1991 Skoda 135 Rapid Coupe (135 RiC)


1991 Skoda 135 Rapid front left 3/4 profile

Where they are available, higher resolution versions of images on this page can be viewed by clicking on them.

Note: The framing of a few photos on this page may look a little odd.  This is due to a number of the original files having suffered corruption in a hard drive failure I suffered back in mid 2008, this resulted in the loss of a variable portion along the lower edge of a number of images - so if it looks like the bottom of an image has been overly aggressively cropped that's most likely because that bit of the image simply no longer exists.  Yes, I did switch to having a robust backup regime after that!


The Skoda 135RiC is a bit of an oddball car, which if the stories I've heard are true only really exists because of a series of unfortunate (for Skoda) events.

In the UK market there was no requirement for new vehicles to be fitted with catalytic converters until mid 1993.  A few manufacturers voluntarily did before this (Volvo being one of the companies who were most vocal about the early adoption), but carbs and no real emission control kit was the norm in 1991.  So seeing a car from what was at the time very much a budget manufacturer like Skoda fitted with fuel injection and a cat was a bit strange.  The story I've heard - and please note that I have no way to verify this - is that the 135RiC was originally intended for the Canadian market.  However due to changes in legislation there the vehicles suddenly would no longer meet their more stringent emission standards.  So they were left with a bunch of cars they couldn't sell.

These were apparently instead reconfigured for the UK market and sold there instead.  There were never a huge number of them made in the first place, so the 135 is really quite a rarity these days.

 

1991 Skoda 135 RiC rear view at sunset

 


I always found the Rapid to be a good looking car, the Capri-esque rear profile seeming quite at odds to something from a company who were still very much competing in the lower end of the budget segment at the time.

 

1991 Skoda 135 Ric Rapid rear right profile

 

Surprisingly comfortable too.  The sculpted front seats with the integrated headrests put the seating in many far, far more expensive cars of the time utterly to shame.

 

1991 Skoda 135 Ric Rapid Front right interior view

 

The rear seat passengers didn't fare quite so well, with the rear being a little cave-like because of the steeply sloping rear roof line, and the seats being a long way back from the door aperture but weren't really bad once you were in there.  It was also really too enclosed a space for my camera to deal with at the time...sorry I didn't have anything with a wide angle lens back then.

 

1991 Skoda 135 RiC Rapid Right hand rear interior view

 

The rear seats fold forward to reveal a storage compartment behind them and to allow access to the battery as with the standard Estelle, though the lack of rear doors makes the storage compartment rather less useful as it's such a feat of mountaineering to get to it.

If you're familiar with the Skoda Estelle range in general you might have spotted that the dash and instrument panel look a little strange.  That's because the Rapid actually got a slightly different dash and a unique single-piece instrument panel.  I always thought that this strip on the dash would have looked really smart if it had been painted in the body colour.

 

Detail of dash on a 1991 Skoda 135 RiC Rapid showing different dash layout to standard Estelle

 

The rightmost control knob there selects from three variable delay speeds for the intermittent windscreen wipers - and the were actually varied enough apart as to make this a genuinely useful addition, unlike the same feature on a lot of modern cars where it makes so little difference or is so fiddly to use as to make it pointless.  The cigarette lighter is not standard and was installed by a third party at some point in the life of the car.

The instrument panel looks a good deal more modern than the separate gauges that the Estelle featured as well.

 

Detail of the instrument panel fitted to a 1991 Skoda 135 RiC Rapid - Also fitted to the 130GL variant of the Skoda Estelle

 

There were a few other detail differences in the interior from the standard Estelle.  The most visible aside from the dash is probably the inclusion of moulded door cappings where the Estelle just made do with painted metal.  There is also an additional little storage tray down by the gear lever, a different style of gaiter around the base of the gear lever, and a more ergonomically shaped gear knob is fitted which has markings moulded into it showing the gear shift layout, rather than requiring the sticker on the windscreen like on the Estelle.

 

Detail of storage tray and style of gear knob on a 1991 Skoda 135 Rapid

 

I think the only other difference was the style of steering wheel that was fitted as standard, though there may be a couple of other things I've forgotten.

