1988 Skoda 130GL

The 130GL can be identified from other Estelles by the fact that it came with a vinyl roof as standard, the seat trim options I believe (not confirmed...) were common to only it and the Rapid, and most obviously, that it shares its instrument panel and facia with the Rapid.  Estelles were fitted with individual round instruments and pinpoint style warning lights - the 130GL had an integrated instrument panel of a more modern, conventional design.  The switchgear layout was also different to the Estelle, with them all being laid out out in a row on the instrument panel, but the rotary switches remained.  It was also fitted with a variable speed control for the intermittent setting for the windscreen wipers - a feature I actually found very handy.

Okay...random geeky rambling over - onto the car.

I'd wanted an Estelle for years - having been hooked by the wonderfully quirky design after an encounter with a very rough example owned by a friend.  The front engined look, but with the engine in the wrong end, an interior which doesn't seem to follow the same conventions as any other manufacturer in any era, in conjunction with a very distinctive soundtrack all just pulled me in.

After a huge amount of local trawling coming up a complete blank, I reluctantly started to look further afield, eBay looking like the most likely place I'd get hold of one.  I didn't really like the idea of this, as I'm a great believer in having a very, very thorough examination of a car before even contemplating buying it...and being based in the north of Scotland...when all the Estelles seemed to be in the midlands or even further south...that really wasn't going to be practical!

Fast forward another few months, and I stumble across a very solid sounding, 130GL.  It needed its vinyl roof replacing, and was wearing a top of black Hammerite at the time as a result, was clearly fitted with too low profile tyres, and was in need of a darn good polish, other than that though it looked a good one, not a spec of rust visible - even on the sills or the normally dissolved bonnet lip.  It was also in a ludicrously bright, verging on day-glow, orange.  Colours like that appeal to me.  A full years MOT, several months tax, and a mileage of under 26K.  Though goodness the windscreen wiper arms needed a paint...

Several emails were then bounced back and forth between the seller and myself, he turned out to be an enthusiast himself, and had several - and was running out of space and trying to thin the fleet out somewhat, and in rather a hurry thanks to another car being about to arrive from further afield - hence the very low sounding (even in 2004!) buy-it-now price of GBP350, well within my budget of 500.  The only negative was the location - being in Birmingham...not exactly a five minute drive down the road.  I pondered, fretted, pondered, procrastinated, panicked, gnawed my fingernails off, procrastinated some more, before eventually clicking the button and buying it.  Then began the planning of how on earth to get it back!

This was also in the days before the likes of the big insurance companies did cheap and easy to arrange short-term insurance, so the first thing I had to do was transfer the cover from my current car over to it prior to setting out - these days I'd have taken out three or four days of insurance, to give me a chance to proof-test the car prior to shifting things over from my current daily driver (at that point in time, the Niva).

The logistics of the journey weren't too mind-bending, but were less than ideal for the maiden journey of a car I'd never set eyes on before.

Coach from Aberdeen to Birmingham (Back when National Express actually were priced to compete with rail and air, and as a result was my long-distance travel mode of choice...).  The seller would meet me at Digbeth coach station and give us a lift back to their house, where the exchange would take place.  Somewhat to my surprise - and rather reassuringly - he actually turned up in the car in question - gave me a good chance to see how it behaved from the passenger seat at least before taking the controls - and good opportunity to listen for any untoward noises without having to drive.  Five minutes down the road I was convinced I was onto a winner - sounded like the day it left the factory, and even from the passenger seat, felt like a good, tight car.

The exchange took place - and I found myself with a mountain of paperwork going back to the day the car was bought in addition to its papers and two sets of keys.  My dignity took a bit of a kicking, as my first act of ownership was to stall at the bottom of the seller's drive when backing out.  D'oh!  Clutch was a bit sharper than the Niva's...

