What Kind of Person Would Sell a Communist Car?

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

At the height of the Second Red Scare, a Southern California man named Willy Witkins imported and sold East German Wartburgs and Škodas. The hate mail came rolling in.

I don’t know how anyone could hate the beautiful Wartburg Sports, regardless of its birthplace on the other side of the Iron Curtain, but many patriotic Americans gave Mr. Witkins a piece of their minds.

Thanks to tipster Terrence in Switzerland (who mailed me some 1:87 scale Wartburg 353s), I can share the fascinating Wartburg USA website with you. Enjoy.

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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  • Mikey Mikey on Jun 18, 2011

    I got something to add here. I was a Canadian GM autoworker, and back in 1984 we went on strike. Within weeks we had a tiff with the UAW and the CAW was born. Thats another story. Anyway, we were all out on the picket lines. For many of us it was the first real strike we had ever experienced. We were,for the most part,young and full of pi$$,vinigar,and lots of beer. Oh yeah...we had heard all the stories of the 1970 strike and the big one of 56. Well, we were gonn'a make our own mark. So we already had a big bon fire going. Somebody shouts out..."lets find a Lada to burn" Okay, lets remember that we were part of a left leaning orginization. Our local fully supported the NDP party. At that time, the far left NDP sat slightly right of Lennin and Marx. Very slightly. Psar....I know your going to disagree, but I'll move on anyway. So explaining the difference of the degree of political ideology between the NDP, and USSR would have been lost on this beer soaked crowd. So we get the idea to pass the hat and buy an old Lada. That didn't pan out. So doesn't some poor soul pick this moment to drive by the picket line....with a Lada. I'm "thinking this could get real ugly,real fast". My buddy grabbed my arm and I quote.."Mikey! lets get to f outa here,.... right f----en now! We did...and so did the dude with the Lada. Me thinks he had to change his undies,when he got home. Cooler heads prevailed, somebody showed up towing an old Pinto. The general thought was "at least we new it was gonn'a burn" That was a long time ago, but thats my "Commie car" story.

  • -Nate -Nate on Feb 25, 2013

    As usual ; The comments meander all over the map , making this particular site both entertaining and educational . I rather like the lines of both the Rag Top and the Kombi.... -Nate

  • 3-On-The-Tree I don’t think Toyotas going down.
  • ToolGuy Random thoughts (bulleted list because it should work on this page):• Carlos Tavares is a very smart individual.• I get the sense that the western hemisphere portion of Stellantis was even more messed up than he originally believed (I have no data), which is why the plan (old plan, original plan) has taken longer than expected (longer than I expected).• All the OEMs who have taken a serious look at what is happening with EVs in China have had to take a step back and reassess (oversimplification: they were thinking mostly business-as-usual with some tweaks here and there, and now realize they have bigger issues, much bigger, really big).• You (dear TTAC reader) aren't ready to hear this yet, but the EV thing is a tsunami (the thing has already done the thing, just hasn't reached you yet). I hesitate to even tell you, but it is the truth.
  • ToolGuy ¶ I have kicked around doing an engine rebuild at some point (I never have on an automobile); right now my interest level in that is pretty low, say 2/5.¶ It could be interesting to do an engine swap at some point (also haven't done that), call that 2/5 as well.¶ Building a kit car would be interesting but a big commitment, let's say 1/5 realistically.¶ Frame-up restoration, very little interest, 1/5.¶ I have repainted a vehicle (down to bare metal) and that was interesting/engaging (didn't have the right facilities, but made it work, sort of lol).¶ Taking a vehicle which I like where the ICE has given out and converting it to EV sounds engaging and appealing. Would not do it anytime soon, maybe 3 to 5 years out. Current interest level 4/5.¶ Building my own car (from scratch) would have some significant hurdles. Unless I started my own car company, which might involve other hurdles. 😉
  • Rover Sig "Value" is what people perceive as its worth. What is the worth or value of an EV somebody creates out of a used car? People value different things, but for a vehicle, people generally ascribe worth in terms of reliability, maintainability, safety, appearance and style, utility (payload, range, etc.), convenience, operating cost, projected life, support network, etc. "Value for money" means how much worth would people think it had compared to competing vehicles on the market, in other words, would it be a good deal to buy one, compared to other vehicles one could get? Consider what price you would have to ask for it, including the parts and labor you put into it, because that would affect the “for the money” part of the “value for money” calculation. An indicator of whether people think an EV-built-in-a-used-car would provide "value for money" is the current level of demand for used cars turned into EVs. Are there a lot of people looking for these on the market? Or would building one just be a hobby? Repairing an existing EV, bringing it back into spec, might create better value for the money. Although demand for EVs is reportedly down recently.
  • ToolGuy Those of you who aren't listening to the TTAC Podcast, you really don't know what you are missing.