Stefan draws on history for his art

STEFAN Ivanov has a remarkable story to tell.

The now 36-year-old Bulgarian, from the small and town of Dryanovo (founded in the 12th century and with a current population 9500) was a star athlete.

But after a near-death incident in 2005, his life took a very different turn: he emerged as a fine artist and an automotive historian of note.

Here’s his tale . . .

“For 17 years I have been doing something never done before, creating the whole history of the Laurin & Klement (Skoda since 1925) Auto Company by illustrating it.

The story behind this is as unusual as my hobby.

It was a wonderful day in November, 2005. I just finished my training, got on my motorcycle and did not know that in a single moment my life was about to change . . . 

Next thing, I had a huge crash.

I spent two weeks in a coma with two skull fractures, back and neck injuries, partial loss of memory, and many secondary injuries.

After that I spent most of my time in bed at home, thinking about life and how in a moment everything goes upside down.

Before the crash I was a two time national champion in athletics, athlete of the year for 2001 in my town, so I never quit, always fighting forward.

The most difficult months in my life were yet to come. I recovered and overcame the negative consequences.

During this process, I found comfort and joy in drawing. Historic Škoda models, to be more precise.

With time, the number of sketches grew, and I became more and more interested in the company.

Along the way, I learned about Laurin and Klement and their remarkable history.

This inspired me to make more sketches and research and soon it was as if I had become part of their story.

Stefan Ivanov and his Skoda.


L&K has a very interesting story, which shaped the face of the European auto industry. I was fascinated by it.

Unfortunately, this brand is long forgotten, so I dedicated many years so people could see and hear about one of the pioneers of auto industries, about countless race winnings.

They were racing in the Austro-Hungarian empire, Germany, France, Italy, Russia.

They built the first inline 8-cylinder car in Central Europe, and their first hybrid in 1908; they developed military vehicles and were the first to export cars to the Empire of Japan.

The mayor of Tokyo had one.

One-third of their production were exported for Russia before World War I.

They broke the speed record in their class on the Brooklands,in England.

L&K also produced trucks, delivery cars, vans, autobuses, firetrucks, ambulances, and aircraft engines.

Vaclav Laurin and Vacav Klement started the company in 1895 as a small workshop for bicycles.

Later, they presented their first motorcycle, which was called Laurin & Klement-Slavia.

Ten years later, their first car was presented, the Laurin & Klement Voiturette A.

Since that moment, L&K was established as one of the leading car manufacturers in the Austro-Hungarian empire.

After WW1, Austro-Hungary existed no more, and new countries were established.

The new countries like Czechoslovakia were in crisis as car manufacturers.

Lack of material and manpower forced some factories to close.

Others, like Tatra, Praga, and Laurin & Klement, were slowly recovering.

In 1924, the L&K plant was affected by a fire which caused a lot of damage and loss of material.

They had to find a strong partner, so they could survive.

Meanwhile the industrial giant Skoda Works from Pilsen, an arms manufacturer and multi sector concern, sought to enlarge its non-arms manufacturing base and acquired Laurin & Klement in 1925.

It also started manufacturing cars in co-operation with Hispano-Suiza.

In 2023, I opened two exhibitions. One in a private classic car museum and one in the National Poly Technical Museum in Sofia.

I also have an invitation to open an exhibition in Czech Republic in L&K hometown in front the Bulgarian society . It would be very exciting event.

I wish to have the opportunity to open exhibitions around the world, especially in the US because I know how much American people appreciate classic cars and their history.

I’d like to have the chance to tell the story of Laurin & Klement and show my artworks.

In the past four years my artworks became familiar in auto societies, mostly in Bulgaria and Czech Republic, but also in small circles in Germany, England, The Netherlands, and the US.

I also have the idea of creating an automobile institute in Bulgaria, like the countries from Central and Western Europe, US, Japan, the United Arab Emirates, and more.

It is very important automobile history to be studied in the universities.

We can’t know our modern history if we don’t know the automobiles which crossed our lands.

Stefan eventually bundled his art and car history into a 168-page book with about 90 sketches.

Unfortunately, it’s only available in Bulgarian, but the drawings are absolutely amazing.

The L&K/Skoda story lives on, except that it has, since the year 2000, been wholly owned by Volkswagen.

In 2015, Stefan approached the local municipal authorities with the idea of a parade of classic vintage cars.

The first one featured 19 vehicles and it has since become an annual event with an ever-increasing number of classic cars on show.


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