Anyone who's followed my site for a few years will know that I've always
had a massive soft spot for the rear engined Skodas. This started
back when I was about 12 years old when a friend of mine introduced me to
a khaki green, basically derelict 120L-5 in their yard. This then
resulted in a few years later me picking up my first Estelle, an E
plate 130GL. That was a very tidy car and was entirely rust
free, but it met an unfortunate end in 2005 when the driver of a diesel
tanker failed to stop at a crossroads, resulting in me careering into the
side of his cab at 50 odd mph. The driver's excuse was that he
didn't see me. We were both okay, but it was the end of my first
Skoda. A few years later, a 135RiC joined the fleet, and proved to
be quite the problem child seeming to need attention every other week,
eventually immobilising itself when the gear linkage snapped, at which
point I lost patience with it and reverted back to Saabs for a
while. Despite that, I did miss the charm of the old Estelles.
I did on a few occasions consider picking up another one, but being based
in Aberdeen at the time was generally put off by the fact that when they
did appear for sale, they tended to be at the other end of the country and
I simply didn't have the patience to deal with the logistics of buying an
unseen car and getting myself to the other end of the country etc.
Towards the end of 2013 however something rather unusual happened. A
classified ad appeared on eBay for an Estelle that was (relatively) local
to me. It was definitely at the upper end of the price range you
would have expected to pay for an Estelle at the time (from memory £1995),
but being only a couple of hours drive away I figured was probably worth a
bit of a premium. Plus it was a low mileage car and in a decent
...This ad I might add was pointed out to me by the same friend who
originally introduced me to these cars, and has a tendency to point these
things out to me, this being I think the third car that I've ended up
buying thanks to his "hey, have you seen this?" emails...You know who you
are, and please keep it up.
After a bit of deliberation, the deal was done and we were on our way back
from Inverness with my partner in the Saab following behind me in the
Estelle. We did have one "interruption in progress" roughly halfway
home when the cooling system of the Estelle lost interest in containing
its coolant and I had to pull over in a very stereotypical cloud of steam
when the temperature gauge started to head skywards. I had my
suspicions about the condition of the expansion bottle cap before we left
as the system didn't seem to be running up to pressure, so this wasn't a
huge surprise. Total delay was only ten minutes or so as a helpful
member of the public kindly donated us water to top the system up, and a
ten litre container to take with us in case of further problems. The
rest of the trip though was thankfully uneventful.
A few photos follow which show the car as it was when we first got it
You can quite clearly see here the evidence from when the cooling system
decided to spew its contents everywhere - this actually proved a lot more
difficult crud to remove than I had expected, especially where the heat
from the exhaust underneath had baked it onto the splash guard.
The interior is pretty much perfect, the only exception being the seats
which have started to disintegrate along the seams as the seats in
virtually all Skodas of this era have. This appears to be due to the
fabric used being prone to breaking down at the chemical level when
exposed to UV for any extended period of time. The clutch pedal
rubber cap appeared in the driver's door pocket soon after this photo was
taken. It appears that the clutch master cylinder has failed in the
past and the clutch fluid had dissolved the adhesive holding it on.
The actual leak had been solved long before I got the car, and it was a
matter of seconds to clean the pedal up and reattach the rubber cap.
The first thing almost anyone notices when opening the door of this car is
the really distinctive smell that this car has. Ladas, Saabs and
Vauxhalls of a similar era are the cars which I recall having similarly
distinctive scents, probably down to the type of the plastics used for the
interior trim panels.
I think the bright orange strips of metal along the tops of the doors
actually looks really good with the otherwise black and grey interior,
adding a nice splash of colour.
Despite being such a basic (and cheap) car at the time, it's actually
surprisingly comfortable. Rear legroom isn't massive (but it's not a
particularly big car by today's standards), but the front is pretty good
and the seats are pretty soft. I find that's quite a pleasant
surprise these days when all manufacturers seem insistent on making their
seats out of concrete.
One thing which I noticed immediately was that the previous owner had
taken an "interesting" approach to getting the car through its MOT when it
was identified that the brake warning light on the dash was lit.
