A penultimate look back at unrequited automotive dreams from the former USSR and its COMECON satellites.
FSO Ogar, 1977
This four-seater Sports Coupé concept based on Polski-Fiat 125P mechanicals was styled by Cézary Nawrot. The rear end bears a faint
resemblance to the Alfa Romeo Junior Zagato, while the bumpers appear Volvo-esque, but otherwise the look seems quite original, if not exactly
beautiful to most eyes. The body was constructed from a laminate combination of epoxy resin and fiberglass.
An intriguing aspect of the Ogar is that the large bumpers and prominent sidemarker lights were fitted in order to comply with United States Department of Transport regulations – were there serious plans to market it in the USA? Despite the fact that the single Ogar prototype was tested thoroughly and racked up over 40000 miles in the process FSO decided to dedicate its full attention to the also in development Polonez five-door hatchback, citing lack of domestic demand for a sports car. The Ogar survives and can be viewed at the Warszaw Automotive Museum.
Avtokad Lada Laura Kaliakra, 1984.
Two enterprising young engineers based in St. Petersburg, Dmitry Parfenov and Gennady Hainov, decided to build a sportscar themselves as such a thing was not available in Russia at the time. Unsurprisingly fiberglass was chosen as the material to construct the body, mounted on a steel frame.
They named their baby Laura Kaliakra. The look is a mix of Renault/ Alpine V6 and Dodge Omni 024/Plymouth TC3 styling cues – the prominent air grabber betrays that despite its supercar-like appearance it is actually front-engined as well as front wheel drive using a 1500cc VAZ sourced engine (hence the Lada badging) and ZAZ 968 gearbox.
Two examples were constructed and the cars were displayed at several exhibitions; apparently then General Secretary of the Communist
Party, Mikhail Gorbachev was a fan but even his approval did not lead to further development.
Moskvitch 3-5-6, 1972
In an effort to replace the outdated 408 and 412 this prototype, named 3-5-6, broke cover in 1972. Under its in side view somewhat Fiat 132-esque skin the suspension consisted of coil springs and its engine was a new 1800cc four delivering 103 bhp to the rear wheels via a Borg-Warner automatic transmission. Upon inspecting AZLK’s prototype however the verdict of the powers that be was that the 3-5-6 was too expensive to manufacture and also… too modern.
Therefore AZLK was instructed to improve the old 408/412 within tight budget restrictions; the result was the less than thrillingly new Moskvitch 2140 that went into production in 1976 and would only be phased out in 1988.
Škoda 1100 GT Coupe, 1971
Technically speaking this was not really a Škoda at all because it was developed and built by UVMV, an engineering research institute based in Prague. Since it did use a Škoda engine and major chassis elements however it was introduced to the world on the Škoda stand at the 1971 Geneva Motor Show. The pretty glassfibre coupé which reminded some of the SAAB Sonnett II with a whiff of Abarth featured the familiar swing-axle rear suspension but had disc brakes on all four wheels. The rear mounted 1140cc engine delivered 75 bhp, allowing for a claimed top speed of 111 Mph.
It is not known why the 1100 GT never made it to production although with the knowledge of the fate that befell similar concepts from behind the iron curtain we can safely assume it was deemed an unnecessary frivolity. Of the seven prototypes made, three have survived.
Trabant and Wartburg, 1985
As a young and ambitious car designer working at Trabant, Jürgen Hannebauer often felt frustrated by the limitations of his working environment and looked longingly at what his colleagues in the West were able to achieve. In 1985 opportunity knocked because the East German government was in desperate need of more suitable cars to export to the west in order to receive foreign currency; the East German car industry was ordered to come up with proposals and Hannebauer, together with Manfred Dempwolf from Wartburg, designed a family of compact cars sharing the same platform and basic unibody structure.
Not being a party member, Hannebauer was soon after sidelined at the behest of the SED however. It didn’t really matter as East Germany simply crumbled under its own weight by the end of the 1980s. When the wall came down, the first priority for the former East German car makers was to get more modern and cleaner engines (from VW) – the shared Trabant/ Wartburg cars would take too long to develop and would likely have been outdated by the time they were ready anyway so the project was abandoned.
FSO Warszawa 210, 1964
This large sedan was developed as a vehicle for high-ranking party members, development starting in 1961. Three years later the result was presented in the form of the Warszawa 210. The generally upright but quite clean styling is only enlivened by the front indicators and tail-lights forming the four corners of the body.
The 210 featured a monocoque body construction, coil springs on all four wheels (McPherson at the front) and a six cylinder engine with a displacement of 2500cc driving the rear wheels. After the introduction of the prototype in 1964 the trail turns cold so it is not known why development was not continued. Two Warszawa 210s were built, of which one survives in private hands.
The final instalment follows shortly.