More Soviet-era conceptual shenanigans, courtesy of Bruno Vijverman.
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.
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, 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, 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 But even though few would call it a beauty, it was much more modern in looks and engineering than the outdated 601.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, 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.
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.