This solution was to cover the offending light in what appears to be black
The reason this was lit was down to the brake pedal travel limit switch
having been activated in the past (probably when the master cylinder
failed in the past which it reportedly did). This puts the light on,
and is reset (of course after identifying the problem) simply by pushing a
button on the pedal support. Sadly the previous owner apparently
didn't know this, and instead left me with quite a mess to clear up!
I've managed to get rid of most of the gunk now, but it's still far from
perfect. If anyone out there has a clean brake warning light
"module" of this type (I only need the lens and emblem part, the
lampholder and back piece are fine) that they'd be willing to part with, I
would love to hear from you as this is seriously bugging my sense of OCD.
That was basically the start of the bug fixing. While it was a very
low mileage car due to having spent most of its life static in a private
collection, it had never really been properly recommissioned. The
bare minimum had been done in terms of replacing actually failed brake
components and a couple of fuel lines, but that was pretty much it.
The car was even still wearing its original Uniroyal tyres when I got it -
which were providing frankly terrifyingly low levels of grip and were
changed within a week of getting the car. Going around roundabouts
before then at anything over 10mph resulted in rear end drift and
squealing noises that you would expect from an 80s US cop show car
chase! You know that something is far, far wrong when you can easily
invoke a powerslide while rounding any corner on a dry road in a vehicle
with all of 54bhp on tap. When the original tyres were taken off, it
became apparent that they had basically turned to plastic. Dropping
one from waist height (where you would usually expect a tyre to bounce
quite a decent distance) simply resulted in a dull "thud" and the tyre
stopping dead on contact with the ground. With some new rubber
(Pirelli P3000s) on the wheels though (155 SR13 tyres aren't exactly
common these days, and I had to have these shipped over from Germany),
both the ride and handling became far more civilised. Immediately
the wonderfully lively steering feel I remembered from my first Estelle
returned, and the tendency to wander in sidewinds without ballast in the
luggage compartment was changed from "almost undriveable" to "only mildly
Also high on the list of things to sort (though not so high as the tyres!)
was the fact that the car would not idle for love nor money, making city
driving a somewhat taxing affair requiring masses of forward planning and
three feet. Not ideal given that at the time I was living literally
smack in the middle of Aberdeen. I'm not entirely sure which of the
following items where actually to blame for that, or if it was a
combination effort, but a quick check over revealed the following
1. A carburettor with a float bowl full of silt.
2. ...And jets to match.
3. The ignition timing was waaaaay advanced, which also explained the
horrible pinking on hills.
4. Every vacuum line save for the one to the brake servo was perished
5. The fuel lines were all so perished I'm surprised the engine was
getting any fuel whatsoever.
6. The distributor cap looked like something dredged off the Titanic, the
rotor arm to match it.
7. The points were so tight that they were barely opening at all.
8. The HT leads were the originals and were knackered (as I discovered
while finally adjusting the idle air mixture screw after sorting all of
the above, when I got a terrific belt off one of them).
While changing the above, it was found that virtually every water pipe was
original as well and were badly perished (though astonishingly not
actually leaking), so they were replaced on the spot. Especially the
balancing pipe between the heater hoses which is that horrible green
fabric braided hose that Skoda loved back then which usually decomposes to
powder when you even look at it. The heater core and radiator bleed
hose is usually made of this as well, but in my case that one had already
That basically got the car to a condition whereby it drove reasonably
well, and would actually idle properly. Suffice to say that made
general day to day progress rather less stressful. The one problem
which still persisted though was the tendency for the car to boil when
climbing a long gradient, despite no shortage of coolant, a radiator that
was flowing reasonably well and a properly bled system. This was
always curable simply by switching the engine off for five minutes or so,
and once restarted normality would be restored. The cause for this
was pretty quickly traced to a dodgy pressure cap on the expansion bottle
meaning that the system wasn't holding pressure. This allowed the
water to flash boil when passing through the hotter parts of the engine,
cavitating in the water pump and resulting in coolant flow stopping.
A new cap on the tank from eBay sorted that out straight away.
