The new ŠKODA Rapid will make its debut in Europe before the end of this year with the UK version expected to look almost identical to the MissionL concept pictured left. When the Rapid arrives at Derek Slack Motors, it will sit between the Fabia and Octavia in the ŠKODA range, offering a family-orientated model in a segment that is growing in all markets around the world. However, few people realise that the new car’s name is steeped in history. The original rear-wheel drive Rapid was produced in Mlada Boleslav from 1934 to 1947,and had several facelifts and cutting-edge engine options, just like today's ŠKODA range.
With engines ranging from 1.2 to 2.2 litres, the original Rapid evolved to develop 61 PS, enough to whisk the car to 81mph and ensure the Rapid wasn’t just used as a family car, but also for racing and long-distance touring.
In 1935, Mr Bohuslav Jan Prochazka drove his 1.4-litre Rapid around the world in 98 days, covering more than 17,000 miles in the process – a considerable test of a car’s reliability. The car's only modifications were an extra-large fuel tank – which allowed him to drive 1,000 miles between fill-ups – and a secret compartment containing two handguns and a Thompson submachine gun.
As well as overcoming the challenges of long-distance driving during the interwar period, Prochazka had to deal with the Russian weather (see bottom right) and Soviet paranoia. He had to drive through Russia at night escorted by a soldier because Stalin was convinced he was a spy, and most of the country's roads had been left as muddy tracks to slow down any potential invasion.
Long journeys and high mileages were only made possible by the Rapid’s technical features, which were far more advanced than those on other cars at the time. The cylinders, for example, used a replaceable ‘wet liner’ system, which, coupled with independent suspension, helped make the Rapid a huge success – one that will hopefully be repeated when the Rapid name reappears on our roads later this year.
The new Rapid perfectly embodies the brand’s values: fresh design, functionality, roominess, ingenuity, and price-to-value ratio typical for our cars. It’s an ideal car for families. Watch this space for more news.