These interior fitments weren't entirely unique to the Rapid - they did appear on one, and only one variant of the Estelle - the 130GL which for all intents and purpose was specified as a Rapid, but with the normal Estelle shell.  The difference there was that the strip on the front of the dash was finished in a warm grey colour and had text reading "Skoda 130" rather than "Rapid" as shown below.

 

Detail of Skoda Rapid style dash also used in the Estelle 130GL variant

 

Sorry it's not the greatest photo - digital cameras have come a long way since 2004, and the one I was using back then was the cheapest of the cheap with performance to match the price tag.

Of course the 135RiC had a few differences of its own over the normal Rapid.  The most outwardly obvious being some badging.

 

Detail of badging of a 1991 Skoda 135 RiC Rapid

 

Plus some snazzy pin striping which on this red car were two-tone green and looked really smart I thought.  Sadly I don't have a surviving photo showing the detail of that when the car was both polished and in actual daylight.  As noted at the top of the page, I lost quite a lot of photos of this car to a hard disk failure back in 2008.

 

Detail of the "135 RiC" badging and pinstriping on a 1991 Skoda 135 Rapid

 

That pin striping is something that the Rapid really needs to have in at least some form I reckon as it really brings out the way the rear wing curves up towards the rear and I think the car tends to look a bit slab-sided without it.

 

Side profile of a 1991 Skoda 135 RiC Rapid

 

As with all of the earlier cars to feature a catalytic converter, it of course had a badge on the back proudly displaying the fact that it was catalyst equipped.  Sorry I don't have a better photo of this.

 

Detail of "Catalyst" badging on a 1991 Skoda 135 RiC Rapid

 

Aside from some cosmetics though, the differences to the rest of the Rapid range on the 135 RiC were all under the skin, in that it featured a single point fuel injection system and catalytic converter.  The differences become pretty immediately apparent as soon as you open the engine cover.  On the right hand side of the engine bay there's usually a big chunk of empty space to the right hand side - which in Estelles I usually used to stow some spares and a bottle of oil or coolant.  On the 135 it's instead stuffed full of fuel injection gubbins.

 

Detail of the additional fuel injection equipment fitted to the 135 RiC variant of the Skoda Rapid

 

It's a pretty simple system really, it just looks very busy because it's all crammed into a pretty small space here - I suspect for simplicity of assembly as the whole system is essentially self-contained, and the majority of the components are mounted to a single metal bracket which is bolted into that space.

On the other side of the engine bay things aren't quite so alien, though it does look different as there's a large step in the splash shield to accommodate the catalytic converter.

 

Detail showing the raised step in the splash guard on a Skoda Rapid 135 RiC to accommodate the catalytic converter

 

I was quite curious to see how they had managed to package that on this car as there really isn't much room available.  The silencer on a normal Estelle or Rapid looks like this - referred to commonly as the "bean can" given its simplicity (and tendency to corrode away to nothing in next to no time).

 

Exhaust silencer as fitted to normal Skoda Estelle and Rapid models

 

There's no real space available to re-route the system to accommodate a catalytic converter - so this is what Skoda came up with.

 

Exhaust system including catalytic converter as fitted to Skoda 135 RiC Rapid

 

I don't think you can really make a cat-inclusive exhaust system much more compact than that.  This did unfortunately have one side effect - requiring a completely different silencer to the rest of the Estelle and Rapid range.  Even back in 2007/8 when I had this car these were completely unobtainable, so I don't imagine there's any hope of finding one these days.  If you need one, getting something bespoke made up in stainless is probably the only real option you've got.

The other major headache I had when I had this car was that they don't use a normal lambda sensor - but a wideband one where the signal swings from 0-12V rather than the 0-1V or thereabouts you'd expect to see from a common one.  I think these are more commonly used in performance applications now and are probably a bit easier to get hold of these days, but I couldn't for the life of me find one back when I had this car - which was a problem as the one on the car was knackered.  I'd intended to look into whether it would be possible to modify the ECU or install a signal amplifier on the input to allow a more commonly available sensor to be used as it's not a massively complicated thing you're trying to do, but never got as far as actually putting pen to paper to try to work out how to do it.

