first model of the brand designed for Western Europe

The Favorite owes its lines to Bertone. Image Skoda Media

We are in the autumn of 1982. After months of negotiations and red tape, the communist government of Czechoslovakia finally gave its agreement to produce a new range of cars at the Skoda factory. It was like this, at that time, in the eastern countries: nothing could be decided without the agreement of the communist party.

For the brand, the stakes are huge. The Skoda range is old and if the domestic market is protected from exports, the export of these rear-engined models becomes increasingly complicated. The site is huge, the budget has been reduced to a strict minimum. Skoda has no room for error.

Ambitious specifications

The wind of freedom is blowing over the Berlin Wall, and Skoda knows it. In six months, a year or ten years, we have to measure ourselves against the trend in Europe. At a time when Lada is preparing a modern Samara and when the Volkswagen Golf and Peugeot 205 dominate Europe, we must react urgently. The new Skodas will obviously have a front engine and will also abandon propulsion, in favor of traction.

If the agreement of the communist party took a long time to come, the manufacturer did not wait for the green light to build a rolling prototype. The Skoda 780, built in 1979 will serve as the basis for the Favorite project.

From the beginning of the project, Czech engineers will show creativity. Compared to the previous model, the number of parts has been reduced from 405 to 227. The Favorite, which is 40 mm shorter, is nevertheless more livable and offers a larger load volume.

Design War

For design, Skoda leaders need new blood. On the occasion of the 1983 Geneva Motor Show, they will meet several designers. Giugiaro, whose previous project with Skoda fell through, rejected the Czech’s proposal. Pininfarina, for his part, was also obliged to refuse. Its contract with Peugeot prevents it from collaborating with other European manufacturers.

Finally, the market was contested between the French coachbuilder Chausson and the Italian designer Bertone. On January 1, 1983, the prestigious Italian house won the contract. The next Skoda will have Italian features, and a little German technology.

The engine is a completely modified in-house block.  Image Skoda Media

The engine is a completely modified in-house block. Image Skoda Media

Porsche to the rescue

To get as close as possible to European standards of quality and performance, Skoda engineers did not hesitate to look to the west. Throughout the development process, they call on external specialists in Europe.

But the biggest contribution can certainly be credited to Porsche, who worked on the integration of the engine, on the geometry of the front axle or even on reducing the amount of sound inside the cabin.

The final stage of the Favorite’s development will take place at Porsche’s test center in Weissach, Germany (West).

Which machine for Favorite?

At Skoda, we know that the four-cylinder house, which made its debut in 1964, cannot be mounted on the new compact, as it is. Quickly, we therefore favor the purchase of a machine from another manufacturer.

A dozen engine manufacturers were approached. Only Nissan, Isuzu, PSA and Volkswagen are showing interest. The latter was the furthest in the negotiations, sending a delegation to the factory in Mladá Boleslav (Czechia) in April 1986. Then the Germans offered Skoda a test.

Between September and November 1987, Skoda engineers mounted four-cylinder Volkswagens in their prototypes for a series of tests. The results were convincing, but Skoda’s accountants cast their veto. Favorite’s development budget is melting like snow in the sun.

One of the first prototypes of the Favorite shown to the public.  Image Skoda Media

One of the first prototypes of the Favorite shown to the public. Image Skoda Media

New to old

So we are restoring the beautiful old engine of the house with a double goal: to transfer this old mechanism to unleaded fuel, and significantly increase its lifespan.

The valve seats and valves and pistons are reinforced using higher quality materials. The cylinder liners and the crankshaft were revised, and the engine sealing was refined.

The engine is quieter, more environmentally friendly, and finally accepts the unleaded fuel that has become widespread in Western Europe. The life of the Skoda engine is from 100,000 to 250,000 km!

Extensive testing

To succeed in its bet, Skoda must market a completely reliable vehicle. Many road tests are carried out with prototypes covering more than 250,000 kilometers.

We test the resistance of the Skoda 781, the temporary name of Favorite, in the Alps and even on Mont Ventoux, in the heat. Finally, one of the prototypes traveled 150,000 km at once with a load of 450 kilograms, distributed between the seats and the trunk.

At the end of September 1987, the car was considered ready for sale.

In 1987, the lines of Favorite surprise.  Image Skoda Media

In 1987, the lines of Favorite surprise. Image Skoda Media

The revolution!

The Skoda Favorit was presented for the first time on September 16, 1987 at the 29th edition of the International Engineering Fair in Brno, in front of hundreds of thousands of visitors.

With its modern design, front-wheel drive and design, the Favorite is a truly national event. After a break-in period, mass production was launched at the beginning of December 1987.

Almost two years later, the velvet revolution will reshuffle the cards. As expected, Skoda has to face global competition. To survive, only one solution: turn a little further west.

The Favorite will impress the Volkswagen owner.  Image Skoda Media

The Favorite will impress the Volkswagen owner. Image Skoda Media

It impresses Volkswagen

As early as 1987, a copy of the Favorite was brought to Wolfsburg for a thorough examination. Dr. Hahn himself discovered the compact up close and was impressed.

The deal to supply the engine to the Czechs fell through but VW leaders did not have their last word. On March 22, 1990, Volkswagen president Carl Horst Hahn sat around a table with several Czech representatives, including the speaker of the parliament and the minister of metallurgy and mechanics.

Volkswagen bought Skoda

A few months later, the Volkswagen group acquired Skoda. The following year, the Favorite benefited from its first restyling before undergoing a major update in 1993.

To mark the brand’s new era, Volkswagen planted 548 flags on a Skoda Favorite, to symbolize the 548 changes made to the car. In 1995, Volkswagen pleased itself by transforming the Favorite into the Felicia, proof of its intrinsic qualities.

The Favorite will be the brand’s first model designed for Western Europe. An important model in the history of the manufacturer.

1989 weather rates

In 1989, the Skoda Favorit was offered in France at a price of: 46,990 F.

The hourly minimum wage was then 29.91 F.

So it took 1,572 hours of work to reach it (about 45 weeks of 35 hours!)

Today, the cheapest Skoda Fabia is offered at €17,370. The hourly minimum wage is now €11.07. You have to work 1,560 hours to afford one.

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