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The Interesting and Obscure Cars of Warsaw

Kamil Kaluski June 6, 2012 Cars You Should Know, Nostalgia 11 Comments

Walk around in Central San Francisco, or perhaps the Greenwich Village in New York City, or Beacon Hill in Boston and will likely find clusters of interesting older cars. Birds of a feather flock together. Another one of such places is the Ursynow section of Warsaw, Poland. It also happens to the area where I lived from the age of three to nine. It is also the area where my father still lives, and it’s where I lived when I visited Poland last October for the first time since 1988.

While I didn’t spend much time sightseeing Ursynow, I did go for a jog around the neighborhood one morning, just to see my old elementary school, places where I played, homes of old friends, etc. While on this morning run I couldn’t help but notice the amount of interesting cars sitting around. Some were abandoned, some broken down, others, such as my father’s Lada Niva, driven daily. While I did not have a camera with me that day, it turns out that I am not the only one who has made a similar observation.

On this trip to Poland I have met my sister’s (half-sister’s, but I call her my sister, just like I call my half-brother, brother) boyfriend. He used to work for Polish automotive news website. He recently sent me some links to interesting Polish car sites. While most of them were Autoblog-ish in nature, one stood out from the rest. It’s called Złomnik.pl, which translates loosely to “junker”. In our internal Hoontastic discussions I called “the Polish Hooniverse” and proceeded to spam our tips line with various links to it.

One of the articles that stood out to me was one of the author’s walk around Ursynow, and a report on the cars which he has seen there. It was like I was re-living my short morning run. His pictures even included some of the cars which I have seen. The area is so full of interesting cars that Złomnik.pl is creating a photographic scavenger hunt around the neighborhood. Stay tuned for more details on that. Birds of a feather flock together indeed.

Let’s start off with my beloved Polonez. This late-model, relatively speaking, probably late 1990s, pickup is just sitting there, rusting away. It’s safe to say that most of these have been turned into quality Chinese steel, but there a few still putting around, likely powered by a Peuguot diesel. 

This Ford Scorpio looks similar to many Merkur Scorpios currently seen in the U.S. Sad, I remember when these first came out, a beautiful sibling to an equally beautiful Ford Sierra. 

I have mentioned Zuk before, the utilitarian pickup or wagon. I was surprised by how few of these were still around. It’s safe to say that the car market in Poland become flooded with cars from all over the world in the late 1990s and the remaining commie cars were scrapped ASAP.

We went over Czech Skodas before too. They’re essentially the Eastern European Porsches (not really). This is a uber rare Rapid coupe model, and the five-speed transmission made it somewhat of an exotic sports car. The guy who drove this when it was new must have got a ton of ass. 

This and the next car surprised me somewhat. They look very much abandoned but appeared to be in rather decent shape. My guess is that this Volvo and the below Mercedes ended up the way they did because they accumulated a million miles when some utterly pricey part let go… just pick one on the Benz.

My question is… why have they not been picked, stripped, or recycled further? Perhaps there is some law that prohibits that or perhaps their owners still hope to be able to salvage them. The world may never know. 

Ahh, the Classic Lada, in this case the 2105 (I think). What sad end you meet on these not-so-mean streets. You once injected hope into the communist state, showing promise and improvement, albeit short lived. Rust in pieces little Russian car.

In the 1980s it was almost a sport for Poles who managed to get over to West Germany to work for a year or so and to bring back a car. I’m not sure what was exactly needed to accomplish that but I am sure it included a lot of bribing at the border. My uncle brought back a Mercedes truck to use on his farm around 1983. And a tractor, in the back of the rusted truck. 

Polski Fiat 126, a.k.a. Maluch. My father had one, the 600cc version, it was our family car. I remember it well… the lever for the heater was located near the rear seat. It was small but owning it was better than not owning anything.  The VW vans were a popular import too.

We end this with another Polonez, this one is special however. While it looks like a decommissioned Police car, it isn’t. It’s a decommissioned Milicja Obywatelska car, or the Citizens’ Militia. Being that it’s a Polonez, a higher model than the Polski Fiat 125, and probably powered by a more powerful 2.0L engine, this one was probably driven by higher ranking personnel. People would laugh about the Milicja all the time, but in reality everyone was scared. 

  • FuzzyPlushroom

    To adapt a Robyn Hitchcock lyric, 'if it's treated horribly, it's probably a Scorpio'. I'd say that example has some life left, though. The V70? Could be timing belt, transaxle, electrical woes… hard to say.

    To my shame, I didn't recognise that as a Skoda. Looks well-kept; hopefully its owner takes pride in its outdated yet tasteful style.

    I also learned about your Milicja – doesn't sound too scary in principle, but it sure sounds as though it tried to be. Was it more of a spy-on-your-neighbours sort of institution, or did it simply enforce laws (even oppressive ones) as our police forces do now?

    On a side note, I'm glad you mentioned Beacon Hill, though the last time I was there all I found was a mildly precarious W115.

    • I honestly don't remember much about the Milicja, I need to read more and talk to people. Very interesting part of history, at least to me.

      I live right by Beacon Hill and for years I've been meaning to walk around there with a camera in hand… ton of treasures.

      • FuzzyPlushroom

        I'd read the Hell out of that post, for sure.

        See if this guy's still around:

        <img src="http://farm7.staticflickr.com/6189/6048355762_a0947b8fcb_b.jpg&quot; width=600>

        • Yes, I see that car around all the time, parked right by Starbucks. parked near it usually is a blue MG. I posted some Beacon Hill photo to Hooniverse Facebook page in the past.

          • FuzzyPlushroom

            Fantastic! Honestly, it's nearly worth driving in Boston just to see what you can see. (I normally take the train in, of course.)

            I'll have a look.

  • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

    I think my time on hooniverse may suffer now.

  • Whoa, whoa whoa. You could get a Polonez with a 2.0 engine? Oh Em Gee! I never planned to learn anything today (or this week, in fact) but there it is, on the pages of Wikipedia (and thus gospel), the 2.0 Ford (assumedly Pinto) unit made it into the Polonez SLE. Cool beans.

    Furthermore; "…on special request a Turbo-kit was installed in mass produced cars". What the actual fark?

    • The 2.0s were government issued only. For public 1.6 was the biggest engine, started in '86 I believe. Both were just bored-out 1.5s.

      I don't know anything about turbos and later diesel options.

      • Figured. We recieved nothing more than the 1.5 over here. We consider ourselves spoilt enough. Adding a two-litre and thus endowing the machine with the new capability to counduct actual overtake maneouvers, seems a thoroughly unwise move. Excellent!

  • Jay

    Nice selection of cars, cool to see old Skodas and Zuks still in use, thanks for showing these.

    But what's with the vantage points and elevation in most of these frames? The angles seem to maximize the prominence of other stuff in the background… Did you take these from a bus window?

    • I did not take these pictures, I found them on another website, as linked. They're not meant to be professional.