Comecon in and enjoy part two of Bruno Vijverman’s trawl through the former USSR’s automotive waifs and strays.
Moskvitch C1, 1975
AZLK, or Avtomobilny Zavod imeni Leninskogo Komsomola – which translates as Lenin-communist Youth Union – sold its vehicles under the more palatable brand name Moskvitch (Moscovite). In February of 1975 the C1 prototype was readied in response to a demand for a successor to the dated 412 model. Under its SAAB-esque skin, the work of chief designer Yuri Tkachenko, still beat the 412’s 85hp four; the hump stamped into the driver’s side of the bonnet accounted for by the engine’s height. Sharp eyes may spot the Opel Ascona B headlights. Still, the C1 looked modern- sporting even.
The bad news however was that the C1’s underpinnings were carried over from the car it was intended to replace. One would expect to see a hatchback boot judging by the fastback shape of the car but the C1 had a smallish conventional bootlid, just like the Citroën CX. And speaking of the CX, the door panels shown in the interior photo of the C1 could almost have come from a rejected CX prototype. Nicknamed ‘the green crocodile’ by Moskvitch staff, the C1 went nowhere in the end – mainly because of its ancient platform and engine. An improved prototype named C3 – of which more later on – would be produced in an attempt to rectify this. Of the three C1 protoypes built, one survives and is on display in the Moscow car museum.
Tatra JK2500, 1955
The JK2500 was partly named after Julius Kubãnskã¡, a Czech car designer who worked for coachbuilder Karosa Brno and Tatra. Unlike the big Tatra sedan, the JK2500 was front engined. Initially powered by an Alfa Romeo engine, but soon a more appropriate Tatra aircooled V8 from the 603 model replaced it. Unfortunately for Kubãnskã¡, Tatra management refused to consider putting the JK2500 in production, even though they expressed their admiration for the styling. The design is indeed quite beautiful and brings to mind the Pegaso of the same period; Kubãnskã¡ used the JK2500 as his personal transport for over a decade, after which he sold the car. Currently its whereabouts – if it has even survived, remain unknown – it would certainly be a fascinating barnfind!
ZAZ VNIITE Maxi / Taxi, 1963/64
Both were designed by Yuri Dolmatovsky of VNIITE – which translates roughly to “All Union Research Institute of Technical Aesthetics”. VNIITE was founded the year before with the help of Raymond Loewy; these vehicles were among the consultancy’s first automotive designs. Using the platform and aircooled V4 engine of the ZAZ Zaporozhets 965 as a base, within virtually identical outside dimensions (the same length and just 11cm wider) these early concepts of the monospace minivan offered impressive space within their modest size.
The fiberglass-bodied Maxi and Taxi had large sliding doors on each side, offered room for five and had swivelling front seats. The front torsion bar suspension and steering linkage (by Pitman arm) were raised to just under the windscreen in order to provide more space for driver and front passenger; this setup was also claimed to aid safety in case of a frontal collision. To further improve driver comfort the pedal set was adjustable.
Skoda 763, 1977
Another result of the RGW development project was this interesting looking Skoda coupé. In profile it is hard to miss the similarity to the VW Scirocco, while the front grille and headlight arrangement carry reflections of the Lancia Fulvia Zagato coupé from a decade earlier. Contrary to its sedan and station wagon sisters in the range of 760-series prototypes developed under the RGW banner the 763 was front-engined and rear wheel drive.
Its body consisted of a combination of steel and fiberglass (doors, bonnet, front wings and bootlid) parts. The window arrangement in both front doors is unusual- the side window moves within a traditional frame, but what looks like a triangular vent window is actually a fixed, frameless glass pane.
The 763 was powered by a 1.5 litre four cylinder with an output of 53kW/72Hp and it was independently sprung on all four wheels by coil springs. Somewhat puzzling for a sporty coupé, the transmission was a three-speed automatic developed in-house; it proved troublesome and was replaced later on by a five speed manual transmission. Especially in automatic form the 763 was no fireball, even though at 920Kg it was not very heavy. Even so, the CSSR Ministry of Internal Affairs criticized it by remarking that the 763 was significantly faster than their public security (police) cars which were Skoda 120 sedans.
This, coupled with structural problems that arose from the combined steel and fiberglass body plus substandard space utilization and luggage capacity caused the 763 to be cancelled.
This series will continue.