Cars for firefighters, medics or the police have to be reliable and resilient, powerful, fast and safe. ŠKODA cars have been serving the community in this way for over a century now. You can see five of them in a new exhibition in the ŠKODA Museum.
Before the Second World War, chassis of all categories of ŠKODA cars were used for the manufacture of ambulances, the smallest being the 3,850 mm long POPULAR 995 Liduška, while the larger RAPID, FAVORIT and SUPERB models with a wheelbase of up to 3,415 mm offered greater speed, spaciousness and comfort. Lightweight open “emergency vehicle bodies” were also built in Mladá Boleslav on the chassis of the same models. For example, these allowed gendarmes or customs officers to easily jump out when chasing a suspect. Firefighters were provided with a wide range of modern ŠKODA commercial vehicles, culminating in the 606 and 806 models, i.e. six-cylinder vehicles with a cargo capacity of 6 or 8 tonnes.
The first to go into service was a VOITURETTE C-type with an extended wheelbase in 1906. It was used as a military ambulance to carry four stretchers in two bunks. Production of ambulances and fire trucks really took off during the First World War: the Mladá Boleslav factory turned out around a hundred reliable Laurin & Klement ambulances a year.
In May 1946, a year after the end of the war, production of ambulances based on ŠKODA 1101/1102 “Tudor” chassis started in Vrchlabí. With 1,100 litre engines delivering 23.5 kW, they could reach 90–100 km/h, and they saved lives even as far away as Cairo, Egypt. The compact and agile “Tudor” had a partition next to the driver that curved forward to accommodate a cot. The paramedic used a fold-down seat. Security forces around the world appreciated the ŠKODA 1101 P (police) “combat Tudors”, which, in the hands of an experienced driver and on suitable tyres, could do wonders in rough terrain even without all-wheel drive.
70 years ago, production of a 4.6 metre long ambulance derived from the ŠKODA 1200 STW estate, which could fit two cots side by side, began in Kvasiny. In 1961, the ŠKODA 1202 ambulances took up the baton, with innovations including the addition of two coil springs to the rear leaf suspension system. But it was the legendary ŠKODA 1203, however, with its bonnet-less body, internal volume of over 5 m3 and overall length of only about 4.5 metres, that became the Czech carmaker’s most widely used ambulance.
A major qualitative leap came in the late 1980s with the arrival of a new generation of front-wheel drive, transverse-engine ŠKODAs. This made it possible to lower the floor at the rear of the car and put virtually any superstructure on it. Although the ŠKODA FAVORIT 788 from 1992 never made it into production, the FORMAN and FORMAN PLUS vans (1990-1995) went into service in hospitals. These were followed by ambulance versions of the FELICIA COMBI (1995-2001) and, after 1998, the OCTAVIA COMBI.
The current exhibition at the ŠKODA Museum featuring five rare ŠKODA utility vehicles will run until the beginning of October this year.
A total of 176 passenger cars and light utility vehicles were produced on the chassis of the L&K Mf and Mg series luxury cars in the years 1917–1923. One of the many variants was the fire truck body. The powerful four-cylinder 4,713 cc engine with a then impressive output of 50 hp (36.8 kW) brought firefighters to the fire faster thanks to its top speed of 90 km/h (90 mph).
The Š 1201 STW was the basis for a series of ambulances with external dimensions of 4,620 x 1,680 x 1,600 mm. It benefited from the advantages of a robust frame chassis with an all-metal body and comfortable suspension with independently suspended wheels. The 1,221 cc/45 hp (33.1 kW) engine gave the ambulance, which weighed just 1,190 kg, a top speed of 110 km/h (110 mph). Belonging to a private collection, the displayed car was used by the ambulance service in the Šumperk district. It differed from ordinary ambulances for transporting patients by its longer body and two-part rear door.
Compared to its predecessor the ŠKODA 110, the 120 offered greater protection for the crew and a more modern design. It had a rear-mounted 1,174 cc/50 hp (36.7 kW) four-cylinder engine. This design was not only advantageous on slippery gradients, but also proved its worth in rally racing. The original blue bodywork of the “VB” (Czechoslovak state police) cars with white stripes was gradually replaced in 1975-1979 by a yellow and white design with black “VB” lettering. This ŠKODA 120 with the later design is from a private collection.
The body versions of a new front-wheel drive car formed the basis for mass production of a hatchback (FAVORIT, from 1987), estate (FORMAN) and light commercial vehicle (PICK-UP). Alternatives that didn’t go further than the prototype stage included the Š 786 light utility vehicle with a wheelbase of 3,100 mm and a partially glass-sided body designed for transporting disabled people and the sister ambulance version on display here, the ŠKODA 788, one of a number of prototypes and sports cars kept in the ŠKODA Museum’s depositories.
With its range of practical features, including a boot capacity of 447-1,366 litres, the FELICIA COMBI (1995-2001: 351,905 units) was not only a popular family car. More than 5,500 units of this light, manoeuvrable, reliable and easy-to-use estate car with a length of 4,205 mm were used by the Police of the Czech Republic.
With over 115 years of supporting the emergency services, ŠKODA continues its legacy with the launch of the marque’s latest addition to its emergency services vehicle line-up – a fully converted ŠKODA KAROQ Rapid Response vehicle.
The versatile SUV lends itself perfectly to emergency service conversion thanks to its practicality, multi-terrain abilities and class-leading space for passengers and essential specialist equipment. When fully converted the vehicle features 360-degree visibility thanks to powerful LED signal lights built into the front screen, grille, tailgate and number plate – all complemented by a 100-amp three tone siren. The recently updated KAROQ is ready for order by blue light fleets and debuts a striking new look, latest technologies and five efficient EVO powertrains.
Offering superior interior space including a spacious, practical load area, raised ride height and the availability of all-wheel drive, the KAROQ makes the perfect all-round vehicle for use by police, ambulance and fire and rescue services across the country. With up to 588 litres of boot space with the VarioFlex seating option – which extends to up to 1,810 litres with the seats fully removed, KAROQ’s practical interior provides ample room for the operational equipment used by the emergency services.
ŠKODA’s in-house bespoke converters ensure fleets are catered for with a fully integrated communications platform that works in harmony with ŠKODA’s 8-inch infotainment system, making for effortless and accessible control on the move.
The KAROQ is offered with a broad range of efficient powertrains from Volkswagen Group’s advanced EVO generation. Two diesel and three petrol powertrains provide between 110PS and 190PS, with a choice of six-speed manual and seven-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic transmissions. The 2.0 TSI 190PS petrol is fitted with all-wheel drive as standard, while the 2.0 TDI 150PS is available with front- or all-wheel drive providing fleets with ultimate choice.
The advanced all-wheel drive system provides confidence and reassurance to emergency services drivers in challenging driving conditions, with an integrated control unit that allows the system to engage all-wheel drive within fractions of a second when required, while in normal conditions it disengages and promotes efficiency in front-wheel drive. The optional Performance Package means KAROQ drivers benefit from enhanced traction on trickier terrain and slippery surfaces, enabling blue-light fleets to get to the where they need to be.
Safety and driver assistance systems are comprehensive, ensuring those inside the car are kept as safe as possible, with up to nine airbags available in addition to a range of advanced driver assistance functions including Crew Protect Assist and Travel Assist.
Emergency services fleets will also benefit from a modified chassis equipped to deal with the demands placed on it during its working life on the road. State-of-the-art medical technology and the inclusion of luggage compartment with a roll-out tray and a back-up electricity source can mean the difference between life and death for those the KAROQ is responding to.