Curtain Call – (Part 4)

More Soviet-era conceptual shenanigans, courtesy of Bruno Vijverman. 

Wartburg 313. (c) Stadtarchiv Eisenach

Wartburg 313-2, 1960

This little known sporty prototype in the Renault Floride vein was publicised with a photo in East German newspapers but never shown to the public at any motor show. Standing at just 50 inches tall it was quite a stylistic departure from the 311 and 313/1 models on the road
at the time.

The 313-2 was more modern under the skin as well- it had a monocoque body and coil springs on all four wheels. Powering the 313-2 was the same three-cylinder two stroke however, although here it was fitted with two carburettors increasing the output to 60hp.

(c) Itarstas blogspot/ Stadtarchiv Eisenach

Being a prototype, the car suffered significant practicality issues: to service the engine, the rear seat had to be removed. For more serious maintenance the car had to be jacked up and the whole engine taken out. As Volkswagen experienced around the same time with the 1500, the underfloor-type engine positioning resulted in severe overheating problems. Three of these pretty little Wartburgs were built, of which one has survived.

FSO Syrena 110. (c) /

FSO Syrena 110, 1964

In 1961 FSO commenced work on a new compact car; three years later the Syrena 110 prototype was ready – a very modern design for the time with its three-door hatchback shape designed by Andrzej Zgliczynski. Seen in profile, the similarity with the Renault 5 that would be introduced eight years later is unmistakable. One wonders if maybe a member of the design team defected and ended up in the Billancourt styling studios in the late sixties… Unusually, both front- and rear wheel drive prototypes were built.

Power was provided by a 842cc three-cylinder two stroke engine similar to the one in the Syrena 104 sedan. Twenty Syrena 110 prototypes were made, but development was abandoned around 1967 because FSO was ordered to build the Fiat 124/125 whose license had been acquired.

Trabant P760 (c)

Trabant P760, 1970-73

This was VEB Sachsenring Automobilwerke Zwickau’s horse in the doomed RGW project. Planned in three- and five door hatchback versions and powered by a 1.1 litre four stroke, four cylinder engine of 52hp it soon earned the nickname hängebauchschwein (pot-bellied pig) by Trabant workers and it is not hard to see why. But even though few would call it a beauty, it was much more modern in looks and engineering than the outdated 601.

A lot of time and effort was put into the P760, which had effectively stopped the promising P603 prototype (see part one) dead in its tracks, but the collapse of the RGW venture meant that after P760 was cancelled as well Trabant was essentially back to square one. It was scant consolation for VEB Sachsenring that they enjoyed the luxury of a captive customer base (it was a Trabant 601 or nothing for most East Germans), to keep the production lines moving.

VAZ 1101 (c) Ladakerho fi/

VAZ 1101, 1970

Following the unstoppable spread of front-wheel drive in compact cars during the sixties, AvtoVAZ engineers and designers decided that they too should join the club. In 1970, as the VAZ 2101 (the well known built under license Fiat 124) was introduced, work started on the VAZ 1101. The first fully functional prototype, styled under chief designer V.F. Baranovsky, was ready by the end of 1971 and bore more than a passing resemblance to the Fiat 128.

Technically, it also followed the FIAT’s lead- the four-cylinder 1100cc engine was mounted transversally. Because this was the first front wheel drive project for AvtoVAZ its engineering team encountered its share of problems. Most prominently the gearbox, more or less copied from a Fiat 850 transmission, and the front driveshafts and universal joints malfunctioned with demoralizing regularity.

Development continued however, and in 1973 a second heavily revised prototype was completed. This one was reminiscent of a slightly enlarged Honda N600 mixed with a dash of Fiat 127, but also displayed some styling features that would appear on the Lada Niva later on. A major difference was that the little bobtail of the first version was now gone, replaced by a conventional hatchback.

During 1975 V.N. Polyakov, the minister of Automobile Industry of the USSR, visited the VAZ works and was disappointed with the slow progress of the small front-wheel drive project. He therefore issued a ministry order that AvtoVAZ should join forces with ZAZ with the goal of speeding up development time. Two years later the 1101 prototype had evolved into something that would not have looked out of place in a VW showroom, but the engineering issues persisted.

None of these three subsequent guises of 1101 would ever make it to production- in fact it would not be until 1984 with the unrelated VAZ 2108 (Lada Samara) that AvtoVAZ would join the ranks of front-wheel drive car manufacturers.

Smyk (c) Auto Swiat pl

SFM Smyk B30, 1957

Best described as a Polish BMW Isetta, the first Smyk prototype, designed by Andrzej Zgliczynski, was completed in 1957. As per its German inspiration the front was mounted on hinges and tilted away together with the steering column to allow access.

It also had an engine sourced from a motorcycle, in this case a 15hp Junak M07 unit. A notable difference was that the Smyk had four forward AND four reverse gears allowing theoretically the same top speed in reverse, although that would not have been an advisable course of action in any vehicle.

Also, the Smyk was designed to carry two adults and two children while the Isetta was just a two-seater. A total of twenty Smyk prototypes were made, but likely because by the time the Smyk was to be considered for production bubble-cars were on the way out volume production never ensued.

Part 5 will follow shortly.

