DTW’s Eastern Bloc party of stillborn concepts and prototypes continues.
FSO Warszawa Ghia, 1957
In search of a suitable replacement for the dated GAZ/Warszawa M20, FSO enlisted Ghia of Italy to deliver a proposal. Designed under Sergio Sartorelli at a cost of US $62,000, this Warszawa Ghia was the result. Looking somewhat like a shortened Lancia Flaminia, the car had a pleasing and up to date look. FSO sent the car to its research and development centre to be stored until further notice. Apparently no action was ever taken to make the car a reality – the M20 would continue to be built until 1973 – and the prototype was destroyed in the late seventies.
FSO Syrena Sport, 1960
Designer Cezary Nawrot was in charge of a special project to test a number of solutions and production technologies which were to be implemented in a future FSO sedan. Nawrot decided that the test car need not be a functional, nondescript vehicle and so he produced a small roadster. Fiberglass-bodied and weighing just over 700kg, the Sport’s engine was a newly designed flat-twin four-stroke (the existing Syrena had a two-stroke flat-twin) that developed 50hp.
Apparently, Nawrot disliked that two-stroke so much that he made sure the bonnet line of his car was too low for that engine to fit. Unusual for a sporty car – certainly in those days – the Sport was front wheel drive. Some influence from beyond the iron curtain (Mercedes 190SL for example) is undeniable when looking at the Syrena Sport. The car was displayed at the 1960 Labour Day Exhibition and generated positive press; the Italian newspaper Il Giorno named the Syrena Sport “the most beautiful car built behind the iron curtain“. Unfortunately both FSO and Cezary Nawrot knew that it was only a prototype, never intended for production so it remained a pretty one-off.
GAZ 3105, 1987
The perennial favourite of higher ranking party members, the GAZ Volga 2410, had become hopelessly dated by the mid eighties. Under the project name GAZ 3105 work was ordered to start on a successor. The goals set were lofty – Audi’s recent aerodynamic 200 Quattro was stated as the benchmark for the engineers. The GAZ 3105 was thus to have four wheel drive like its Ingolstadt example, but it was to be fitted with something Audi could not (yet) offer: a V8 engine.
The car’s development, during which President Gorbachev’s perestroika and the looming collapse of the USSR significantly hindered progress, was lengthy and the 3105 was only declared production-ready in 1992. A little over fifty cars were built before the plug was pulled in 1996, although none of these had the prototype’s distinctive Subaru SVX-style side windows in the doors. The main reason for the 3105’s failure was its high price: for the same amount of money one could also have bought a Mercedes S-Class, or an Audi V8 Quattro for that matter – which most did.
Skoda 760, 1972
The Skoda 760 was part of a huge joint-venture project initiated in 1970 named RGW (Rat für Gegenseitige Wirtschaftshilfe / Council for Mutual Economic Assistance) between Skoda and the East German VEB Automobilwerke in order to replace the Skoda 100/110, Wartburg 353 and Trabant 601. An assortment of five newly developed aluminium four cylinder engines with displacements between 1100 and 1800 cc plus manual or automatic gearboxes was to be engineered and supplied by Skoda. Other chassis parts such as brakes, suspension and driveshafts were to be Wartburg and Trabant’s task.
Each car model under the RGW banner would have its own distinct body; Skoda and Wartburg would get a four-or five-door sedan, coupé and minivan, the Trabant was to be a three- or five door hatchback. The ultimate goal of RGW was to have all car lines in production by 1982, with a planned total production of 600,000 vehicles per year. As with its previous 720 prototype, Skoda turned to Giorgetto Giugiaro for the styling of its RGW car whose general appearance offered a bit of a preview of the work Giugiaro would produce for VAG later in the decade. Had it made it to market, the 760 would have been Skoda’s first front wheel drive car.
The RGW venture would prove to be a logistical nightmare however: the various components were produced in over a dozen factories spread across two countries. The Czech railway network in particular proved not up to the task; the results were severe delays, delivery errors and quality problems. The fact that the Warsaw Pact started to increase the amount of money invested in defence as the 1970s went on – at the cost of all other sectors – bogged down RGW as well, eventually leading to the termination of the project in 1979.
After the RGW failure, new car development behind the iron curtain came almost to a standstill, especially in East Germany which was by this time more or less, financially exhausted.
The series will continue in due course.