Czech car or three lives of Skoda in Quebec – L’annuel de l’automobile

Czech car or three lives of Skoda in Quebec – L’annuel de l’automobile

Editor’s note : One story often hides another, especially timewe write it in from advertisementsperiod. VSis the method chosen for this new section

In lovein my research to learn more about the presence in Quebec of the tch brandethan Skoda, late 1950s to mid-1960s, looking at old advertising jnormalnichethere are manyinformation on its marketing which resumed in the early 1980s.

But what was my surprise to discover that Skoda was present in the Belle Region for the first timeeagain after World War II. Color dbusiness confidence and anxious nationalismene, this forgotten story is the first of three parts dedicated to Skoda’s three lives in Quebec. Luc Gagne


On August 9, 1949, businessman Randall Cotton caused a riot in Montreal by parking his car in front of the Hotel Mont-Royal. Yves Jasmin, daily journalist of Canada, says: “It’s a feeling! It’s tomorrow’s car today! It’s Tetra (sic.)! It’s from Czechoslovakia! Reviews are going well. The event has been happening in front of the Mont-Royal hotel for a few days. A crowd gathers, cars stop, traffic is blocked and the manager of the hotel, all right, goes to the room of Mr. Randall Cotton, of Quebec, the Whizzer king in Canada, to ask him to remove the shiny car from the front of the hotel, because the police traffic is no longer enough to hold cars. »

Jasmin claims that at the time it was the only Tatra in America. Tatra T600 is also called Tatraplan, to be more precise. It is one of two types of cars that Randall Cotton wants to offer to Quebecers. To do this, last month he created Cotton Motor Sales in Quebec with two partners: Paul-A. Plamondon, a famous boxing promoter, and Jean-Paul Dionne, a lawyer.

“I often mistake myself for the king’s son who visits me,” Mr. Cotton explains in Jasmin’s article. “When we stop somewhere, people gather around the car, they ask a thousand questions until the police come and tell us to leave. It’s a little boring, but still a lot of fun. “But Tatraplan wants to be at the top of the range, while the other Czech car he’s going to order is aimed at the plebs. It’s Skoda.

Brand more than a century

Today more than a century ago, this brand entered the bosom of the Volkswagen group in 1990. It finds its origin in the merger that brought together two old Czech companies in 1925: Laurin & Clement and Skoda factories, the largest industrial company from the country. As with Tatra, this manufacturer made its debut in the late 20th century and remained independent until after World War II, specifically in 1948.

That year, Czechoslovakia was absorbed by the Soviet Empire. The new communist government that was in place then made the management of these two brands a state issue, as was their marketing abroad. This is why the cars that Cotton and his colleagues want to sell in Quebec, but also in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, are quickly called “communist”!

But Pamba is not one to let down. The Skodas it will produce, the 1101 and 1102 models, are smaller than the 1950 Chevrolet, but they include a diverse lineup that includes 2- and 4-door sedans, convertibles, convertible coupes, station wagons, wagons and even. ambulance!

A promotion specialist, to make these two products known, in 1950 joined the weekly A small newspaper of Montreal, which is launching the Miss Cinema 1950 contest. The grand prize awarded to the crowned star will also be a convertible Skoda.

At the same time, he shot other major newspapers, such as Country of origin, LCatholic practice and Canada, advertisements (yes, that already existed at that time). They emphasize the features and characteristics of both cars, especially Skoda. He feels that it will be the more popular of the two as it is more expensive. In 1950, the entry-level 2-door sedan will be offered from $ 1,495 and will have a 1.1 L 4-cylinder engine with 32 hp (in its advertising, Cotton advertises 45 hp). More luxuriously, the Tatraplan costs $2,130 and its aerodynamic body looks as unusual as its rear-mounted flat-4; 2.0 liter engine that gives 52 hp.

In Canada, in March 1950, Randall Cotton “guaranteed” his customers that they would have excellent service in the event of a breakdown. “A 24-hour service across Canada is offered to those who are broken down in a remote village or in a lost neighborhood,” he says.

Antithefrom a regular car

But Skoda and Tatraplan are poles apart from the usual car fleet here. The Chevrolet Special Fleetline, for example, has an entry-level two-door model starting at $1,821 that’s higher than the Skoda and looks more familiar than the Tatra. Additionally, its 3.5 L inline 6 cylinder delivers 90 hp.

Skoda, however, is targeting a younger niche of buyers. It is these motorists who love cars that we will enjoy at the second European Auto Show in Quebec. The organizers of the event organized in the Armory in May 1950 also presented Skoda as a big star. This car will also be displayed in some high places in Montreal, such as the Bond Building, in Philipps Square.

strong opposition

The arrival of these Czech cars infuriates American dealers. Cotton faced fierce opposition with nationalist tendencies. Quebec businessmen are openly opposed to “a car trade from a communist country that comes to compete with those produced by Canadian workers”, we learn. Know of April 24, 1950. Even in Ontario, where Cotton will present his cars, the Toronto Automobile Trade Association is reacting strongly. Its president, G.-H. Hogan, made a complaint to the federal government “that English cars were already circling a substantial slice of the Canadian market”, reports. Country of origin four days later. The strange thing is that in the same days, a shipment of about sixty cars was destroyed by robbers at the port of Montreal. The incident caused 9 total casualties and 50 vehicles were badly damaged, Randall Cotton told Quebec newspapers. Ottawa however responds that imports of Czech cars will not be banned.

In December 1950, Jacqueline Gilbert became Miss Cinema 1950. She received her shiny Skoda, but we don’t know how long she would drive it. One can imagine the confusion of Quebecers in the face of the communist threat. LCatholic practice of March 19, 1951, for example, publishes on the front page: “Exclusion in Czechoslovakia – Church beats Communism for the 5th time”, then offers readers, on page 13, an advertisement for Cotton Motor Sales offering “sedan Skoda at $1,525 “. I will not be surprised to know that, in his Sunday sermon, the priest would strongly advise his parishioners not to choose such a Soviet car, at the risk of being ostracized too!

The Czech Cotton Sales phenomenon is already fading. In May 1951, such daily announcements allow us to discover that the company already needs to have two and three Tatra 1950 “new” Skodas. Cotton Sales had permission from Ottawa to import 600 or more cars and parts, but they bet they didn’t sell that many. And that’s not to mention that in July 1952, another six cars were “demolished” by thieves in the port of Montreal, causing a “huge loss” to the company, according to Media. From that moment, the names of Skoda and Tatraplan disappeared from the news of the main Quebec media. They are only found in the classified ads of used car dealers that nobody wants.

Photo: Skoda and various memories.

about the author

Luc’s parents say that the first three words he said were: mom, dad and … Volvo. We don’t know in what order he told them, but everything indicates that he was predestined for a career in the big world of cars. It was through the media that he approached it. Since the 1980s, he has edited various magazines including, among others, VAQ’s Old Auto Magazine (his “school”), the bilingual magazine Formula 2000, Le Monde de l’auto, Auto Journal and AutoMag. At the beginning of the 21st century, he wrote for Le Devoir, but also, and Auto.Vtélé.ca. Currently, it can be read on the websites of and, as well as in Prestige magazine. Luc has been part of the L’Anuel de l’Automobile team since its creation in 2001.