By on December 22, 2010


The best thing about the Soviet Corvair, aka Zaporozhets? The original idea was to rip off the design of the Volkswagen air-cooled engine for its powerplant, but Soviet engineers made their air-cooled four a V4 so that the cylinder heads would be more accessible when working on the engine in a mud-floored lean-to in Kemerovo (no doubt using tools made on the spot from melted-down kitchen utensils). So why not make a limousine version?
Once again, English Russia comes through for the lover of arcane Soviet road machinery. Sure, the site is backed by all manner of scurrilous/lowest-common-denominator advertisers, but seeing limo-ized ZAZs, Volgas, and Ladas makes the irritation of sleazy pop-up ads a small price to pay.

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23 Comments on “Soviet Limousine: Our Favorite Oxymoron...”


  • avatar
    tsofting

    C’me on Mr. Martin, any amateur Iron Curtain Wheels observer can see that the stretch limo in the picture in neither Soviet nor Zaphorozhetz, it’s a strecth Skoda, made in what was formerly known as Czechoslovakia, now known as the Czech Republic. It does have a rear engine, and it is a crappy set if wheels, but that’s where the similairity ends.

  • avatar
    LectroByte

     
    Did anybody ever make a Chevy Citation stretch limousine?   That would out-oxymoron that Russian one.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    The Czech Skoda explains it – looks like a mid-to-late sixties Mercedes knock-off. How many of those side windows are fixed and how many open/roll down? I’d like to know if for no other reason that the limo may not have A/C. A classic GM or Ford hardtop it ain’t!

    I wonder how many Trabants, Ladas and such from the USSR are still around, let alone the Tatras from that era. Looking further into this some while back, the Czechs did seem to be the Soviet-era luxury(!) auto makers available to those of privilege of the Communist party.

    Question in reference from an earlier column: I wonder if the eastern bloc listened to Canned Heat?

    • 0 avatar

      Well, Here is a Trabant Stretch Limo…
      TrabantStretchLimo.jpg
      Saludos

    • 0 avatar
      Acubra

      In Russia, you can still buy yourself a brand new “classic” Lada if you wish. released in 1980 but most mechanicals and body panels were/are interchangeable with the first one of 1970, itself based on a 1964 FIAT. 

      The rule is the further from Moscow you go, the more of these you see. The Far East is different though – they love their RHD Japanese imports and almost no Soviet cars exist there.

      As for Tatras (rear-engined, V8, air-cooled limos) – very few are left (they were built in tiny numbers) and are viewed as proper and expensive classics now.  

  • avatar
    vww12

    There is nothing oxymoronic about a Socialist limousine.
    On the contrary, the Party dangles such limousines in front of the masses as a symbol of the rewards to be had for servility to the Party.
    In every Socialist system that has been tried, from the USSR to China to North Korea to Cuba to the National Socialist (Nazi) government of Germany, the leaders (a.k.a. “Nomenklatura” and “Gauleiter”) have always enjoyed, both for themselves and their families:
    1.  Limousines and private cars
    2.  Dachas (private Summer houses)
    3.  Imported foodstuffs, jewelry, and clothing
    4.  First-class travel by airplane, rail, or boat
    5.  Specialized medical care, including overseas travel to hospitals in Europe and North America
    Needless to say, such privileges are not available to the masses, and can only be accessed through a lifetime of servile work for the Party.

    • 0 avatar

      Came here to say pretty much the same thing, though I would have said it much less eloquently than vww12.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Two things: one, please learn how to use the word “socialist”.  The Nazis were no more “socialist” than the Democratic Republic of Korea is “democratic”.
       
      Two, if you’re going to mis-use the word, then I get to use the same cop-out turn of phrase that’s common among the Right: Libertarian or Republican In Name Only, except in this case we’ll call all those governments “SINOs”.  I think that’s especially apropos in China’s case: not just because of the root word, but because China, with it’s very cozy relationship between private indusrtry and government and it’s accompanying autocratic behaviour, actually lands itself solidly in the fascist side of the spectrum.
       
      I’d also add that this kind of thing happens just about everywhere that you don’t have a checks and balances on power and capital accumulation, only instead of it being Communist party bosses it’s either relatives of the monarch, members of the plutocracy or what have you.  It’s important to not think in terms of ideology (eg, this kind of thing only happens in socialist/communist/capitalist/monarchist/etc societies) but to realize that it’s always about accumulation of power, regardless of the -ism.

