Spiderman from Piešťany

Andrej Chotváč has been working as an independent car designer since the 1960s, first in Chechoslovakia and now in the Slovak Republic.

Andrej Chotváč have chosen maybe the most difficult route as an independent car designer in the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic.

He drew his first when he was was only three-year-old and it was on a large white wall near his bed in Krajno. The drawing was so compelling that even the guests knew which type it was – an old Praga autobus with blue stripe that was driven by Mr. Petráš.

Despite of his exceptional artistic talent and a love for design, he waited 11 years to get to the Academy of Fine Arts in Bratislava. Andrej Chotváč graduated as a sculptor in the Autumn of 1975. During his the penultimate year, he was already thinking about the shape of an open-type ‘spider’ race car, the so-called “pancake”.

Industrial design at that time was called the shaping of industrial products and back then in Academy of Fine Arts and Design (VŠVU) the department with the same name was led by lecturer Václav Kautman. To students who at that time had an atelier at Koceľova Street often said: “Industrial shaping is a responsibility. When you don’t do the it the best way you know it, then you are a cheater.”

This statement also directed Andrej Chotváč and his thesis on a “minibus”, so he tried to do his best. In the beginning of semester although Kautman said: “You are capable, you can make even two models.” At that time Andrej Chotváč was working on three projects already. Two minibuses and a spider racing car – Spider 2, which was not an official school job.

Making of the Coupé – photo archive of Andrej Chotváč

The diploma presentation of thesis was in the exhibition premises of the House of Art in Bratislava, Chotváč exhibited one classic minibus model and one large three-meter model in a bold futuristic shaping. The Opponent of his diploma thesis was Ivan Mičík, director of vehicle development at the Bratislava Automobile Industries (BAZ). After the show, the big model somehow disappeared, lost or was stolen. Rector Jan Kulich did not even want to hear about the thievery

Fiberglass body of the sportscar was made in quite inhuman conditions in an old work house. But the desire to realize his dream car was stronger then all the obstacles. In a small room measuring just 5×3 meters, a racing car was born, which top speed was over 240 km/h in a year.

 

Reparation – Photo archive of Andrej Chotváč

In 1976 Spider 2 was build and raced at Grand Prix in Piešťany. In the prestigious race with foreign participants it also provoked some uproar from the Western countries.

After some time Andrej Chotváč was called to a the military controversy hearing. The officer showed him an American motoring magazine in front of him and asked, “What do you have with the Americans?” He did not understand at all what this is about, although everything became clearer. In the main pages of the magazine there was an article with three photos of the Spider-2, with the headline: “Skillful designers behind the Iron Curtain”. The car was apparently caught by a foreign journalist and he wrote an article with photos he made at the Grand Prix in Piešťany. The creator of Spider was finally let off with a warning.

The support of the Slovak part of Czechoslovakia was very minimal at those times. The crisis has taken place in Bratislava Automobile Industries (BAZ) and the doors at the development of motor vehicles departments were closed for the new designers. Also there were no opportunities to study abroad, especially behind the Iron Curtain. If somebody wanted to design a car he could do it in his own garage or with the support of Zväzarm (united defense and voluntary social organisation in Czechoslovakia).

Andrej Chotváč chose the most difficult route of a free car designer in the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic. He created bodyworks for two Spiders and one type of coupé with gullwing doors:
– Spider 2-1 which was driven by František Nemec and featured a BMW Alpina 4-cylinder, 1990-cc, 220-hp engine at the rear.
– Spider 2-2 was driven by Eduard Bertoli. This vehicle had an Alfa Romeo GTA 1300 engine and an outstanding performance. Another version with a modified design and a larger wing with Škoda engine was driven by Jaroslav Bobek. Spider used engines from BMW, Škoda and a Fiat 1600 DOHC.

Spider 2-2 with Skoda engine

The last bodyworks at 1:1 scale were created by Andrej Chotváč between 1983 and 1989. Sports cars with his design, which wrote the history of Czechoslovak motor sport, are today decorations of few private collections. As Slovakia does not have a comprehensive collection of car designs in any museum, it’s unknown what else was created in this part of Czechoslovakia and what stories are behind the graceful curves of these bodyworks.

Andrej Chotváč (1942)

Andrej Chotváč

He went to elementary school in Štúrovo, later to high-school in Piešťany. As a 16-year-old he started working with the Czechoslovakian Air Force and he also flew in the field of training. After basic military service (1970) he was accepted to Academy of Fine Arts and Design (VŠVU) in Bratislava, where in 1976 he successfully graduated with the title of academic of sculptures at the Department of Industrial Manufacturing. After the the school, he went to the Piestany’s development Team to work out his scholarship. Together with Jarolim Vavra he designed a special Glaser and also designed parts of refrigerators for Calex – Zlaté Moravce. Designed many logotypes as well but, automobile designs always followed him during his life.

We would like to express our sincere thanks to Maroš Schmidt from Slovenské múzeum dizajnu and Denník N for assisting us with photos and source data for this article.

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