Under-Appreciated Clever Innovations: The Škoda Felicia Fun’s Secret Sliding Supplemental Seat System Setup

Feliciafun Top

The Czech carmaker Škoda is largely unknown in mainstream American car culture, and while that’s understandable (you’re more likely to meet a dog that took improv classes at The Groundlings than you are to see a Škoda on US streets) it’s also kind of a shame, because I think they make some really fascinating cars, often with unexpected details. Like their rear-engined cars where the front trunklid opens sideways, like a grand piano. But I think one of the greatest party tricks in all of this Czech carmaker’s arsenal has to be the extra seating setup used in the “fun” version of their Škoda Felicia pickup truck, appropriately called the Škoda Felicia FUN. It’s just so damn clever I could do something like spitting, but better. Let me show you.

You can think of the Felicia FUN’s innovation as a sort of marriage between two other small-truck funnovations: the foldable mid-gate, as seen on the Chevy Avalanche and Toyota bB Opendeck, and the seats in the truck bed, as seen, famously, on the Subaru BRAT.

Skodafel Math

Okay, so what’s going on here? Well, the Felicia FUN was, essentially a version of the pickup truck variant of the Škoda Felicia, which was in turn an update of the Škoda Favorit, which was Škoda’s first transverse front engine/front wheel drive car after years and years of Škoda sticking with rear engine/rear wheel drive cars. While I personally adore the rear/rear setup, Škoda realized that the world – especially small European car world – was going FWD, and they were kinda late to the game. So, the Favorit was born, and then developed into the Felicia, which was Škoda’s last indpendent platform to be developed before they became part of the VW Group.

One nice thing about small front engine/FWD cars is that they’re pretty easy to adapt into small front engine/FWD pickup trucks, which is exactly what Škoda did, selling it both as a Škoda and rebadged as a VW Caddy.

The point of the pickup was to sell to the commercial, workhorse market, but Škoda understood that thing the winter caretaker of the Grand Overlook Hotel made so clear: all work and no play makes Felicia a dull girl. So, with that in mind, a “lifestyle version” (Type 796, if you care) was built, which just means it was something made for fun instead of work, hence the name.

FrogSo, the Felicia Fun got bright colors and fun upholstery with a pattern that had little crowned frogs, which was the mascot of the truck, a little sketch of a regal frog, likely a firm but fair ruler of his little amphibian kingdom. When the truck was shown at the Geneva Auto Show in 1995, it featured a little “party trick,” as Skoda themselves called it:

Probably the FELICIA Fun’s biggest surprise was in the interior: The innovative idea of a folding and sliding rear wall and two emergency seats had found its way into a series-production vehicle and was far more than just a futuristic show car feature. The refined mechanics, known within the company as the ‘party trick’, were incorporated into the standard equipment of the FELICIA Fun. When the emergency seats were unfolded, the depth of the loading area, which was covered with spruce wood, decreased from 1,370 to 850 millimetres.

I think calling them “emergency seats” sounds a little alarmist for their actual use, which was the sort of emergency you might have when you manage to convince two hotties of your preferred gender to hop into your truck. Here’s a little video that shows how these things got deployed:

Look how well that works! The midgate lifts up and back on those hinged rails, grabbed from that big bar, then the seat bottom folds into place, and boom, two more seats! There were even options to add a roof and windows to the back seats:

Brochure1

Škoda built the Felicia FUN from 1995 to 2001, and you could get them with 1.9-liter/64 horsepower diesel, or either a 68hp/1.3-liter or 75 hp/1.6-liter engines, all inline-fours and pretty conventional small European car-type drivetrains. But nobody bought these for their raw power or speed, of course, they bought them because they were both useful and silly, and for some of us out there, a second row of seats that origamis out from the back of a truck cab is just an irresistible draw.

I get the appeal. I feel like we haven’t been in an era where we’ve seen much of this unselfconscious frivolity in cars, and that’s a shame, but I do have some hope. I think in our approaching era of widespread EVs, the near-standard skateboard-type chassis and the packaging flexibility that provides may make such fun, odd innovations like this viable again, and perhaps even more than before, since EV drivetrains are generally pretty uniform, making the need for other more aggressive differentiation even more important.

I think we’re already seeing this in vehicles like the Rivian, with its Swiss Army-style of storage compartments and slide-out kitchens. I bet we won’t have to wait too long for a rebirth of the midgate and fold-out seats.

Take your inspiration from this old Czech, modern EV makers. Because FUN is fun.

 

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40 Responses

  1. Are we really just ignoring the super fun party dude in that video? Nothing??
    I mean, he got the shirt AND the yellow leather driving gloves to match that interior.
    And then that enthusiastic delivery and oddly dim lighting really just finish it off perfectly.

  2. Rebirth of the mid-gate, you say? Why soitenly: https://www.chevrolet.com/electric/silverado-ev
    Pretty cool party trick in the new electric Chevy SilvErado, which has a mid-gate that can be partially (60/40), or completely folded down, bed to roof, allowing items up to 10 feet long to be loaded without overhanging the end of the multigate. Unlike Ford’s somewhat genius idea of essentially making an electric version of the F150 without too many differences, it looks like Chevy has taken a more blank-slate approach.