Obviously the inlet manifold is different to the 136 with which the cylinder head is shared to allow for the throttle body to be plonked in place of the usual Jikov twin downdraught carb, but there are actually internal differences to the engine as well as the 135 runs a lower compression ratio than the 136 - from memory I believe that this is all down to the pistons having a deeper recess in them to provide a larger combustion chamber, I don't think that there is actually any difference to the crankshaft or con rods.  I am quoting that from 15 year old memories though.  The lower compression ratio is the main reason that the 135 engine despite having closed loop control, electronic ignition and fuel injection actually produces slightly less power than a stock carb fed 136 engine.  I don't imagine the additional exhaust restriction of the cat exactly helps either - the bean can silencers aren't exactly the most freely flowing designs to start with.  The advantages though are the ability to just turn the key and go at any ambient temperature without having to worry about choke or how the engine might have reacted to heat soak issues if you've only been parked up briefly, plus I felt having also driven a 136 Rapid that the 135 had a far flatter torque curve, and was definitely more willing at lower revs than the 136.  The 136 definitely felt more willing at the top end though - which kind of goes with my thoughts that the exhaust is more restricted.  That is just pure theory on my part though and entirely based on the feel of driving two cars rather than any actual scientific analysis.

The air cleaner housing is also slightly different - using a flip type latch to hold it onto the throttle body rather than the through bolt used on the carb models.

 

Detail showing clamp down arrangement for air cleaner on a Skoda 135RiC rather than the through-bolt used on carb fed models

 

The only other difference that I can recall reading about is that the 135 came with a slightly higher rated alternator to help deal with the additional demand from the fuel pump at idle, though I never actually saw a figure quoted.

Unlike most fuel injection variations of existing models, the fuel tank is NOT different to the carb version.  The high pressure pump is an in-line type mounted in the engine bay, and even the original mechanical fuel pump is still present, used as a lift pump to feed the high pressure pump.


I've got a lot of time for the old rear engined Skodas.  For all the jokes that abound about them, they're really not bad old cars.  They did have a reputation for unreliability, but I'm pretty sure that a lot of those tales aren't entirely the fault of the cars.  They were cheap when they were new, so tended to attract very budget sensitive buyers.  A fair chunk of whom either could not or would not go on to spend money on properly maintaining the cars.  Being largely based on generally older technology, they were less likely to shrug off neglect quite as well as more modern designs like Vauxhall's Nova might have.

I've had three of these cars.  A 1986 120LX, 1988 130GL, and this 135 RiC.  Other than a persistent overheating issue with the 120LX which I'm pretty sure all boiled down to the car never having been properly recommissioned from long term storage, I never really ran into any problems with these cars that I'd say were purely down to them having been poorly put together.  The one I've run into most frequently (not just on my cars, but on cars belonging to others I've worked on) is that there are things on the car which require periodic lubrication which you just wouldn't see on more modern designs.  The water pump for one has a grease cup on it that needs to be refilled periodically, but more commonly causing problems is the clutch release bearing - which on many cars also needs to be oiled manually rather than using a sealed bearing.  This apparently changed in 1985 - but my 130GL still had the open style of bearing fitted and that was built in 1988, so there was apparently a stock of older style release bearings still being used well beyond that date.

Changing a clutch release bearing itself isn't all that hard, nor is the bearing expensive.  The only fly in the ointment is that you need to remove the engine to get to it!  Admittedly an Estelle/Rapid is about the easiest car I can think of maybe aside from a Beetle or 2CV to pull the engine from, but it's still a royal faff when you're just changing a 10 bearing that's failed purely because nobody has oiled it in the last ten years!

 

I've only been left standing at the side of the road by one of these cars once - and that was by the one on this page when the gear selector rod sheared at the gearbox end, leaving me stuck in 3rd gear.  On this occasion I was left with no alternative but to resort to calling for recovery.

 

Reluctantly I had to call for a recovery truck on this occasion

 

Yes, that's how good quality the photos provided by your average phone camera were back around 2007 or so.  Technology has come a long way!

