Curtain Call (Part 5)

Uncovering more unrealised projects of the former USSR and its influence sphere.

Bosmal Beskid. (c)

Bosmal/FSM Beskid 106 – 1983

The Polish Bosmal research centre worked together with FSM on a few projects, one of which was the Beskid 106 – named after a mountain range in the Carpathaians. An up to date proposal for a successor to the license-built rear-engined FSM/ Fiat 126 was needed and Bosmal did not disappoint; styled by Krzysztof Meissner, the Beskid 106 presented in the spring of 1983 was more than contemporary.

Its drag coefficient of 0.29 was excellent, and the front-engined and front-wheel drive Beskid offered five person space within dimensions that were not much greater than those of the 126; seven inches longer, while its axles were twelve inches further apart. It did use the same 594cc two-cylinder engine, although a larger 703cc version was fitted to later versions. Development was halted in the late eighties, the most cited reason being that Fiat was going to produce its Cinquecento at FSM and the Beskid was seen as unwanted competition had it reached the production stage.

IZH 13. (c)

IZH-13 (1972) and IZH-19 (1975)

The Izhevsk Machine-Building Plant started development of its first front-wheel drive car in 1968. The first result was presented in 1972. Styled by chief designer N.I. Slesarenko and V. Abrahamyan, the IZH-13’s overall
silhouette was in line with several Western and Japanese products of the era. The prominent power bulge on the bonnet reduces some of its aesthetic appeal however and is a result of using the tall Moskvitch 412 engine.

Unfortunately, upon viewing the IZH-13, Moscow machine industry apparatchiks declared the prototype “untimely and too innovative (!)” forcing IZH to abandon its project. The Izhevsk engineers and designers consequently lowered their ambitions and developed a vehicle that -while still looking modern- made use of the resolutely conventional RWD Moskvitch 412 underpinnings and engine. This would result in the IZH-19, shown in 1975.

IZH 19. (c)

Although hampered by a similar bulge in the bonnet to make room for the engine and a tippy-toe stance, the body of the IZH-19 in general was actually quite dynamic looking, certainly for 1975. The four round headlights in black pods look like an afterthought (and similar to what the Citroen GS and CX were saddled with in certain markets) which in a way they were: originally the IZH-19 was to have more streamlined one-piece headlight units but these turned out to be more complex to manufacture than IZH could manage.

Imagine it with those smooth headlights, without the power bulge and on a competent chassis providing a lower, more confident stance and a picture emerges of a rather pleasing looking car. But the IZH-19 did not get any of this of course -nor the green light for production – so was destined to spend the rest of its days in the IZH Auto Museum.

ZAZ KD Sport. (c)

ZAZ KD Sport 900 1963

Ukrainian ZAZ started producing cars in 1958, having previously produced combine harvesters. Its first passenger car was the ZAZ-965, in essence the iron curtain’s take on the Fiat 600. Using the ZAZ-965 as a base a small 2+2 coupé prototype was built in 1963, named KD Sport 900. The initials KD are from ZAZ director Kuzma Durnov who was the driving force behind the project.

The KD Sport 900 had a fiberglass body mounted on a tubular frame; it may have looked swift but with the ZAZ-965 engine (887cc and just 30 hp) this was a definite case of more bark than bite- even if the car tipped the scales at only just over 500kg.

Between 1963 and as late as 1969 five more KD’s were built, all with detail differences, but that is as far as it went. Today ZAZ still builds cars but none are of their own design; it is a selection of old Chevrolet, Daewoo and Chery models- but not a single lithe coupé among them.

Moskvitch – Porsche, 1973

In 1973 Moskvitch/ AZLK asked Porsche to develop a range of totally new cars: a compact, a medium sized sedan, a coupé and a minibus. Towards the end of that year, Porsche duly submitted its proposals. Zuffenhausen’s styling bureau had produced proposals for both four- and six-cylinder versions of their designs; an example of the six-cylinder version can be seen above: a pleasing, clean shape that would not have looked out of place in the model range of any self respecting West-European manufacturer.

The four-cylinder designs display a stubbier look – in the case of the car shown in the top right corner a somewhat American feeling. Notwithstanding Porsche’s nice presentation, nothing came of the project.

Wartburg 355 Coupe. (c)

Wartburg 355, 1968

This concept for a modern successor to the two-stroke engined 353 first saw the light of day in the turbulent year of 1968. Christened 355, it was a strikingly clean and modern design. Shorter and lower (by 85mm) compared to the old 353 it nevertheless had superior living space inside. The rattling and smoking two-stroke was gone, replaced by a more appropriate 1397cc, 55bhp four-cylinder engine sourced from Renault.

The glassfibre bodied prototype weighed 840kg which allowed a top speed of over 90 Mph. Depending on the source consulted, between six and eleven 355 prototypes were constructed. Unfortunately, the same fate that befell several other modern concepts within the USSR’s sphere of influence happened to the Wartburg 355; when a high ranking representative of the East German leadership was shown the fresh 355 – his curt response was “We should not be making cars for Playboys here“, and that was that.

What a pity that such short sightedness and orthodox, normative rigidity permeated virtually all aspects of life in the Eastern block at the time. It is instructive to compare the Wartburg 355 to the first Volkswagen Passat that appeared five years later: visually a broadly similar silhouette and technically in the same vein but conceived in a much more open environment.

Part 6 follows shortly.

