 100 was already being produced, production did not meet the demand for a long time, so the existing model series was sold alongside it for years. After several modernizations, the Škoda 706 lasted almost 50 years in production!