Author: brrrruno

Car brochure collector, Thai food lover, not a morning person before my first cup of coffee

16 thoughts on “Curtain Call – (Part 4)”

  1. Good morning Bruno. Another selection of the weird and wonderful, thank you. The FSO Syrena would certainly have been a very early Supermini, had it been approved for production. The Trabant P760 has a very Citröen-esque look, reminiscent of the Visa and Axel, apart from the very unusual front end, of course. The Smyk looks like it should be part of a fairground ride!

  2. Who would have guessed that the Smyk’s front door was bottom-hinged:


    1. Same door as on the NSU Fiat HR-3. An early prototype build in 1953 by Karl Bauhof at Carozzeria Weinsberg, and presented to Vittorio Valletta and Dante Giacosa – they liked the car bur not the door. (Bauhof/Weinsberg then started on the NSU Fiat HR-4, a car which, more or less, became the Fiat Nuova 500.)

    2. It would have made an excellent mobile rostrum for addressing party meetings, though!

  3. I want a Smyk for Christmas! Was the Junak engine 2 or 4-stroke? If the former, the gearbox actually only needed four forward gears. To change direction you switch off and then re-start the engine, firing in the opposite direction – as in the Messerschmidt kabin-scooter – and there are your four gears in reverse. I tried it once in mine, got into second and then chickened out.
    Actually, I don’t think it’s got an engine at all – it relies on that Pobeda to push it around.

    1. You don’t need any reverse gears, just have two Smyks, one pointing in each direction, as in the photo!

      Very well spotted on the Pobeda. I didn’t recognise it and I’ve been writing about it just this morning! 😨

    2. JTC, the M07 (and the other Junaks) were four strokes. I’m guessing the reason behind the 4F/4R arrangement was that the car retained the bike’s gearbox which of course came without reverse and so a separate reversing mechanism had to be installed. The Cotal semi automatic box as fitted to a variety of posh French cars up to the 1950s also came with a separate reverser which gave one the possibility being able to change gear while going astern. Only the theoretical possibility mind because in practice reverse was much lower than forward and attempts to use anything less than third gear with reverse were liable to do the rest of the transmission no good at all.

  4. I have to be honest, Daniel – I only knew it was a Pobeda because there is one in my 1955 Observer’s Book of Automobiles. As for the Smyk across the road, do my eyes deceive me, or is it a soft-top? There’s something very odd about the roof line. But then……

    1. Hi JTC,
      The Smyk in the background definitely seems to have a different roofline and DLO; the rear window has more of a wraparound curvature to it than the one in front of the Pobeda. As all twenty or so of these Smyks were pre-production prototypes I assume a few variations in styling were explored.
      Oh, and I took a look in reaction to your question about the Junak engine: it is a four-stroke design.
      Let’s hope father Christmas is a DTW reader as well so you can get your Smyk this year 🙂

    2. I too have the 1955 edition – a Christmas present that year!

    3. To be tediously pedantic, since it’s in Poland the ‘Pobeda’ would be a Warszawa M20 from the FSO works, before they went all Standard Vanguard and ditched the beetle-back.

  5. Was under the impression the Wartburg 313-2 featured the 45 hp 1088cc B11d Flat-Four used in the Wartburg 314 / P100 prototype?

    The FSO Syrena 110 also brings to mind the Renault 6 and Renault 6-sized Citroen Project F prototype, it was claimed a four-stroke was predicted upon reaching production yet not what engine they had in mind either an in-house design or sourced from another part of the Eastern Bloc.

    Is it known to what degree engineer of the Syrena 2-stroke engine Fryderyk Bluemke drew inspiration from DKW beyond building the DKW RT125-derived Sokol 125 as well as a if a case could have been made for the Syrena to carry over the Wartburg 2-stroke engine if not a small Fiat engine?

    The Trabant P760 aka Hängebauchschwein actually lived on after the collapse of the RGW venture, Skoda’s engineers already knew they had to rely on themselves by using the Skoda 762 P2 (1980) with hatchback body as a starting point. Which resulted in the Skoda 781 prototype being made in 1981 and was further developed into the successful Skoda Favorit.

    On the VAZ 1101 have read the original “Cheburashka” prototype featured a 900cc engine that together with its looks and dimensions almost brings to mind the Soviet analogue of the Autobianchi A112. It is not surprising the Soviets looked at Fiats FWD cars, particularly Moskvitch where the NAMI-107 “Vasilek” prototype was said to be influenced by the Autobianchi Primula (some allege it was a Chinese copy) and the Russians expressing particular interest in the latter during their negotiations with Fiat before they were persuaded to build the Fiat 124-derived Lada. –

  6. Nothing wrong with a dose of pedantry, Robertas – I feel much better for it! Unfortunately Santa says I can’t have a Smyk and wonders if a Zundapp Janus will do instead.

    1. With a Janus you get two of those end-on doors even if they’re hinged sideways

  7. Just came across this Youtube video – synth music and Soviet cars. Some “interesting” creations:

  8. One hopes the Smyk was made with a suitably “Noddy Car” sounding horn. I have fond memories of Clarkson and the Peel P50 but the Smyk trumps the Manx car, bottom-hinge down.

    Some truly exceptional finds, here, Bruno. Keep ‘em coming!

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