It however did then identify another problem, that the head gasket is
blown between one of the cylinders and the water jacket. If you
don't depressurise the cooling system after the engine has been run (it's
not over-pressurising at all), cylinder no 1 will take several seconds to
fire when the engine is next started due to water contamination.
This obviously needs to be sorted out properly in due course, and I hope
to get it done this summer (the Saab is currently being recommissioned and
its list of gremlins attacked, after which I'll turn my attention to the
Skoda's head). These heads are very prone to warping if overheated,
so I fully expect to have to get it skimmed. Really annoying though
that this has probably been caused by the previous owner failing to change
something as simple as a coolant expansion cap, as I'm sure that this was
the root cause for the blown head gasket! I'm also hoping to have
access to my garage again in the next couple of months which will make
life far easier than trying to do this work on the driveway.
The other things on the wish list at the moment are a fresh set of brake
discs (they are currently the originals, and having spent so many years
sitting around hasn't done them any favours), and new rubber bushes for
the rear suspension as they have as you would expect started to perish
quite badly, throwing the camber out at the back (it effectively allows
the suspension arm to rotate), especially on the offside.
As it is though, the car nowadays does relatively few miles to local
duties and to shows. It is *regularly* used though which is the main
thing to keep a lot of problems at bay!
If you're in the Milton Keynes area, you may well see it out and about -
it's not exactly easy to miss. Hoping that it will be appearing at
quite a few of the shows in that area this year, so feel free to say
hello. I don't bite!
The Skoda 120LX is a bit of an oddball in the model range, and I'm
honestly not totally sure how it came to be. The best way to
describe it really is "A Skoda 130 with a 120 engine." Meaning that
it had the semi-trailing arm rear suspension, rev counter and headrests
that were normally seen on the 130, but had the 1174cc engine that would
normally be in the 120. Theories which spring to mind for me are
that they ran short of 130 engines, or over-stocked the 130 spec rear
suspension. We'll probably never know for certain!
This particular car is one of a pretty limited number of special edition
cars that were made (read: branded by the importer!) to commemorate
Skoda's 21st year of trading in the UK. When new the car would have
come with a signed, numbered certificate of authenticity from the
importer, a set of crystal wine glasses, and features graphics on the
front wings stating "Skoda 21" as can be seen below. Otherwise the
car is unchanged from standard. I don't know how many of these 21st
Anniversary cars there were unfortunately or where mine stood in the
Next we have a selection of random photos of the car before we drop into
the current day "blog" section showing things as they progress...Let's
face it though, it's the pictures that most people are here for...
One of the oddities of the UK spec cars is that the headlight indicator
light on the dash isn't used. It's there, it's wired up, but no lamp
is fitted. I figure that it's actually a useful one to have, so
stuck a lamp in there (nicked ironically from the front fog light
indicator - which is NOT fitted in this car...but has a lamp fitted in its
indicator!), and sure enough that now works.
...unfortunately while I was doing this, I managed to dislodge the
illumination lamp from the fuel gauge, so need to go back in there at some
point to stuff it back into the back of the gauge. Oops.
Next few are just some general shots showing what I consider to be
interesting general lines, details etc of the car.
In case you wondered, the little "knobbly bit" (as my mother described it)
in the tail lights is actually the illumination lamp for the rear number
The first show the car attended in my ownership was the 2014 Annual
Vintage and Classic Vehicle Gathering at the Grampian Transport Museum in
Alford, Aberdeenshire. This was literally a day or two before the
car made the journey down to its new home in Milton Keynes.
It attracted quite a bit of attention, and I reckon really does look the
part when cleaned up properly. The colour does rather attract
attention! I say orange...though officially the name is "Rowan Red."
The Nova in the background was an ideal partner for it at the show I
thought, given that they were both cars that were likely to be seen on the
road together in their day.
The next show the car was seen at was the June 2015 Stony Stratford
Classic Car Festival - but me being the complete idiot that I am I managed
to take photos of half the cars there - but not any of my own! If
you were there and snapped any photos of my Skoda, any chance you could
email me a photo or two to zelandeth(at)gmail.com so that I could upload
Ever since I bought this car there had been obvious issues with the head
gasket. Combustion gases were finding thier way into the coolant, and if
you didn't remove the expansion bottle cap when you shut the engine off the
pressure would force coolant into at least two of the cylinders. Suffice
to say this was a situation which I had to eventually get off my lazy tail and
do something about.
