Laurin & Klement was a Czech automobile, motorcycle and bicycle manufacturer brand founded 1895 in Mladá Boleslav, Kingdom of Bohemia by automotive pioneers Václav Laurin and Václav Klement.
It was acquired by industrial conglomerate Škoda Works in 1925 and re-branded as Škoda Auto, which is today the largest car manufacturer in the Czech Republic and a subsidiary of Volkswagen Group.
|Headquarters||Mladá Boleslav, Kingdom of Bohemia, Austria-Hungary|
Laurin & Klement (1895-1925),was a bicycle, motorcycle and automobile manufacturer in Mladá Boleslav, Bohemia, then Austria-Hungary. Named after its two founders: Václav Laurin (born 27 September 1865, died 4 December 1930), and Václav Klement (born 16 October 1868, died 13 August 1938).
Car production commenced in 1905, and the company soon became the largest car manufacturer in Austria-Hungary.
In the week before Christmas 1895 two bicycle enthusiasts, Vaclav Laurin a mechanic and Vaclav Klement a bookseller, started the manufacture of bicycles of their own design. These machines were patriotically called Slavia and were sufficiently successful, employing 28 staff by 1897, to allow the company to embrace motorcycles in 1899 and move to a larger factory wit 40 employees.
The production of bicycles ceased in 1905 at the same time as the introduction of their new 4-cylinder in-line motorcycle. They also experimented with a small twin cylinder voiturette called the Model A, two of which were exhibited in Vienna. They had a V-twin 7hp engine of 1005cc at the front and were available with either two or four seat coachwork. About 45 cars of this type were sold by the end of 1906.
The Types B and C were added in 1907 with two cylinder engines up to 2281cc. In the same year the first 4-cylinder Type D was announced with an 18hp engine of 4402cc and the Type E with a 4562cc engine of 28hp. The V-twin cylinder Type B became the B2 with the engine enlarged to 1595cc. The Type F with a 4-cylinder engine of 2438cc was available from 1907 and there was a Type FF with an 8-cylinder engine of 4847cc. The Type B was again revised as the Type BS with the V-twin engine enlarged to 1399cc.
By 1907 the total production of all models had amounted to over 750 cars and the company was restructured as a public company with outside shareholders providing the capital for future expansion in the additional 4000sq. metres of factory. It was also the year when they appointed their first overseas agent in England.
The following year they entered for the St. Petersburg to Moscow endurance event, backed by Count Alexander Kolowrat, and took the first nine places, an achievement which resulted in about 35% of their exports going to Russia.
The range of cars, all now 4-cylinder engined, was extensive and the V-twin was dropped in 191. The new models were heavier and had larger engines from 2.6-litres up to 3.8-litres.
The company amalgamated with R.A.F. in 1913 and produced a number of British Daimler derived Knight sleeve valve engined cars the 3.3-litre Type MK and the 4.7-litre Type RK.
A light car was re-introduced in 1913 as the Type O, with a 2614cc side valve engine, and the Type OK with an R.A.F. derived side valve engine of 2413cc was also available up to 1916, but very few were made.
A series of Type S and Type T cars with small side valve engines were made throughout the war years. The production of the larger 2413cc S model amounted to about 840 cars, but the small 1199cc T was little more than 100 cars.
After the war Bohemia became part of the new Czechoslovakia and their traditional export markets were lost, in particular to Russia. The Type S of 1911 was improved and fitted with a 2413cc engine and called the Sp and it sold about 325 cars up to 1925. Other small cars were the Types A, 100 and 105 all with 1791cc engines.
These were difficult times and a serious fire at the factory in 1925 preceded the acquisition of Laurin & Klement by Skoda in 1925.