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Chavdar (Bulgarian: Чавдар) was a Bulgarian bus builder located in the town of Botevgrad, Sofia Province. Founded by Racho Dzhambov in 1924, the company that would later become "Chavdar" produced around 200 buses between 1927 and 1947 on chassis from Ford Motor Company, Mercedes-Benz and Dodge. In 1948 the company was nationalized and acquired the name "Chavdar" in honour of the revolutionary Chavdar Voyvoda. It produced buses on chassis of Skoda 706 RTO but later shifted to license production of Setra and Steyr buses. It also developed several models on its own, which had good commercial success. The company closed in 1999.
In 1924 Racho Valkov Djambov (1894-1983) opened an iron workshop in Botevgrad, Bulgaria. In 1927, Racho met with Ivan Valkov who had a transport business using rebuilt ambulances. He gave Racho one platform from Fiat to built his first vehicle on. After World War II, Bulgaria was ruled by a communist government and Djambov's workshop was nationalized. The new company was named Chavdar and by 1948 it had started producing buses based on Škoda RTO. Until 1956 the production of the company increased by 150%.
In 1962, the company started production of the models M65 and M66 on chassis of Skoda 706 RTO, which were very popular for city and intercity traffic. In the same year, production of midi buses based on the Soviet GAZ-51(1962-1969) started.
In 1966, the new models M80 (city bus) and M81 (intercity coach) appeared, based again on Škoda chassis. In 1968, between 400 and 500 units were produced. The same year, the factory started modernization. New machines, new work strategy and new workplaces were described as the future success of the company.
An important part of Chavdar's history is the contract with the German coach builder Setra. In 1974, the company started production of the models 11G5 (city bus) and 11M3 (suburban bus) based on the contemporary Setra buses. Although the new buses closely resembled their German counterparts, they were developed to fit the Skoda 706 RTO chassis, which produced buses without an analogue among Setra's model line. Similar to the Setra S150, Chavdar developed the intercity model 11M4, which had a Hungarian Raba D2156HM6U engine and won several prizes from international fairs. These models were the company's biggest success.
At the end of the 1970s the midi bus Chavdar 5C was constructed by Kiril Hadjiev and Lubomir Toshev and the first prototypes were tested in 1979. The bus used a Perkins engine and had 14 seats. It is known as being the first series 4x4 bus in the world. This model was widely used in smaller towns and villages in Bulgaria as public, school and worker buses.
In 1981 the city of Athens, Greece opened a tender for delivery of 200 new city buses. Especially for the tender, Chavdar developed a brand new model - the B 13-20. Despite heavy rivalry from famous western companies, Chavdar won the tender and delivered 200 solo buses to Athens. An articulated bus Chavdar B 14-20 based on the B 13-20 also entered production. It was exported to Bashkortostan, USSR. Two trolleybus prototypes based on the B 13-20 and B 14-20 were developed, but they didn't enter serial production. At the same time a new midi bus on Avia chassis called Chavdar LC-51 entered production. It was exported to Czechoslovakia
In 1984, Chavdar signed a contract with the Austrian Steyr-Daimler-Puch to produce city and suburban buses under license. The serial production of the new models 130 (solo city bus), 140 (articulated city bus) and 330 (solo suburban bus) started in 1988. Based on them Chavdar developed the models 120 and 141 with MAN engines, which did not have an analogue among Steyr's model line. Based on the Chavdar 130, a trolleybus prototype was manufactured. The prototype trolleybus with fleet number 2525 became part of Sofia's trolleybus fleet in 1993 and remained in operation until 2010 when it was scrapped. In the same time small series of intercity buses based on the new Setra S200 models were produced.
Due to financial instability and the difficult economic situation in the country following the fall of the communist regime, Chavdar declared bankruptcy in 1999. The factory in Botevgrad was reduced to ruins.
Chavdar exported its production to The USSR, Czechoslovakia, Greece, North Korea, Afghanistan and Nicaragua among others.
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