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Praga S5T: The History of a Czechoslovak Military Truck Turned Civilian Vehicle

After the end of the Second World War, the Prague automobile manufacturer Praga continued to produce interwar cargo types, whether it was the RN series or the “heavy” ND series. In addition, however, she worked on a new generation of cars, the N2T to N5T series (according to the useful weight of 2 to 5 tons), which, however, did not come to fruition in the end. Due to the reorganization of the Czechoslovak automobile industry, Praga had to focus on production for the military sector. Thanks to this, however, it finally offered a vehicle for civilian customers.

The famous Praga V3S was the result of the production orientation for the army. The designers were given the task of building a military special vehicle with a useful weight of three tons, which was also reflected in the name of the model itself. The army needed such a car at the time, it requested the unification of the vehicle fleet, when it no longer wanted to rely on vehicles captured after the war or cars originally intended for the civilian sector, which did not have sufficient capabilities for the army off paved roads.

Although the Praga V3S with all-wheel drive was primarily intended for the Czechoslovak army, shortly after the start of production, it found its application in the civilian sector as well. There, however, its weaknesses quickly became apparent, mainly its high inefficiency in normal use.

Photo: autowp.ru

Two axles instead of three, you’ll still recognize the S5T from the V3S.

Modifications for civilians

The management of the Prague automobile company thus decided to modify the vehicle for normal road use, the result of which was the Praga S5T. It was originally supposed to be a cheap, temporary solution, before the arrival of completely new types. These were needed because a truck of this medium category was missing in Czechoslovak production. In the end, however, it was produced for a good number of years, between 1956 and 1972, when more than 50,000 examples of this model were produced.

In order to reduce costs and speed up the development process, the Praga S5T used a number of components from the “army” V3S, specifically the drive train or modified cabin. In the first prototypes, it was very close to the windbreaker, but the serial version already had a different front design, with a different mask and recessed headlights. Additionally, there may not have been forward-tilting front windows or a hole in the roof for a military observer. However, the interior was better soundproofed.

Photo: autowp.ru

An unconventional derivative of the Praga S5T-2TN with a trambus body designed primarily for the USSR

However, the main distinguishing feature of the S5T was the number of axles – there were two and not three as in the army sister. The simplified axles were rigid, with a double gear in the transfer case instead of wheel reductions. Only the rear one was powered. Here, too, the basis was a ladder frame, riveted from steel profiles.

In this case, too, the drive was provided by an air-cooled in-line six-cylinder diesel engine originally from Tatra, which with a volume of 7.4 liters provided an output of 72 kW.

Photo: autowp.ru

Praga S5T on a period photo.

Various derivatives

As is the case with trucks, the Praga S5T was created in various derivatives. The most common were the classic flatbed and tipper. The base model had a wheelbase of 4,090 mm, the extended model had a wheelbase of 4,500 mm. Thanks to this, the loading area could be up to five meters!

There were also different superstructures for different purposes. The car thus served as a tanker for transporting fuel or milk. There were cold storage and freezer superstructures, suction trucks, self-collectors with vacuum cleaners for street cleaning or self-loading garbage trucks, as well as sprinkler vehicles, mobile workshops, or even shops.

An interesting model was the so-called Praga S5T-2TN. It was a derived car with a shortened wheelbase and mainly a hoodless cabin taken from the Škoda 706 RTTN, which was created at the instigation of the Soviet Union. There, it was supposed to serve in extreme conditions where no other vehicle would survive. In the end, over 3,000 examples of this model were allegedly produced and delivered to the USSR in a set with a refrigerated semi-trailer from Orličan from Choceň. But part of the production remained in Czechoslovakia.

Photo: autowp.ru

While the Praga S5T ended in 1972, the V3S was produced until the early 1990s, when it was created at the Bratislava Automobile Works.

Modernized models

However, the development work did not stop even after the start of production. In 1962, a modernized version marked S5T-2 appeared. It received a strengthened engine to 81 kW, thanks to an increase in speed and other injector nozzles. The lubrication system was also improved, the transmission was quieter and easier to shift. The frame was also strengthened or the cabin modified.

In the second half of the 1960s, the S5T-3 derivative arrived. The latter received an engine rebore to a volume of 8.1 liters, which should ensure a longer service life than the previous version. The later S5T-3 Super meant an increase in payload to six tons.

The Praga S5T was eventually produced until 1972, a more than decent performance for a vehicle that was originally meant to be a temporary solution. In addition to Czechoslovakia, the S5T was also exported to Finland, the Netherlands, Egypt, Indonesia and China.

It was originally produced in Vysočany, from 1961 in Letňany, near Avia. Production ended here primarily due to the need to free up capacity for the upcoming Avia A15/A30.

Photo: autowp.ru

At the same time, it was still the only truck of this size category of Czechoslovak production, which filled the gap between the incoming Avia A30 and Škoda 706 RT. Those interested in a truck of this size had to choose imported cars, namely the East German IFU W50. Unfortunately, the Avia or Praga projects for a successor to the S5T did not come to fruition.

2024-02-17 04:00:00
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