So in the morning I was
looking at this nice, (relatively) tidy engine bay...
Only a couple of hours later
however, this was the scene of total devastation that was before me!
The process to get
the head off these engines is incredibly simple compared to more modern cars
and is honestly not at all terrifying. It literally is a case of
"disconnect everything attached to the head or carb, remove carb, remove
rocker cover, remove rocker assembly, extract pushrods, remove head."
exceedingly careful and with basic tools it shouldn't take you more than 40
minutes. The only thing which is really likely to fight you is unbolting
the exhaust downpipe from the mainfold if it's been on there for a while.
It's worthwhile keeping a piece of stiff card on hand so that you can poke
holes in it to retain each of the pushrods and head bolts as they're removed
to make sure you keep them in the right order.
Reassembly really is
just the reverse of removal once you've got everything cleaned up. Just
remember that you *will* need to check and adjust the valve clearances.
Once cleaned up and
reassembled mercifully everything worked. It also seemed to resolve the
overheating issues I'd been having, and got rid of the annoying habit that
cylinders 2 and 3 had of flooding with water if you didn't remove the
expansion tank cap before you shut the engine off...
This did seem to make
the car run a good deal better, and actually meant that I was able to get out
of town for a bit, even venturing as far as Gaydon for the BriSkoda 2016
evidence that the car has actually left my driveway!
...and I decided that it was time
that I treated the car to a present for getting us there without incident.
Sadly a couple of trips after this
show it started playing up again, this time with an erratic overheating
problem that was hard to replicate. My theory was that the thermostat
was sticking, as this hadn't been changed when the head gasket was changed on
account of the eBay seller I ordered the replacement from sending the wrong
one. However I was somewhat frustrated with the car by this point, and
rather than doing the sensible thing and fixing it, parked it under the tree
in disgrace and ignored it for several months.
I had pretty much by that point
decided that it was time to sell this on. The reappearance of the
problems with the cooling system were just another niggle, and I was to be
honest tired of what felt like every time I took it out something else playing
up. It had got to the point that I just really wasn't enjoying the car
any more and knew that it was just going to end up gathering dust and rusting
away in the corner. It needed to go.
However in the time it spend
growing moss in the corner of the garden the MOT had lapsed. Taking it
in for a test (having changed the thermostat!) revealed some welding required
on the offside rear end of the inner sill, but nothing too dire. It was
duly sorted out by my usual garage and got a fresh ticket.
What I hadn't expected however was
that a friend of mine locally was actually very interested in the car, and
pounced virtually the second I mentioned that I was thinking about selling it.
He also had a car he was looking to move on, in the form of a very well sorted
out Citroen Xantia Activa. We were both coveting the car we had and
wanted shot of, and were both far more interested in having someone actually
enjoying the motors that we'd fallen out of love with than money - so a deal
was done! My Estelle moved on to a new home (it's only a couple of miles
up the road, so I still see it regularly!), and a Citroen Xantia Activa - a
model I'd coveted for many years yet never thought I'd have a chance at owning
- appeared in my driveway. The new owner of my Estelle is very happy
with the new challenges that it had presented him with, and I'm very much
enjoying driving the Activa in the manner in which it was designed to
So while this is likely to be the
end of regular updates for this particular page, it may well get the
occasional one if I see it out and about at shows and as the work to tidy up
the bodywork progresses.
I'm very happy with how the sale
ended up working out, in that it means I still see the car. However it's
with a heavy heart that I say that I think this will be my last Estelle.
This was the second one I picked up in the hope of recapturing the spark I'd
felt with my first 130GL that was cruelly cut short, but simply failed to
connect with either of the latter two in any meaningful way. I think
it's a chapter that I can simply call closed now.
The Activa will shortly be joining
the ranks on this website, as will my Lada, and any further new additions as
time goes on...