    • 0 avatar
      Neb

      +1 psarhjinian. I’m glad I’m not the only one around here who recognizes that -isms are essentially interchangeable. In fact, I’m reading vww12′s list and it fits Wall Street bankers to a T.

    • 0 avatar
      Tommy Boy

      “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.”
      Communism, socialism, fascism, progressivism — all are just variations under the umbrella of collectivism.
      We’re well on our way, thanks to our Dear Leader,  Comrade Obama. Consider, for example, that he and Congress have exempted themselves from Social Security and socialized medicine under Obamacare …

    • 0 avatar
      Acubra

      A few clarifications from a natural born soveticus vulgaris (c.1970) if you please:
      1.  Limousines and private cars
      Limousines – ZiLs were only for the very top - for a few individuals, basically. Lower rank Chaika GAZ-13 (Hello Packard Patrician!) & 14 were even available for hire for marriage ceremonies.

      2.  Dachas (private Summer houses)
      Not yer summer shacks, they were proper all-season houses. Other thing is that these belonged to the state. They were “privatized” by their keepers only after the collapse of the USSR.
      Quite a few regular folks acquired theirs in villages around cities – nowhere as plush, though.

      3.  Imported foodstuffs, jewelry, and clothing
      Everyone who worked in foreign countries was paid in special cheques that you could cash in these stores. One could also buy these cheques on a black market.

      4.  First-class travel by airplane, rail, or boat
      As with limousines, only selected few had special designated planes. Others would travel on regular flights. Defference between classes has never been as noticeable as now.

      5.  Specialized medical care, including overseas travel to hospitals in Europe and North America
      True for the first statement, overseas treatment – almost never, but became regular after the collapse of the USSR.

      Just 5 cents worth of history.

    • 0 avatar
      Toad

      Neb, there is a crucial difference between totalitarian dictators and wall street bankers:  dictators can and do put people to death or in gulags.  Bankers can wreck an economy, but totalitarians (who tend to espouse socialism) kill people by the millions when give an opportunity.
       
      Sorry if that runs against the grain of easy moral equivalence.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Communism, socialism, fascism, progressivism — all are just variations under the umbrella of collectivism.

      I’m sorry, but no.  You’re confusing economic policy and social liberty.  It’s the same mistake people on the Left make, but in the opposite direction: where they equate capitalism and fascism and forgetting that people like Milton Friedman exist, you’re equating the presence of a social safety net with Stalinism and forgetting, oh, all of western Europe, Japan and Canada.

      That you’re lumping in progressivism is dead wrong.  Progressivism and conservatism have absolutely nothing to do with economy or social liberty: the former just means you’re in favour of a government and society that advocates change, the latter for a ones that don’t.  Stalin and his successors prior to Gorbachev were conservatives: they certainly wanted to maintain the status quo.  By comparison, movements like the Tea Party (or what the Tea Party wishes it was) are actually quite progressive, not that they’d ever admit that.

      Corporatists and those in power are always conservative.  They got were they are based on the status quo and the last thing they want is change.

      We’re well on our way, thanks to our Dear Leader,  Comrade Obama. Consider, for example, that he and Congress have exempted themselves from Social Security and socialized medicine under Obamacare …

      Oh, yes, there’s absolutely no difference between a non-single-payer support network and Soviet communism.  None at all.  Again, it’s the same idiocy, if not even more extreme, than the people on “my team” who made Führer Bush comments.  I really, really think you lack perspective.

      I recall a post a while back on Nader’s open letter where Mr. Niedermeyer notes that Nader advocated for the exact same things that the right hysterically accuse Obama of doing, only Nader notes that Obama hasn’t actually done any of it, nor doesn’t seem likely to.

      It’s one thing to have an argument about degrees of interventionism and their merits or detriments, but it’s quite another to throw around terms that you see as  pejorative when you really have no idea of what those words mean, nor how they lower the intellectual tenor of debate.

  • avatar
    AGD

    And here is the real car.
    The autor is thinking about ЗАЗ-968.

  • avatar
    Dan R

    A good Czech joke!

  • avatar
    Acubra

    Stretches like the one shown were only popular in Cuba, as far as I know. None existed in the USSR (not street-legal) or Eastern Europe.

    For the ZAZ concept/inspiration one should not look any further than West Germany, actually, and its NSU Prinz 4. Running gear was drastically simplified though. 

    A few talking points about a ZAZ:

    1. Owning one was (even in the USSR) was deemed not too graceful. There was a popular joke refering to commuting in a ZAZ – about arriving to work after “15 minutes of shame”.