The single biggest weakness these cars had though was rust.  The factory provided rust proofing really wasn't up to much and meant that plenty of them never saw their tenth birthday when corrosion issues saw them failing their MOTs and deemed to be uneconomical to repair.  This wasn't an issue by any means limited to Skoda in the 80s and early 90s, it really wasn't until the mid to late 90s that manufacturers really got on top of corrosion protection for the most part.  However the low values of most Eastern Bloc cars on the used market once they were a few years old meant that a lot would have just been scrapped whereas cars from more "respected" manufacturers would likely have been repaired.

Don't let the jokes put you off.  They're actually really surprisingly pleasant cars to drive and to travel in.  The seats are comfortable (especially in the Rapid), the suspension designed to deal with far worse roads than ours so is softly damped and has loads of travel, allowing them the ability to iron out pot holes, speed bumps and some truly horrible road surfaces incredibly well for a traditionally sprung car.  The cabin is also for a car for which the design of dates back essentially to the 70s, incredibly quiet at speed.  Especially on the cars equipped with the five speed gearbox.  This is where the rear engined layout really comes into its own as there's a whole lot of car between you and the engine.  Cruising on the motorway there really is no mechanical noise present in the cabin beyond a muted thrum from the rear.  The narrow profile tyres and compliant suspension mountings ensure that road noise is also astonishingly muted compared to even modern cars, it's only really the wind noise which intrudes into the cabin noticeably.  Especially from around the wing mirrors it seems.  The radio antenna on my 120LX also seemed to cause a bit of a racket.  Though this wasn't an issue on the 130GL or Rapid as they both had the dealer fitted sunroofs which had a cleverly integrated radio antenna built into the sunroof glass.

 

Detail of radio antenna integrated into sunroof of a Skoda Rapid, also common fitment on the Estelle

 

I would absolutely happily jump into an absolutely stock Estelle or Rapid tomorrow and do a 500 mile drive without a moment's hesitation, and I'm pretty certain I'd be a heck of a lot more comfortable than I would be in plenty of modern cars.

The only intrusion I really had into the comfort at speed on this Rapid I had was that one of the original alloy wheels had a significant buckle to it, which is why in the next couple of photos taken when I was out on a road trip the front wheels are odd as I was using spares at that point while I tried to get the original wheels repaired. 

These photos were both taken on a trip up to Aviemore on a lovely, if chilly May afternoon.

 

1991 Skoda 135 RiC Rapid viewed through bushes during a road trip to Aviemore.

 

This one I like because it does a good job of giving just a hint of how tiny we really are compared to the world around us.

 

1991 Skoda 135 RiC Rapid taken during a road trip through the Aviemore area of Scotland

 

Looking at this photo now also does a lot to remind me precisely how much I miss that corner of the country.  I may live in Central England now, but Northern Scotland is and always will be where I call home.

It turned out to be a great road trip companion. 

The early Estelles got a bit of a bad reputation for having unpredictable handling on the limit, but Skoda did pretty rapidly make changes to the suspension tuning to help tame that (getting Porsche involved no less to help with the design work).  The more powerful 130/136 models being fitted with full semi-trailing arm suspension to further bring things in line.  Don't get me wrong though, these cars can and WILL still bite if you lift off (or worse, brake) mid-corner at speed, especially on a wet road.  That's nothing unique to Skoda though...it's simple physics and is something which just as badly afflicts Beetles and Porsches, but for some reason it's the Skodas which are the ones which get labelled as sketchy. 

Performance wise they're never going to set the world on fire, but are entirely adequate in the real world.  The 1.1 litre 105 models are somewhat underpowered on the motorway, but any 120/130/135/136 if in good order should absolutely be able to keep pace with modern traffic without issues and will comfortably cruise at or above the legal motorway speed limit.  The 120/130 engines are surprisingly smooth and willing to rev engines for what are fairly old fashioned pushrod OHV designs, so it's entirely possible to hussle one of these cars along at a decent rate of knots.

