The Zaphorozhets (aka “The Soviet Corvair”) didn’t offer much in terms of performance, comfort, safety, or style, but it was the first real attempt by the post-Stalin USSR to offer a car for ordinary citizens. The idea was that the heroes of Soviet labor would enjoy some of the bourgeois luxuries of their capitalist counterparts, and this would lead to increased worker productivity, or something. The proletariat wasn’t going to get ’57 Ford Mainlines, however; the reality of Soviet roads and repair facilities was such that their cars would need to be easy to repair under primitive conditions.
I’ve already got a custom-van project and a basket-case Toyota 20R-powered Sprite project, but what I really want is a genuine, red-flag-waving Warsaw Pact machine to cruise around Denver. I don’t mean any Lada, either— it’s got to be a genuine, designed-and-built-in-the-USSR car, not a Fiat clone! Fortunately, I have a car-freak friend in the Czech Republic who can get such a machine into a shipping container in Bremerhaven for a reasonable price, so all that would remain for me would be to negotiate the Kafkaesque maze of registering the thing in Colorado. How hard could it be?
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?
The Geneva Auto Show always reminds me of one of my prize items of late sixties memorabilia: the 1969 Automobil Revue catalog that was always issued in conjunction with the Geneva show. Here are a few scans from some of the ads, which show another glaring reason for the collapse of the USSR: their car ads. If these two sexy guys posturing in front of the “new” Moskvich don’t quite turn your crank, I assure you, the Russians knew how to make straight sexy ads too:
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