    2. With air-cooled engine, the cabin heater run on gas, making it possible to heat the car even with the engine off. And to die an unpretty death of carbon monoxide poisoning.
    3. The accelerator pedal acted more like an ON/OFF switch, making for a very jerky progress.
    4. These vehicles were detested in towns but favored by country and fishing folks, as a ZAZ with its flat underbelly, high ground clearance and light weight, along with overloading of the rear wheels, had some astonishing off-road prowess. It could also be bought right away, without waiting for your turn for umpteen years as it was with a Lada.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Interesting point about Cuba: most Cubans don’t actually like Soviet-era equipment: it invariably breaks down, leaks or runs badly.  You might see the occasional Russian tractor or truck, belching black smoke over the countryside, but most of what’s on the road is either older American metal—some of which is ingeniously kept running—or newer Japanese and (especially) Korean.
       
      I’ve never seen one of these down there, for the record, but I suspect that’s because they’ve been converted into building material or fenders for a ’57 Bel Air by now.

    • 0 avatar
      Acubra

      …that’s because they’ve been converted into building material or fenders for a ’57 Bel Air by now…

      Yeah, good riddance! :) Although fertilizer seems to be more realistic to me. As you would not believe how these things rusted away. Back in Soviet times folks would try just about anything to stop the rust. The most trasured one I remember was the so called “gun fat”, a military water- and whatever-proof conservation compaund that worked in a huge temperature range, was stick as hell, had some corrosion inhibitors in the mixture. You’d have to warm it up to melt it and then spray in sills or any car body cavities. With numerous holes and tacky sealing the stuff would leak out. So cars after the treatment would pick up any dust and dirt that you could not remove with water, only with gasoline or similar solvent.   

  • avatar
    pleiter

    Looks to me like a clip job raised to the 2.6 power.

  • avatar
    Tommy Boy

    psarhjinian,

    Putting aside anarchistic extremes (e.g., no government), one can subscribe to the model of limited government and its corollary individual liberty (the founding principles of this country), or collectivism in which “society” or “the state” takes primacy, and individuals merely follow the diktats from government and are (nearly) wholly subservient to it.

    This latter is the model shared by communism, socialism, fascism and progressivism (fascism and progressivism are closely related — read Jonah Goldberg’s book “Liberal Fascism” for a well researched overview of this).

    That I’m paying taxes to support “The Great Society” (a complete failure after nearly 50 years to remediate poverty); to bailout favored banks and automakers (corporatism — Mussolini would be smiling); and now paying taxes to support the beginnings of a socialized medicine scheme demonstrates that the “progressive” march of the United States since Woodrow Wilson, through FDR, LBJ and perhaps consummated by Barack Hussein Obama (certainly this is his goal) demonstrates that in a deliberately incremental (“boiling frog”) approach the U.S. progressive- fascists have been transforming this country into a collectivist model.

    And yes, Obamacare is socialized medicine.  Through the combination of statute and upcoming regulations the “private” health insurance companies have become de facto public utilities, and eventually will be driven out of business, at which time “single payer” will be consummated. This fits right in with the fascist-corporatist model — maintain the pretense of private enterprise but have the companies so under the government boot that from the government’s standpoint it’ll be just as good as Marx’s “seizing the means of production.”

    By “social liberty” I assume that you mean that one has the right to complain about 50% or more of one’s income going to support the state and the collective a/k/a “social safety net” and can do whatever I want in the bedroom. Sorry, but that’s not individual liberty. My being forced to work 6-ish months of the year to support the collective is not liberty; if I remember correctly even the serfs in Russia were only required to cough up one-third of their harvest. That I’m forced to labor months out the year to provide for welfare queens and their litters of illegitimates, and illegal aliens and their anchor babies, and gold-plated public sector pensions may be “social liberty” for them, but not for me or other taxpaying (rather than tax consuming) citizens.

    God help us.

  • avatar
    FJ20ET

    Corportism works pretty darn well. Ask Japan and (South) Korea. The state and the market are not opposed to one another. As for the “A BLOO BLOO SOCIALISM MASS MURDER” the USSR didn’t kill all that many people after Stalin’s death, I daresay the US killed more. But don’t reduce all the victims of the 20th century regimes to numbers. 1 or 1 million unwarranted deaths are tragedies.

    The Soviet Union died 19 years ago,it’s not returning(sorry Wolverines) why is it constantly brought up in EVERY political discussion.


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