I wasn't foolish enough as to try to drive back to Aberdeen that night, not after being on a coach all day.  I had friends in Milton Keynes however - so had planned to have a stopover there that night, before heading back the following morning, taking a friend along for the ride too - road trips with two people are always so much more fun than on your own.  That went reasonably to plan...though escaping Birmingham was...an interesting experience.  Mainly because I'd not the foggiest idea where I was going - eventually I managed to find a main road and get my bearings, but there was at least an hour of driving around in seemingly endless circles!  A moderately stressful hour too...I was in a car I'd never driven before...in the dark...in the cold, and it then started raining...so windows started steaming up and such...I should point out that one of the things which makes the Estelle/Rapid/GL somewhat unfriendly for those new to it is that it lacks any illumination whatsoever on anything aside from the instruments.  This makes the rather enigmatic heater controls especially hard to figure out when you're driving in the dark.  Not that the heater in these cars is exactly the best anyway.  On the plus side, the headlights are better than you'd expect on a car of this age.

Finally escaping from the suburbs of Birmingham, and getting onto the motorway I got my bearings, and got to drive the car at more than 30 for the first time.  I was happy - smooth as silk, and a lot quicker than I expected.  Previous to this one, the only Skoda I'd driven was a very brief shot in a 120LSE, which definitely had a lot less grunt than my 130GL.  I was being relatively gentle with it for that journey, wanting to get to a safe haven and have the opportunity to give the car a good once-over in the daylight before really putting my foot down, but I later came to wonder whether that engine had been modified at all - particularly in terms of the camshaft and the head - I've never before or since driving this car encountered as free revving and smooth an engine as this one - especially bearing in mind it's an old OHV engine.

So, a day's driving later - nice drive actually - long driving comfort, the 130GL gets a good 9.5 out of ten.  Only complaint was that my fingers were getting quite cramped due to the narrow rim on the steering wheel.  Seats some people complain lack lower back support, but I didn't find that to be a problem.

So...eight and a bit hours later including breaks - I had this sitting outside my house.

My digital camera from back then has severe issues with the colour of my car.  It's really a very vivid reddish orange.  This colour!  

From the front, while any Skoda enthusiast will pick one out from half a mile away, they're not THE most distinctive of cars.  The leading edge of the bonnet tends to rust from the inside out - so I was very pleased to find this one was rust free.

From the back however, the Estelle is very distinctive, with its little spoiler containing the upper vents for the engine compartment, big vinyl Skoda badge under the number plate, and odd, knobbly tail lights (the bit that juts out is the number plate light).

This shot I think would look infinitely better if the car had the right sized tyres on it (which would also have made the speedo read correctly!)...I did actually get around to ordering a set of tyres for it.  It's a profile which really didn't change much for a long number of years.  The fact that the car's sitting slightly higher at the front is in fact normal for these - the front getting lowered slightly to balance it out is a common modification.

It needed a clean...sorry!  Aside from a bit of sun damage to the seats (Estelles and Rapids have seats VERY prone to disintegration due to UV exposure), and a couple of bits of plastic missing from the door handles (later found under the seats), the interior was in very good shape.  The worst bit of rust on the entire car can be seen above - that bit of surface rust on the sill.  Enthusiasts might also note that the plastic cover on the pipes leading up into the heater down by the clutch are actually intact as well...they generally cracked into a million pieces about 15 years ago.  I still can't quite decide whether I prefer the slightly cleaner look of the Rapid/130GL interior to the standard Estelle one as seen on the 105/120/basic 130.

Not the world's greatest shot of the engine bay...however about the best I've got.  The splash guards were missing in this case as the photo was taken shortly after I'd had the engine out to replace the clutch and its release bearing (which did the whole disintegrating thing on me), as I'd simply not got around to putting them back on when the photo was taken.  Eagle-eyed readers may note that the water pump on this car isn't an original one (with the grease cap), but is a completely sealed unit - presumably an aftermarket replacement.  That puzzled me for a moment the first time I went around the car checking things out, as I was sure there was something I was meant to grease in there!