    1. That’s true, but really, F-150 Lightning will eventually end up on a dedicated EV platform like the SilvErlanche. As others have mentioned, Ford even patented a hatchback-like midgate for a future unibody truck.

      Like with the Maverick, Ford’s goal was to have a competitively priced product on the market asap, so we end up with an EV based on the current BOF F-150 starting at $40k instead of a $100k+ Hummer-like monstrosity.

      1. Oh, I’m certain of it. Being first to the market (well, first of the big manufacturers) is worth a lot, so I understand why Ford took the route they did. That’s why I said it was a somewhat genius idea, since it gets them into people’s minds as beating Chevy to market and gives them room to develop the truck’s dedicated EV platform attributes later on. But I’m still gonna wait for da Cheby…
        If I were forced to buy an EV today, it would be either the Mustang Mach-E or the F150 Lightning – I really think they’re world-beaters. But luckily, I can wait and see what develops over the next couple years. I may still end up buying a Ford product, but I do have a long-term affinity for both GM and Toyota, so I do want to see what they’ll put into the mix. I also like Volvo a lot, but so far their efforts in this arena have disappointed me.

  3. i think it’s brilliant, that Skoda saw that hole in the caarying-people-in-the-pick-up-bed market, when the Brat went out of prodution.

    In Denmark, where private vehicles are quite heavily taxed, we have always had a lot of Skodas everywhere, since they were cheap. So I have actually seen a Felicia Fun myself once! Since it was priced at around 150% of a regular Skoda, they were very rare, and “Skoda” and “fun” were two VERY different things over here.,

    Lada/VAZ’es (in the Fiat 124 form) or Citroën 2CV/Dyane were other cheap alternatives for people in the school teacher income bracket. My dad had a Dyane for the daily 30 mile commute.

  4. The midgate IS coming back with EVs! The electric Silverado will have one. Ford recently filed a patent for one as well, although of course a patent filing doesn’t mean too much on its own.

    Midgates are awesome and should be way more common in this era of pickups that are basically family haulers with vestigial beds for cultural signaling purposes. A midgate would make those short little beds so much more useful, without asking any major sacrifices in return. I really think the Maverick especially could have used one. Ford missed an opportunity there.

    Anyway, midgates forever!

    1. I think the goal was for the Maverick to reach production as quickly as possible, and developing a midgate would have probably significantly delayed it’s introduction.

      Others have similar “miss opportunity” comments about no AWD + Hybrid from the start and no PHEV from the start and so on. Seeing how they’re literally selling all they can build with a months-long waiting list, I don’t think they missed any opportunities here. They obviously came up with a winning formula.

      I mean, look at what we did get from the start: a $20k 40+ MPG Hybrid crew cab pickup, which can be upgraded to 250 HP + AWD + tow package for the same price every other truck (midsize and Santa Cruz) starts at for an ill-equipped 2wd.

      I think that’s remarkable, and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t have done exactly what they did by getting the basic product right, and upgrading it later with the PHEV and/or Hybrid AWD and/or a sporty variant and/or an off-road variant similar to Bronco Sport Badlands and/or with ProPower On Board, etc.

  5. I love this! This is the answer to a question literally noone was asking! It would be cool if the canvas top thing popped out with the midgate. I reckon this would be really handy though. Especially on the Australia Falcon and Commodore utes.

    1. … okay, fine, I’ll help you find one but it will not be cheap.
      Not because they’re particularly expensive cars or because I dislike them. It’s because these things are like Subaru Bajas – 9 out of 10 examples you find will be rotted out beyond any hope of repair. Particularly in the rockers.
      Good examples needing minor body repairs, you’re looking in the $18-22k ballpark OTR including RI.

  6. That’s pretty cool and it makes more sense than having jump seats or a crew cab that never gets used for people.

    I have a non car related question I am hoping someone has an answer for. Why are metric measurements almost always in millimeters, like this, “1,370 to 850 millimetres”? Why not use meters or centimeters? They aren’t talking about anything under a centimeter, so what’s the point of using millimeters? I have never understood that.

    1. Using millimetres as standard is an engineering thing, presumably because 1mm is small enough to be useful for measurements and diagrams, and settling on a standard unit minimises confusion.

      In daily life we’d say ‘Alice is 170cm tall’ or ‘That car is 10m away’, and rarely use mm unless for very small things.

  7. Back in the mid-80s my parents had a Škoda Estelle (in a hideous orange, no less) and I have absolutely no recollection of the grand piano frunk.

    However, it was by far the least reliable vehicle my family has ever owned, so it spent the vast majority of my childhood sitting in the driveway rusting away while waiting to be repaired. I’m guessing my folks didn’t dare take on any kind of journey where luggage would be necessary. Either that or the hood was just rusted shut.

  8. I had a 1995 Skoda Felicia 1.3 in Colombia in 2001. It was a good looking car at a time when the Colombian car market still included the Chevrolet (Suzuki) Sprint and Mazda 323.
    Way back then I remember seeing, and wanting, the Felicia Fun. I recently looked them up to see if the price was reasonable enough to import one. From what I saw, and others already wrote, the good ones were expensive, but I did see couple that looked to be in good condition in Portugal for about $5000. Tempting!

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