Skodas don't get used as the stars of films, surely? And if they do, it's presumably just so that the hero or heroine, driving something much sexier and faster, can have something to out-run, crash into, or just generally embarrass in general. Right?
Well, perhaps not. Students of classic Czech horror films will be familiar with the - ahem - iconic 1982 flick, Ferat Vampire. Actually, the film's original Czech name is Upír z Feratu, which is a pun on Upír Nosferatu, which is the Czech for Nosferatu the Vampire, which as EVERYONE knows was the first vampire film ever, made in the 1920s.
With me so far? Then I shall continue...
A car that runs on blood
The plot of Ferat Vampire is... well, it's different. You see, a certain Doctor Marek (played by Jiří Menzel, a Czech actor and director who was an actual Oscar winner) becomes concerned when his nurse, Mima (played by Dagmar Havlová, a hugely respected Czech actress, and later the wife of Czech president Vaclav Havel) signs up as a rally driver with a foreign car maker, Ferat. Doctor Marek becomes convinced that Ferat's low, sleek, black, Lotus Esprit lookalike is powered not by ordinary petrol but... *dramatic chord* ...human blood!
The automotive star of the film (which gets a 5.8 out of 10 rating on IMDB, which is possibly not bad for a schlocky early eighties horror - and no it's not on Netflix, we've checked...) was actually a Skoda - a 1871 prototype motor show star called the Skoda 110 Super Sport with a 73hp 1.1-litre engine. Low and mean, it has become since known simply as the Ferat Vampire car (in spite of a previous film appearance, painted white, in 1977's Tomorrow I'll Wake Up and Scald Myself with Tea). In the middle of the Venn diagram of Skoda fans and Czech horror movie buffs, it's a hugely famous car.
It's also famous with one man in particular - French designer Baptiste de Brugiere, who has decided to recreate the Vampire car for the modern era, with the blessing of Skoda. This may, or may not, have something to do with the fact that Skoda is an official partner of the Prague Comic Con 2021, which will celebrate the 40th anniversary of Ferat Vampire.
"About three years ago I had the opportunity to visit the Skoda Museum's depository for the first time. It was there that I first saw the Ferat, which I found fascinating. So when I heard about the Icons Get a Makeover (which you can read more about here) project, I immediately volunteered to create a modern interpretation of it," says Baptiste. "It's that half a second before your brain starts to analyse the design. That's when some of the features impress themselves on you, and it was these features I tried to preserve. So, the basic proportions, with the car's low height, the 'pointy' roof and the giant rear spoiler, were important. I took some of these elements to the extreme to give the car some more modern touches."
It wasn't easy to update the shape, though. Look at that falling character line that runs from the front bumper all the way to the back, like an inverse wedge shape. Trying to transpose that line onto modern proportions was "a bit of a nightmare," said Baptiste. "That's something that won't necessarily look good in today's perception of dynamic design. Today, the desired dynamics of a car's looks are modelled a beast ready to jump, hence the muscular lines of today with a more muscular rear end." So, Baptiste came up with an overall silhouette that looks like a chisel - all pointed and pushing forward - and on to that he was able to overlay the original's descending line. It looks pretty awesome, if we're honest...
There are some modern details too - the bonnet gets 'power dome' lines that are meant to reference current Skoda road cars, while the devilish red LED lights are supposed to represent the bloody fangs of a vampire.
Initial work on paper, not a screen
Interestingly, Baptiste didn't sit in the Skoda museum, in front of the real Ferat car, for hours and hours while designing his update. "I tried to capture those initial impressions. So, I sketched the car as I remembered it from the first time I encountered it, and only when I had managed to capture these emotions and proportions from my memory did I proceed to work on my new interpretation," he says, pointing out that the initial work was done on physical paper, not on a screen.
"I only worked on the computer in the final stages, especially in the colouring phase," says Baptiste, adding that the traditional "vampire" black and red combination was an absolute must. "It was about two weeks' work in the evenings," he says. "It was the initial sketches and finding the right shapes and details that took the most time. The resulting illustration was pretty quick, but that only came after a lot of painstaking work."
Sadly, for now, Baptiste's work will remain a sketch only - there won't be a physical, real modern Vampire car to sit alongside the original Ferat car (with its hinged front body giving access to the cabin) in Skoda's museum. Actually, has anyone checked the museum to make sure that the original is definitely still in there at night...?