The MNA 1000 – A Van Ahead of Its Time From Bratislava

The MNA 1000 van was born in the late 1980s. It looked nicer than a Renault, and was easier to handle than a Ford. Unfortunately serial production was never realized.

BAZ MNA 1000

Back in the 1980s if you wanted to purchase a van ‘s in Czechoslovakia – you had two options a Škoda 1203 manufactured in Vrchlabí or a
Škoda 1203 made in Trnava :). This was recognised by the government as well so they instructed BAZ (Bratislavské automobilové závody –
Bratislava Automobile Factory) to prepare the construction of an utility vehicle with carrying capacity of 450 and 900 kilogramms.

Nevertheless – it was in 1983 when the development of a successor to the Škoda 1203 started. It was considered that it may be sold worldwide.

A scale model of the MNA 1000

MNA 900 – a timeless design with weak engine

The exterior of the new MNA 900 was developed by a team of BAZ designers, interior experts and coachbuilders (Tibor Sýkora, Peter Jurík, Branislav Jelenčík and many others), headed by Milan Biroš.

In August 1985 the very first prototype MNA 900 P1 was completed, regrettably with the weak, 58-hp Š 742.13 engine lifted from the Škoda 130 hp. It was quite interesting that they incorporated the lights and rear-view mirrors of the forthcoming Škoda Favorit, which was then two years away from being publicly introduced.

MNA 900 and MNA 1000

MNA 1000 and on…

In January 1988 a Czechoslovak delegation of the automotive industry was toled by Soviet Union representatives the AZLK Moscow (Avtomobilny Zavod imeni Leninskogo Komsomola) is about to develop a conceptually nearly an identical vehicle to the MNA 900.

Both parties met in February 1988 and intensive work on both the MNA 1000 and AZLK 3733 commenced. It was the offer from AZLK to supply a
proper front-wheel-drivetrain with a suitable engine, clutch and gearbox which prompted the cooperation. Although everything looked promising, there were complications as terms were not precisely agreed upon and there were technical difficulties in putting the first three engines into operation.

Interestingly, both petrol and diesel engines were developed in collaboration with English company Ricardo and AZLK even built a huge factory for their production.

MNA 1000
AZLK 3733. Source:

Though there was now an international team around, it was Biroš who brought forth the modern, aerodynamic shape which was a development of the MNA 900 prototype.

Futuristic front lights, which are the most distinguished feature of the car, have been tailored. They accurately copy a very strong line that defines the front bonnet of the vehicle and passes smoothly into the A-pillar. The purity of the shape along with the dynamics of the balanced composition gives the commercial vehicle a progressive and unmistakable face. Today MNA 1000 is being showhn at the Transportation Museum in Bratislava.

On title page in stop auto-moto magazine

After November 1989, the political situation has changed. The Soviets wanted to complete the joint project, but BAZ’s leadership was no longer interested in cooperation. The AZLK plant has requested the necessary documentation and tried to bring the vehicle into production but eventually it didn’t succeed

The former designers, who worked at both Tatra and BAZ had extensive experience with unrealized projects. However, the when Volkswagen set up a new company with BAZ in Bratislava in May 1991, there were no more tasks for them at home. So those who learnt their craft at Slovakian universities left to work abroad. Today there are many of them, who are well-known and succesful.

Milan Biroš

Milan Biroš (1954, Banská Bystrica)

1969 to 1973 he studied machine and tool shaping at the Central Art and Craft School in Kremnica. In 1982 he graduated two years of post-graduate studies at Košice VŠT and Brno, where he specialized in designing. He joined BAZ right after middle school in 1973 and worked as a designer until 1994. At BAZ, Biroš’ main projects included exterior and interior design work for passenger cars, vans and trucks. He also worked for Rucker s.r.o. and for Tatra in Kopřivnice. He was also responsible for a three-wheeler at Liaz, the new Daewoo Avia and a Karos bus. He has received many awards for his work.

We would like to express our thanks to Slovenské Centrum Dizajnu and Denník N for information sources, photos and research assistance for this article.

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