I'd had the opportunity to get the car up on ramps shortly after the clutch was changed and have a good look at the underside - my jaw just about dropped.  I've seen cars less than three years old with more rust underneath than this.  It was truly spotless.  Given that, getting it professionally rust proofed was added to the to-do list.  Which admittedly wasn't very big.  

Re-vinyl the roof, give the whole car a damn good polish, clean up that one bit of rust on the sill, get the right tyres on it, and get it under sealed.  

It was not to be however...

This poor car was - ironically a mere twenty minutes after these photographs were taken - in a rather heated argument with a gas tanker.

I was actually going out for one specific reason: to pick up the wheel bearing which was the last thing I needed to do mechanically of note, other than an oil change (even fixed all the oil leaks!) and to fit a new hose clip on the fuel filler...Approximately 30 seconds out of the house, a gas tanker failed to stop at a cross roads - driving directly in front of me.  Result being me ploughing into the side of his cab at 55 minus whatever I managed to scrub off in the split second after I realised he wasn't stopping before I hit him.  Next thing I had to do after swearing a lot, was turn the engine off!  Was still ticking over quite happily (still on near full choke too - was that soon after leaving!).  Good thing about it happening this close to home was that the engine was still cold, so the radiator being punctured and spilling the coolant (Which had only been in there a week!) all over the road didn't cause any overheating.

Unfortunately, the car was very severely damaged by this, as the photographs below show.  A very sorry loss to the classic car world, these cars are quite rare now, and this one was in prime condition (only 30K miles by the time it reached its end), and I had every intention of driving it for at least the next ten years.  As it is, at the present time, I am keeping an eye out for another Estelle, preferably the same model, as I was really very, very fond of this car!

Drove it all the way back here from Birmingham, changed the clutch and release bearing, put it all back together, changed the exhaust, just about had everything set up the way I like...then this happened.  Spent about three years looking out for the right Estelle, found one...then three months later am looking at this outside.

This is the car where it was deposited at the bottom of our driveway, a mere two hours after the photos at the start of this page were taken.

Those below were taken after we got it up the drive - then spent an hour or so reaching in through the gaps at the edge of the boot unbolting the locks - which never broke in the impact - so that we could get into the boot to get my toolkit and other assorted junk out.

This was the thing which surprised me the most - how little intrusion into the cabin there is after an accident like that!  The only things not working are the accelerator pedal, drivers side headlight and the windscreen wipers - even the horn's still working!  The car actually drove from the driveway into this corner where it will stay until I've got all the useful parts off the shell.

I count myself seriously lucky that the drivers side front wheel and (nearly new) tyre survived intact.  The suspension wishbone there has folded up like it was made of cardboard.  Astonishingly, 99% of the contents of the boot survived!

Probably the best shot for showing the sheer scale of the damage.  Ouch.

Looking down into what was originally quite a sizeable bootspace...it's now somewhat smaller.  The plastic cover from around the hydralics shattered into a few million pieces.

During the actual operation of getting it up the drive (somewhat tricky as it can't steer right).  That Niva demonstrated a rather incredible amount of pulling power when in low range - yes, you can get four wheel wheelspin on tarmac when pulling a car against its steering, with locked brakes uphill.  I then nearly ended up in the back seat when the brakes freed however.  From this point, the Estelle actually drove, quietly, smoothly and in a suitably dignified fashion, into its final resting place under its own power.

No, I did not change that indicator bulb!  That's the one that was in there during the accident!

Just another one showing the almost entirely intact interior.  Radio's still working too!

Prior to the shell being scrapped, the vast majority of useful mechanical components were salvaged from the car and have either been passed on to other owners, or are being held onto by myself for use on my Rapid.

...Still wish I'd waited until the next day to get that wheel bearing though!



25th January 2021: Minor page formatting changes to improve mobile usability.

28th April 2023: Revised Statcounter code to allow for HTTPS operation.

Back to the Automotive Index Page


Back to the Homepage