A further peek through the iron curtain, courtesy of Bruno Vijverman, taking in the GDR, Czechoslovakia, Poland and mother Russia herself.
Trabant P610 1974
Powered by an 1100cc Škoda engine, this was yet another failed attempt, started early in 1974- to replace the old P601. Four P610 prototypes were made, of which at least one has survived. In November 1979 the SED
(Socialist Unity party of Germany) ordered Trabant manufacturer, VEB Sachsenring Automobilwerke to cancel development, spelling the end of the road for the P610.
Škoda Super Sport 110, 1971
Under the project name “type 724” work began in 1969 on the development of a light, mid engined Škoda sports car. It would be displayed to the public, even outside of the Eastern Block, gracing the Škoda stand at the 1972 London Motor Show for example. Being a fully functional prototype it was even subjected to a roadtest by CAR magazine.
The coupé enjoyed a second life appearing in a few Czech films, sadly however being thoroughly restyled – comparable to what was wrought upon the Lincoln Futura which became the first Batmobile – making an appearance in the 1986 comedy film The great film heist.
And yet it started out so promisingly. Only 44 inches high, featuring a futuristic forward opening canopy and weighing less than 900kg the Super Sport 110 cut a dashing figure. Its Škoda 110 based engine of 1100cc delivered 73hp allowing for a top speed of over 110 Mph – not bad for a light sportscar at the time. In mid-1971 a more powerful 104hp engine was fitted that raised the claimed maximum speed to no less than 130 Mph.
The forward opening canopy certainly was an eye catching feature, but ease of entry and egress were criticized by most who tried it. Likewise, not everybody was enamoured by the somewhat origami styling. These deficiencies, the market position of Škoda, plus a regime that did not exactly encourage frivolity in business and design (or life in general), meant the Super Sport 110 was destined to remain a one-off concept.
It made a few appearances in some Škoda press photos and brochures in the early seventies, and after that began its movie career ultimately resulting in an unfortunate restyling. By the way, the word Škoda translates as pity in Czech, which certainly seems apt in this context.
Moskvitch C3, 1976
Replacing the earlier C1 (see part one) which suffered from having to utilise the ancient underpinnings of the Moskvitch 412, the C3 prototype was created in 1976. With front McPherson suspension and an independent rear suspension, more or less copied from the E12 BMW 5 series (a 5-series was purchased for comparison testing and benchmarking purposes) C3 was decidedly more up to date on the chassis front.
The styling of the C3 was not nearly as distinctive as the C1- from the A-pillar backwards it looked somewhat like an enlarged first generation Vauxhall Astra. The third side window and larger glass area addressed criticism on the C1 for having substandard driver visibility. C3 was still a conventional rear-wheel drive car however, and the growing amount of front-wheel drive cars and especially the crowning of the Simca 1307/1308 as European car of the year 1976 would result in cancellation of its further development.
The next year, AZLK held a technical council, on behalf of the Russian Ministry of Industry, where it was decided that the future was front-wheel drive only for any new car to be developed. Following this directive Moskvitch purchased a Simca 1308 to use as a template for its own front-wheel drive car, under the code name C5.
Moskvitch designers and engineers had not exactly been happy with the cancellation of the C3 which was nearing production readiness; subsequently they also expressed disappointment at in essence being ordered to copy an existing car instead of developing their own ideas. The usual bureaucracy issues and top-down management style meant that progress was slow – it was not until 1986 that Moskvitch’s version of the Simca 1307/1308 (itself ironically having just been discontinued in that same year and renamed Talbot or Chrysler along the way) was ready.
The Moskvitch 2141 – named Aleko in most export markets – unsurprisingly strongly resembled its French example. With driven front wheels, a practical and roomy five door hatchback configuration, MacPherson suspension up front and a torsion beam at the back the 2141 would become a popular car in its home market. Its most often named strong points were robustness, ease of repair and good offroad capabilities. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union the Moskvitch company fell into decline and was declared bankrupt in 2002.
FSO 1100 Coupé, 1974
FSO’s contribution to the celebrations of the 30th anniversary of the liberation of Poland was this 2+2 coupé, based on a heavily modified Zastava 1100 floorpan and engine. Designer Zdzislaw Wattson was responsible for the styling, which resembles the Lotus Esprit more than just a little bit. Still a few years away from public introduction in 1974, the Esprit itself was essentially a productionized version of a 1972 Ital Design concept that was built on a stretched Lotus Europa chassis.
The 55hp 1100cc engine could only propel the 1100 Coupé to a top speed of 87 Mph which would have been a bit of an anti-climax to most who laid eyes upon it. More disappointing however is the fact that the one-off prototype is believed to have been unceremoniously destroyed in the chaotic period following the lifting of the iron curtain.
Part 7 follows shortly.