Skoda 440

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Skoda 440

1955 - 1959
Czech Republic
4 cyl.
39 bhp / 29 kW
4 spd. man
Top Speed:
77 mph
Number Built:
2 star
Skoda 440
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 2


The Skoda 440 and the similar 445 and 450 were produced by AZNP in Czechoslovakia between 1955 and 1959. They were the product of an old and renowned Czechoslovakian factory, and in many respects they reflected the rugged characteristics of the people who designed and made them.

The three models were all powered by inline four-cylinder engines. Those models were the 440 Spartak (1955 – 1959) - 1089cc, 29 kW (39 PS; 39 hp) @ 4,200 rpm, the 445 (1957 – 1959) - 1221cc, 33 kW (45 PS; 44 hp) @ 4,200 rpm, the 450 (1957 – 1959) - 1221cc, 33 kW (45 PS; 44 hp) @ 4,200 rpm. The 440, 445 and 450 were updated in 1959 with the sedans and wagon/estate models renamed to Skoda Octavia and the 450 convertible to Škoda Felicia

The 440 offered more than usual space and could comfortably accommodate four people and a good deal of luggage. The rear seat was wide enough to accept three persons for short trips. It was the result of development over many years and, to most who drove it, it represented the best ever car that Skoda had built up until that time. A noticeable improvement was made in its power - and thus hill-climbing ability.

On the Road

Given its “behind the iron curtain” origins, the Skoda was built for tough service. Its suspension was quite hard by the standards of the time, and although the ride was not as comfortable as many other cars, the compensation was that the suspension remained virtually free from "bottoming'' on bad roads. The 440 was quietest when cruising in top gear, apparently little attempt being made to reduce the noise of engine and transmission when driven fast in the lower gears.

The brakes were pretty average too, particularly on rough Australian roads, where they transmitted a high degree vibration in addition to that provided via the steering mechanism. But on the plus side, the 440 had above-average rear vision for manoeuvring, a heater was standard equipment at a time when most cars had it as an option, there was a very good ventilating system for both sides of the front floor, it was equipped with easy-to-read instruments and a radiator blind for control of temperature in cold weather.

The Skoda engine was most tenacious when climbing hills at low speed. In top gear, it had a higher than usual gearing, providing a road speed of 16.3 mph at 1000 rpm. Through the corners the 440 would sit down quite nicely. On dry roads there was litte roll or tyre squeal when cornering fast , however on wet roads or loose gravel reasonable care needed to be exercised, as the rear wheels would drift away quite readily, but could be controlled without difficulty. The firm suspension of the Skoda gave a slightly harsh ride over ordinary roads, but it permitted really rough tracks to be taken without bottoming. On the open road, the Skoda could be cruised comfortably around 55 mph on average highways. When necessary a good speed could be maintained over rough dirt roads. The flexibility in top gear was good down to 30 mph, ideal for around town.

The worm-and-nut steering mechanism was very light in operation and had a moderate over-steering tendency which gave lightness of touch through corners. Unfortunately the steering had a noticeable degree of lost motion, which allowed the car to weave slightly when pushing it hard. There was also a pronounced degree of reaction in the hands when driven over stony roads – which were far more common to 1950s Australia than you might think. The steering mechanism was relatively quick, requiring three turns from lock to lock. The turning circle was a moderate at 33ft and the car was very manoeuvrable.

The Skoda 440 developed its best pulling power at 38 mph in top gear and at 24 mph in third gear. Maximum torque was 52lb-ft. Overtaking required use of second gear up to 25 mph, third gear up to 32 mph, over which speed top gear would suffice. Performance times for acceleration were: Third gear: 20 to 40 mph, 8.3 seconds. 30 to 50 mph, 10.5 seconds, Top gear: 20 to 40 mph, 13.5 seconds 30 to 50 mph, 16.5 seconds. The hydraulic brakes were heavy in operation, but they proved themselves to be free from fade during normal cruising even after long mountain descents, so they obviously washed off heat quick enough. The brake-lining area was 98 sq. in. which, in the days of drum brakes, was sufficient for a good lining life.

Behind the Wheel

The seating and wheel location were satisfactory and vision was good in all directions, particularly through the extensive rear window. The column gearshift was heavily spring-loaded to the first-second gear layer and this spring-loading necessitated a firm and deliberate movement of the lever. However, the synchromesh (on the top three ratios) permitted very rapid changes in either direction. The instruments, comprising a large and clear speedometer, temperature and fuel gauge, were satisfactorily disposed high on the fascia before the driver. Warning lights were fitted for generator, oil pressure, head temperature and turn indicators. A curious feature was that the warning light for oil pressure was normally on, but it was almost impossible to see in daylight anyway. The switch for the turn-indicators was not self-cancelling. The screen-wipers were coupled together and were self-parking. The handbrake was positioned almost in front of the passenger and required the driver to lean well forward.

Fuel Economy

At an average speed of 42 mph the Skoda would provide a reasonably good fuel consumption figure of around 38 miles per gallon. This was equivalent to 40 ton-miles per gallon in the loaded condition. The fuel-speed factor (ton-m.p.g. x average speed) was 1.690. And, for those who can’t be bothered figuring it out, that meant the 449 had a cruising range of 252 miles.

The engine layout was conventional and there was ample space for easy access to engine components. Bore and stroke were 68 by 75mm, and the compression ratio was low even by 1950s standards, at 7 to 1. Nevertheless, there was some slight detonation at full throttle when operating at moderate speeds. The carburettor was cleaned by an oil-wetted mesh filter, and a replaceable felt filter was provided in the oil system. The Skoda was built around a tubular backbone chassis supported at the front by upper wishbones and a lower transverse leaf spring. The rear suspension was independent through swinging half-axles and an upper transverse leaf spring. The front spring was damped by piston shock absorbers, whilst the telescopic type were used in rear.

The transmission comprised a four-speed gearbox, in unit with the engine, driven through a differential mounted to the rear end of the backbone frame. The body was carried by outriggers extending from this frame. The gear ratios were: Top 4.8, third gear 7.6, and second gear 11.8 to 1. The Skoda body was of the two-door type with movable front windows, but fixed rear windows. The front seat was of bench type fitted with divided squabs which pivoted forward to facilitate access to the rear seat. The maximum widths of the seats were 46 inches in front and 51 inches in rear. The wheel arches intruded slightly into the rear seat. The seat coverings and interior trim were made from a washable synthetic material. An unusually large hump over the gearbox was formed in the centre of the front floor, and this limited the seating capacity to two adults in that compartment.

Head room was good in both seats and leg room was about average. Two closable glove-boxes were formed in the fascia, and there was a flat pocket in each door. Ventilation was adequately provided by independent controllable ducts to either side of the front floor, and by ventilating panels in the front windows. A recirculating type heater and demister was fitted. The boot was very deep and had a clear luggage capacity of 13 cu. ft. The spare wheel was stowed in the top of this compartment and the fuel tank in the depth of the off-side rearguard.
Skoda 440

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Also see:

The Skoda Story - A Pictorial History from Laurin and Klement to Skoda
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