According to witnesses, the first Škoda crash test took place in 1968, when a Škoda 1000 MB crashed into a wall at a speed of 20 km/h in the Mladá Boleslav AZNP plant. Official records are silent on this event, so the first historically documented test is the one that took place four years later. It is related to the export of the Škoda 100 model to the West.
Although the Škoda 100 had been produced since 1969, the French showed interest in it only three years later. However, there was a problem – there was no mandatory safety homologation test in Czechoslovakia at that time, but west of our borders it is. Therefore, if the car manufacturer wanted to export the car to a “capitalist foreign country”, the car had to undergo a crash test according to the regulation of the European Economic Commission.
Compared to today’s tests, it was actually a fluke. “At that time, only one parameter was monitored for the car, namely the movement of the steering column,” says Roman Minařík, head of the Škoda Auto test center in Úhelnice near Mladá Boleslav. “A small goat was placed on the steering wheel, whose behavior during the test was recorded from the side by a high-speed camera.” The point was that the steering wheel with the steering rod did not go directly towards the driver, but pointed upwards during the impact.
Fifty years ago, the first Škoda crash test was carried out by the Institute for Motor Vehicle Research (ÚVMV). They designed and built a 150-meter-long runway in the neighborhood of the Ruzyne airport. They were also the ones who designed the steam rocket pushing the car towards the obstacle.
Its basis was a 300-liter pressure vessel with heating spirals, which were heated by an attached diesel generator. “When the water turned into steam and the system was pressurized, it was enough to open the valve at the back and the rocket with the car started against the obstacle,” Minařík explains the principle. In order not to destroy itself during the test, it was stopped five meters before the concrete wall by a wedge brake. The car then continued to the barrier by itself.
Demands on car safety increased in the 1970s, in the position of the eighth certified laboratory in Europe, the ÚVMV could not afford to sleep on development. Therefore, the safety tests were moved from the Ruzyne area to the hall in the Avia Letňany area. Here, in addition to the track for impact tests, another one was created, on which the so-called component tests took place. For example, traveling suitcases mounted on a roof rack, which was attached to the roof of the car, were being pushed against the wall.
The car was no longer pushed by a steam rocket, it was set in motion by dropping weights from a height. Next to the test hall stood a tower with a system of pulleys and a weight that was filled with a certain amount of water. Depending on the speed at which the car was supposed to start against the obstacle.
Watch part of the archive video from the Škoda 100 safety presentation, followed by the Škoda 110 and 120 crash tests in this order | Video: Škoda Auto
In the 1990s, the German TÜV test laboratory took over the scepter of Škoda crash tests, which built a new hall in Úhelnica in Central Bohemia. Today, the site belongs to a car company and has had to be rebuilt twice during its existence.
The original track, on which the first modern Octavia raced against the obstacle in 1996, was 50 meters long. Currently, three contiguous halls already measure 180 meters: the sensors placed in the dummies monitor many more parameters than in the past, and the car’s start-up against an obstacle must take place more slowly so that the position of the dummies on the seat does not change before the impact.
The Škoda Auto Center in Úhelnice belongs to the most modern facilities of its kind in the world, it handles all imaginable safety tests in accordance with current and upcoming legislation. Although the prototype cars only go here after undergoing tens of thousands of impacts in a computer simulation, it is fully occupied. “Next year, we are planning a total of 312 different tests here, sometimes we have to do two in a day. We still have a lot to do,” concludes the head of the center, Roman Minařík.