Avia 350cc Type Twelve / Type Fifteen
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 5
The Avia had a lot of things going for it, apart from the low price of course. Unlike most post-war midgets, the Avia actually looked like a scaled-down car - it did not resemble an orphaned sidecar, like the Messerschmitt
, or a mechanised egg, like the Isetta
. The Avia was made in Czechoslovakia, had four wheels, and was powered by a 350 c.c. Jawa motorcycle engine fitted at the rear.
While historically we note the Avia automobile production as being of only a few years, in fact Avia cars had been in production since the end of the war. Early models had the 500 c.c. engine of the larger Jawa motor-bike and used a differential, but the makers decided this was too costly. The 350 c.c. model dispensed with a differential
, the air-cooled engine
laying directly between the two independently sprung rear wheels. At the modest speeds within the car's range, this "fixed diff" effect was not a perfect science, but it did afford cheap manufacture.
Shock absorbers on all wheels gave an unusually smooth ride for this type of vehicle. The car was so light that a person of average strength could manoeuvre it easily. Nor was parking a problem - the Avia could be run in with its bumper against the kerb without protruding into the traffic. There were no doors - the low roof slid back to allow the driver to enter the single front seat, and two passengers to get in behind them. The car could be driven with the hood open or closed.
The driver's bucket seat was centrally placed and backed right up against the rear bench seat, so that the passengers' knees projected on either side of them. As a result, all three occupants had ample leg-room. In front of the driver was the centrally mounted steering
wheel, and conventional pedals for the clutch, throttle, and four-wheel mechanical brakes. The four-speed gearbox, with a reverse gear, was controlled by a floor-mounted lever.
The Benefits Of 2-Stroke Engine Design
You might think 350 c.c. sounds small for an engine expected to power a vehicle carrying three - but it was a two-stroke, and each stroke was a power stroke, so that the performance was equivalent to a 550 c.c. four-cycle engine. Rated horsepower was 3.5, and b.h.p. was quoted at "about 5", but the Jawa engine used was rated higher than what Avia quoted, so we have put the other figure in the spec sheet at left. The most attractive aspect of the Avia was the low maintenance cost. A complete engine overhaul could be done for the equivalent of, in 1956
terms, A£10 for the lot!
Running costs were incredibly low too, with a fuel economy of 70 to 80 m.p.g., oil in minute quantities added to the fuel, and small (15 x 4) tyres. Cruising speed was 40 m.p.h., maximum about 45. Running maintenance was negligible - there were no tappets to adjust, no valves to grind, and by the time it got around to a ring job - well, you could have the whole engine restored to normal for a tenner. The clutch and primary drive chain were immersed in oil, giving quiet, trouble-free operation. Magneto ignition was used, and auxiliary lighting, including signal-indicators, was by a 6-volt battery.