Author: brrrruno

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

8 thoughts on “Curtain Call (Part 5)”

  1. Good morning Bruno, and thank you for another selection of the weird and wonderful. Of all these proposals, the Beskid 106 is by far the most accomplished and would surely had been a success, had it made production. It was certainly more forward looking than the Fiat Cinquecento and its monobox shape predated the Renault Twingo by almost a decade:

    More generally, all of these proposals indicate a pool of latent design and engineering talent and it must have been hugely frustrating for all involved to see their efforts stymied by lack of funds and/or arbitrary political decisions. Certainly, details of some of these designs are poorly, in some cases even laughably badly resolved, but I suspect that this is because of lack of funds to do the job properly. The IZH 19 has a very interesting variation on the ‘coke bottle’ waistline and, with a contemporary FWD platform, faired in headlamps and some tidying up certainly had potential. (The ancient looking Moskvich(?) steering wheel has no place in that interior.)

    Finally, the Wartburg 355 “playboy” coupé owes something to the Fulvia Zagato:

    1. Good morning gentlemen – fastest finger first Daniel beat me to it; the Beskid 106 is indeed a highly accomplished looking design. Not sure about that the lower panels to the rear have been resolved but far superior to, say, the Lancia Y10.
      This series has been fascinating, can’t wait to see more.

  2. It is a fascinating series. Another ‘look-alike’ – the Moskvitch-Porsche on the left reminds me of a Bristol (Britannia).

  3. Do like the later Green coloured 127-inch length Twingo-meets-AX prototype as well as the 138-inch length Cinquecento-meets-Swift Beskid 1760 prototype (with better proportions from the B-pillar to the rear despite the rear number plate not being behind the tail-lights), the latter appearing to be a half-way point between the Beskid 106 and the Polish-built Cinquecento in terms of Fiat content with 4-cylinder engines of around 900-1100cc also apparently being considered alongside the 126’s 2-cylinder unit.

    That would be followed by the more directly Cinquecento-derived series of very appealing prototypes under the FSM Beskid 1703 (1702 3-door hatchback – albeit a better proportioned one like the 1760 prototype, 5-door hatchback, 4-door sedan, 170X Kombi 5-door estate, 1704 panel van / LAV, 1705 P / 1705 H pickup truck with canopy), which immediately bring to mind the Ka-derived models and concepts including the 5-door Touring Ka by Ghia and others as well as the various Fiat Cinquecento-based concepts by various Carrozzeria for Turin 1992 from the Felicia Fun style lifestyle pick-up by Pininfarina, the Fionda by Coggiola, the Birba and Cita convertibles by Maggiora and Stola respectively along with the ItalDesign proposal that eventually became the Daewoo Matiz via the Lucciola concept.

    Perhaps the styling of the IZH-13 and IZH-19 would have worked better on an earlier Aleko/Samara-derived IZH 2126 Oda?

    As for the ZAZ KD Sport 900 in 1963, it would have been fascinating if it or a 968-derived version was equipped with the planned 1300-1400cc V4s (that am particularly interested in learning more about).

    Also interested to learn more details about the 4/6-cylinder engines for the 1973 Moskvitch Porsche project.

    Do like the Wartburg 355 prototype, at the same time Wartburg would have benefited from meriting to switch over to Renault/Dacia engines (or even Skoda and other 4-stroke engines) at the earliest opportunity. Especially when considering Wartburg were planning to switch from the Volkswagen EA111 to Renault E-Type engines on the grounds of the latter being much cheaper compared to the former.

    Agree with Daniel on the Eastern / Soviet Bloc not having any shortage of design and engineering talent, which was rather comparable to the West despite not having the funds to bring them into production. The Eastern / Soviet Soviet Automotive and other industries would have definitely benefited from the misspent funds that went towards white elephant projects such as the Stendal Nuclear Power Plant and countless other over-ambitious projects.

    1. Forget to mention as well that Trabant could have also potentially benefited from switching to Renault/Dacia engines, either the Cleon Fonte as in the Wartburg 355 (a smaller capacity version) or the Billancourt engine depending on which of the two was the easiest to install into the Trabant.

  4. The name badge on the tail of the IZh reads ‘Start’, which could have proved embarrassing if it didn’t.

    1. Bob,
      of those two, the Cleon-Fontè engine would most definitely suit the Trabant better. Being relatively heavy(ish), though, for the very ‘Leichtbau’ engineered 600/601, it would be perhaps not a genuinely good choice.

      From modern
      4-stroke transplants, one of the most popular is the Suzuki Alto 0.9 triple, for which there is even a full kit available.

      Of the 4cyl. engines, though, the only engine that’d suit the lightweight nature of the Trabant is probably Renault’s “featherweight” 1.149cc D7F four cylinder (58 kg.).

    2. The Cleon-Fonte engine does appear to be the one of the suitable for the Trabant, additionally both the 1983 Renault Vesta (32.5 hp) and 1987 Renault Vesta II (27 hp) concepts were equipped with a 716cc 3-cylinder engine derived from the 956cc 4-cylinder Cleon-Fonte engine leading one to wonder whether the engine always possessed a capability to form the basis of a related 3-cylinder engine.

      Unsure where something like the Renault Billancourt engine would stand with regard to the Cleon-Fonte in terms of weight for possible used in the Trbant, maybe it was lighter than the Cleon-Fonte? The Fiat 100 Series engine might be another relatively light-ish engine that is suitable for the Trabant.

      Read the Trabant P602 V hatchback prototype was powered by a Skoda engine along with a few other prototypes.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: