Car of the Day #84: 1966 Trekka

Trekka being loaded off of a ship • source unknown

In the 1960s, similarly rural populations and hardworking, can-do spirits — plus the realities of currency exchanges with Eastern Bloc and Western countries — created an improbable union between Škoda and New Zealand entrepreneurs.

Respecting this, and acknowledging its full history is best absorbed through an outstanding one hour NZ public radio podcast or one of Škoda’s official media releases on this obscure collaboration, I’m hoping to reflect its personality here through a minimally informative story.

Other manufacturers, take note: honoring the past and including high-quality source material is one of the best bang-for-your-buck investments in preserving your brand’s heritage with language and media you’ve approved of. Gold star for Škoda.

Trekka was a New Zealand vehicle made from the mechanical parts from a period Škoda Octavia Estate.

1960s Škoda Octavia Estate • via Škoda

Trekka was a joint venture between local companies, Škoda HQ, and Škoda’s NZ importer — having all of the mechanical parts sourced and supported with after-sales staff was key.

With automotive imports subject to high taxes, Trekka — classed as an agricultural vehicle — filled a niche whereby enough of it was constructed from local labour and New Zealand-made components as to undercut every overseas rival.

Reportedly, nearly 3,000 were produced in Otahunu until the early ’70s, split among pickup, 2-seat, 8-seat, canvas top, plastic top, estate, and ‘beach’ models.

It was broadly unique to other off-roaders of the time, differentiating itself with an independent suspension and backbone chassis.

Under the hood, an Iron Bloc longitudinally mounted 1.2L four-cylinder engine with 47 horsepower on a good day. 

Top speed? 110 km/h (63 mph).

Don’t write it off just yet: a low weight and available rear locking differential meant that Trekka was no slouch on loose surfaces.

Today, farmers would simply overspend on a newly imported utility side-by-side vehicle or underspend on a secondhand ‘ute for the types of uses envisioned by Trekka, which are now being satisfied by a different solution to similar problems.

Building for utility, longevity, and off-roadability, NZ and Australian companies have reinvented the flatbed pickup truck with the concept of — where have I heard this before? — locally-built modifications that allow most ‘utes and SUVs to vastly exceed their original specifications. The ‘Ute Tray.

A simple, effective recipe: the necessary parts from a donor vehicle elevated by craftspeople to survive a tough life in rural environments.

What makes the Trekka magical? It was built to survive possibly the toughest rural environment anywhere on the planet: Middle Earth.


Thank you to my supporting members: Ben B., Brad B., Chris G., Daniel G., Damian S., Daniel P., Drew M., Ingrid P., Karl D., Luis O., Michael J., Michael L., Michelle S., Mike B., Mike L., Mike M., Richard W., Sam L., Wiley H.