That's the car we're presented with on a soaking wet day at Bicester Heritage, the sodden tarmac of the test track mirroring the grey clouds above and presenting an ominously slick surface on which to drive the jewel of Skoda's heritage fleet, a car conservatively valued at £250,000.
During the 50s, Skoda was riding high, sales were good and the production line was flowing. But the Czech government, which owned the manufacturer, wanted to improve its standing among the other communist countries, and placed a priority on exports to foreign territories. This proved problematic for Skoda's domestic customers who, finding themselves at the back of the queue, faced multi-year waits for their cars.
To ease the backlog, the majority of designers, mechanics and engineers from Skoda's motorsport department were redeployed to the factory floor. Undeterred, a group of them carried on, working on evenings and weekends to continue designing and developing new concepts and ideas.
The car was a success from the start, taking victory in its very first race before going on to close out the top two steps of the podium at subsequent contests. Of course, it was only allowed to compete at approved events (meaning those held behind the Iron Curtain) but it still found the limelight where it could. Most notably at the 1959 Leningrad Grand Prix, when star driver Miroslav Fousek - around whose 75kg frame the car's weight distribution was tailored during design - claimed victory against more powerful Russian opponents.
Over the following years the car passed through various hands, each as incapable of sourcing the incredibly bespoke parts required to restore it as the last until, thirty years after young Matin made his cross-continental journey, its fortunes changed. Skoda UK bought it back in from the cold, paying just under £50,000 at auction before treating the 1100 OHC to a full restoration, returning it to near original condition.
The gearshift is crisp - once you're used to the extra conviction it requires - and each change unleashes a new, spine-tingling note from the exhaust. That sound, as the engine revs itself into a legato frenzy, is the real highlight not just of this car, but of anything I've driven. It's very easy, crammed into the tiny cockpit as the rain whips your face and the chassis reverberates around you, to put yourself both in the shoes of Miroslav Fousek, powering to victory in St Petersburg, and of Matin Svetnicka, limping the bedraggled machine across a frozen Europe.
In recent years Skoda has tried, and largely succeeded, to distance itself from its past. These days, under VW's ownership, the factory is again enjoying success, exporting some truly fantastic cars to foreign shores, once more a source of pride to the Czech people. But the 1100 OHC is a reminder of a time when the brand stood on its own, making simple, cheap machines which ably fulfilled their purpose. It's a car Skoda is understandably very keen to remember, and one I won't be in any hurry to forget.