Popular in a market struggling with the downturn in the economy, it also succeeded thanks to its unbeatable price. While at the end of the 1920s the cheapest cars cost around 40,000 crowns, prices for the new Škoda started at 17,800 crowns for a two-seater roadster, and a four-seater semi-cabriolet was a thousand more. It is clear, however, that savings had to be made somewhere, for example, the basic version lacked a differential on the rear driven axle, mechanical brakes had to suffice. But it didn’t matter so much for a relatively small car.
Karel Hrdlička, the director of the Mladá Boleslav factory, was behind the birth of the model, which was affordable for the middle class. He took up the position in January 1930. His brief was clear – a simple car that would enable large-scale production (by the standards of the time) and, despite the lower price, he got car company out of trouble. Although Hrdlička initially promoted a car with a rear engine – there was even a Škoda 932 prototype, which was nicknamed the Kadlomobile – but in the end a more traditional, albeit modified, concept won out.
Designers in Mladá Boleslav abandoned the traditional ladder frame and, inspired by the Tatra concept, chose a solution for the new car with a central backbone beam from which the pivoting semi-axles emerged. The body was then bolted onto this chassis – with the engine at the front and rear wheel drive. This gave rise to a concept that lasted almost four decades at the Mladá Boleslav car company until 1971, when the last Octavia Combi rolled out of Kvasin.
The very first model with this concept was the Škoda 420 Standard already in the fall of 1932, but it was only described as a transitional type, on which the factory wanted to gather the necessary experience. It was powered by a four-stroke four-cylinder engine with lateral side valves (SV) and an output of 20 hp. After two years, when roughly four hundred of these cars were produced, it was time for the first Popular. In addition to a weaker 18-horsepower engine (hence the designation Škoda 418), it also received a tube frame instead of welded profiles.
It soon became clear, however, that a smaller and weaker engine was not the best choice, so in 1934 the more powerful Škoda 420 model came on sale. automobiles. More than 4,000 pieces of this popular variant were produced. Over the years, Škoda Popular has seen other changes, including a more modern engine with OHV distribution, the dimensions have also grown slightly.
The car, thanks to which Škodovka from Mladá Boleslav reached the top of sales among Czechoslovak factories, but because of this, it also distanced itself from the idea of a people’s car. Therefore, in the middle of 1937, in Mladá Boleslav, they came up with a simpler version called Liduška, but by the beginning of the war, only a small series had been produced. The Škoda Popular 1100 OHV variant with a 30-horsepower engine, which – in addition to the Liduška – was also produced shortly after the war, saw the greatest expansion.
In total, between 1934 and 1946, over 20,000 popular cars of all versions were produced, while the production of the otherwise popular car was significantly limited during the war. A number of well-known personalities rode the Popular, such as the footballer František Plánička or the artistic couple Karel Čapek and Olga Scheinpflugová. A number of travelers also chose it for their expeditions, including the famous František Alexander Elstner, who traveled North and South America with the Škoda Popular in the second half of the 1930s.