The gear change is...odd.  I wouldn't call it vague...but it's distinctly odd.  When selecting 1st, 2nd or 5th, once released the gear lever will spring back to a vertical position rather than remain canted over to the angle you used to engage the gear, and can be wobbled around left to right by several inches.  However while it feels really strange for the first few miles, it's something that you very quickly get used to and really doesn't hinder anything nor detract from the driving experience.  It's just one of the idiosyncrasies of these cars you need to get used to.

 

Soon after I got this car, 29th June 2006 to be precise, saw my first "proper" entry into a classic car show.  The North East Morris Minor Owners Club annual show at Fyvie Castle had been my local show for about as long as I could remember, and I'd attended it many many times - but this was the first time I'd actually shown a vehicle there.  I was really surprised at how much attention the Rapid got.

 

1991 Skoda 135 RiC Rapid at 2006 North East Morris Minor Owner's Club Annual Classic Car Show at Fyvie Castle

 

A lot of people have surprisingly fond memories of these cars it turns out.  It was quite an eye-opening experience, I'd been expecting a whole day of nothing but Skoda jokes, but no...the response from folks was almost universally positive.

The thing which eventually saw this car move on from my ownership was primarily rust.  It turned out to have a fair amount more of it than I had really been hoping when I bought it, albeit hidden in quite a few spots beneath filler which a couple of Scottish winters soon had showing through.  Plus parts were getting to be quite a headache to find - a situation which I think has in many cases actually improved since then as a couple of major marque specialists have increased their provision for the older models, plus there's a huge amount of knowledge out there on the internet these days which just wasn't there 15 years ago.  I did have a look into sorting it out, but not being able to weld myself at the time it was just going to need too much work.  Of course having been sitting around for a bit by this point the brakes had also started to get grumpy, and the list was only going to get longer if I left it sitting longer.  So in April 2010 moved on to a new home.

 

Off my 1991 Skoda 135RiC Rapid goes to a new home in April 2010

 

I don't think the rear engined Skodas are a car I'll EVER say I'll never have another one of.  Though with the way they are priced now it would be hard for me to really justify the entry price.  I have a massive soft spot for them, and would really love to get hold of another one that's half as good as my first one, my 130GL was.  That's what I think I've always been chasing ever since.

I wouldn't say no to either a Rapid or an Estelle, though I'd probably stick with the Estelle to be honest if given the choice.  While it does look the part, the Rapid really is compromised compared to the Estelle.  Access to the rear seats is awkward (and the sun visors whack you in the face as you get out if you're not careful), and the rear storage compartment may as well just not be there as it's so hard to get to.  The rear windscreen being so steeply raked means that it becomes basically impossible to see through when it's anything other than perfectly clean - and it stays clean for about two minutes at a time because it's so steeply raked that it may as well just be as flat as the roof.  Plus in my experience they seem to be somewhat more prone to rust issues than the Estelle, but in really random locations rather than just the usual suspects.  Issues which I suspect may stem from the fact that all of the Rapids were to some extent hand built rather than just rolled off a mechanised production line perhaps.  I wouldn't say no to either though...The Rapid does look the part, and had a nicer finished interior with those lovely seats...so it's all swings and roundabouts at the end of the day.  A well sorted, rust free example of either variant won't disappoint and will surprise a lot of people in how competent a car it really is.

The 135 RiC however is the one model which probably WOULD give me pause simply because of the fact that the injection system is likely to be increasingly difficult to find parts for - though it is essentially an off-the-shelf system bought in by Skoda from Bendix, so I imagine for most things like sensors and such it would be possible to find alternatives if you can track down the original part numbers.  If you run into issues with things like the ECU itself though finding a replacement isn't likely to be easy.  Though of course these days there are ever more options out there by way of custom ECU solutions which I'm sure could be made to work by someone who knows far more than I do.  Or...and I imagine this is what's happened to most of the remaining RiCs out there by now...the entire injection system and the cat could be removed and a conventional carburettor could be fitted.  These pre-date the catalyst being mandatory fitment, so it shouldn't be an issue for the MOT emissions test so long as the car is running properly.  Though I do have to admit that I'd far rather have the equipment all there and working properly if it were my car if I can make it work.


This page was created on the 3rd of August 2006, and was last updated on the 2nd August 2023.


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