Josef Sodomka Sr. (1865-1939)

This year marks the 80th anniversary of the death of Josef Sodomka Sr, one of the greatest Czech coachbuilders.

Josef Sodomka Sr

This year marks the 80th anniversary of the death of Josef Sodomka Sr, one of the greatest Czech coachbuilders.

Josef Sodomka Sr., died on June 8, 1939, at the age of 73. A wheelwright by trade, he founded his coachbuilding company in Vysoké Mýto, Czech Republic at the turn of the 20th century. Beginning in the 1920s Sodomka turned its attention to automobile bodies. By the 1930s Sodomka became a household name among the European coachbuilders, and was even recognized worldwide. After it was nationalized in 1948 it was turned into a producer of coaches under the brand name Karosa. Today the company belongs to Iveco and is one of the biggest bus factories in Europe.

From the carriage to “Arizona” in 1940, forty-five difficult years.

After his apprenticeship Josef Sodomka Sr. went abroad and after returning to Bohemian lands he worked in Prague, Trutnov and Jihlava before moving to Vysoké Mýto in the mid-1890s. Initially, he was one of many workers, but soon he “worked for himself” thanks to his experience and entrepreneurial spirit. He founded his own carriage building company in May 1896 in rented premises near the city centre. Craftsmanship combined with meticulousness and business talent soon celebrated success, and his clientele included people from all around the world. Over time, he bought a steam engine and with increasing orders, the number of employees grew. From the original five craftsmen, Sodomka’s team grew to nearly twenty employees and just before the First World War, the company experienced its first peak. However, the private life of Josef Sodomka was not idyllic, his wife and two daughters succumbed to tuberculosis and only his son Josef survived.

Probably one of first coach-build from the company from 1925.

After the establishment of Czechoslovakia, Sodomka’s factory stumbled on the verge of ruin, new orders came only rarely and he managed to survive through repairs. Turnover came in mid-1925 when Josef Sodomka Jr. returned home to Vysoké Mýto. The 21-year-old boy was studying at a coach-building school in Kašperské Hory and spent his apprenticeship in Mladá Boleslav, where he became familiar with the construction of cars. As early as September 1925, the first automobile body from Sodomka was completed, soon followed by others.

Employees of the Carrosserie Sodomka at the factory yard in the early 1930s.
Maybach SW 42 for first Slovakian president.
Weekend houses made from 1937.
Series of Man trolleys made for Bratislava in 1941.

Although he was still officially at the helm of the company, the elder Josef Sodomka, let his son steer the family-owned business to new success. He retired in 1930 at the age of 65, two years after the company produced the last carriages. At that time, he sold his son half of the company (the remaining part belonged to Sodomka’s second wife Bohumila. Josef Sodomka jr. became sole owner one year later, after his stepmother’s death). Josef Sodomka Sr. still witnessed his company’s greatest successes in the 1930s.

Not just Czechoslovakian cars, this was also dressed by Sodomka – a Rolls-Royce.

Unfortunately, as many other good projects, Sodomka was nationalized after the Second World War. Today we can see surviving Sodomka-bodied cars all over the world and we can see two museums in Vysoke Myto:

  • the local history museum, which has a separate section on Sodomka
  • the museum of Czechoslovak coachbuilding

So if you are on the way between Brno and Prague, be sure to make a detour and check out these collections

The museum of Czechoslovak coachbuilding

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