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Hooniverse Asks Bonus: What Commie Car Would You Import to the U.S.?

Kamil Kaluski September 6, 2012 Hooniverse Asks 137 Comments

I’ve been thinking about it for a while but I have finally decided to do it – I’m going to import a car from Poland. As my name might suggest, I am Polish but I came to the United States at a young age. Last October was my first trip to Poland in over twenty-five years after which I bombarded you with reviews and pics of various eastern European cars: FSO, FSC, Lada, Wartburg, and many others.

My first instinct was to import a Polonez (pictured) as I always loved its looks. The idea was to import it and make a Lemons race car out of it, but now I am not so sure. While a decent Polonez can be had for $500, it would cost another $1500 to ship it over. Add roll-cage and other required safety stuff and I’m far beyond anything that I could pickup locally on CL for $500.

Change of plans. My biggest obstacle in importing a car was always parking space. I live in downtown Boston and it costs approximately $300 per month to rent a spot here (which is why we’re a one-car family). My in-laws have a house locally but because it’s also a business, parking space is limited. However, after many negotiations with my Sicilian father-in-law he has agreed to make arrangements for temporary car storage. This means that whatever I import I will have to sell within six to twelve months.

So, whatever I import will need to sell quickly and easily. Furthermore, I would like to come out even on this deal, or perhaps make some money. Hell, if I can make some money I may lead to a cool side business. So, what to import? Some ideas:

  • Trabant, iconic, famous.
  • Russian GAZ or UAZ? Military types would like it.
  • A Lada, Polski Fiat, Zastava all in hopes that some patriot with extra cash will pick it up.
  • No big trucks for now.
  • Something completely different?

Search eBay and cars similar to what’s listed above fetch, or at least attempt to fetch, over $4000. Search for available cars on the Polish CL/eBay here: allegro.pl. 1 USDollar = 3.5 Polish Zloty.

[Image: klasyczny.com]

  • Krystyna Lagowski

    What about a Syrena? Or a Warszawa? Go Polski!
    Alternately, a Trabi Tramp to make all those other SUVs jealous.

    • Michael Bobkowski

      I must second most of the above, from Ms. Lagowski.

      I was originally thinking SYRENA. As far as I know it was the only fully Polish car to be made and sold in Poland. I have not researched it to be honest, but I drove my brother-in-law's late 70's model many hundred of km around Poland in the early 80's. Memories of glass flagon's of precious extra gasoline carried IN THE TRUNK during fuel ration days make one's hair stand on end. One never knew if a friendly (i,e., bribe taking) fuel attendant could be found on long trips so extra fuel had to be carried in whatever was available. Looking in that trunk when my B-in law showed me arround the car blew my mind. But I drove it that way.

      The Syrena was a two stroke, front driver with a heavy feel that was totally different from a Trabant. I have not been to Poland since the late 1990's so I don't know how many of these cars are still around.

      • Michael Bobkowski

        [added to my post above: MB]

        I'd say the shock value of a Syrena at full two stroke song would beat the shock value of a Polonez or almost anything else I can imagine from the old East Bloc and of course its Polish too, for extra benefit if you're Polish. A Syrena is much louder than a Trabant. It sounds more like a Saab 93.

        • Michael Bobkowski

          One more idea: a TARPON. Its a pick-up kind of thing made from a Polish Fiat 124 chassis and having a four door body and short pick up bed on back. Not too big and definitely weird and easy to get engine parts for if not body. High riding, two wheel drive, great for bounching down dirt roads.

          • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

            Great suggestions Micheal! The syrenka was the worst car I have ever driven, and I drove a later better (ha!) model with the normally opening doors. But still if he is not going to keep it a long time it's perfect!

            • Michael B

              He could sell the Syrena in easily Chicago when he's out of space. I don't think it was that bad though, compared to its contemporaries. The 125p only looked like a real 124. The steering was loose, shifter as if in mud, lethargic winding engine, etc. The Wartburg was king in my book but its German. Actually a nice driving car for its era. Like a tinny early Audi 100 only with a two stroke.

              • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

                <img src="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/0/02/MHV_Skoda_Octavia_Kombi.jpg/400px-MHV_Skoda_Octavia_Kombi.jpg"&gt; I drove a syrena in Poland and it was the worst car I had ever driven and I've also driven a trabant. But now thinking back I think maybe if it had been a less hard used car and knowing now what I know, I think I might have liked it much much more, like the little car that could 😉 Anyway no one has mentioned the skoda octavia yet. I thought it would be harder to find one in Poland, but KKN just linked to one! Though the wagons look better, this Polish flag red/white one for sale seems in great shape overall.

  • TurboBrick

    Opel Manta B. Yeah, you heard me. Because I could drive it around the USA without any of the social stigma associated with it, and it's probably made out of parts-bin GM pieces anyways.

    <img src="http://world-viewer.com/data_images/opel-manta-1900-gte/opel-manta-1900-gte-04.jpg"&gt;

    Also, honorary mention Volvo 360, just so that I could go and do donuts on Mr. mrszzszsm…'s front lawn.

    • I think you missed the Commie part of the question?

      • TurboBrick

        Sorry, I had my bipartisan magic glasses on. Lets try this again.

    • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

      Hey now around here we do that to the people we don't like 🙁 You Finns/Texans must have some pretty strange ways of celebrating! My importation plansdreams have changed from a maluch, to a Polonez, to Volvo 480, and just recently to a Matra. My father in law has actually some interest in a Matra so it might just actually someday possibly might tractably drive me mad in fact.

      • TurboBrick

        Sorry, "reasonable donuts on the street in front of your house to highlight why 360 > 480" just doesn't flow as well.

        Matra, that three seater thing? Bagheera or Murena?

        • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

          <img src="http://www.pifauto.com/images/93996_1204Mee2JFMHO64i.jpg&quot; width="600"> The Bagheera cause of that interior mainly, but honestly either would be fantastic and the Murena is a better car in many ways. But man hidden door handles! Did you know that the Matras not only have that odd three across seating, but the bodies are made from this polyester fiberglass blend, such wierd fantastic cars!

          Okay maybe 360 > 480 somehow, but 960 = 2 x 480 right? The numbers don't lie.

          • FuzzyPlushroom

            I'd like to think my pair of 240s is cooler than one 480, but that's just me.

            • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

              Do the wipers go faster in your 240 as you go faster? Come to think of it, that happens in the Amazon. But that's more a function of I should replace the generator with an alternator than anything intentional really. Really now that I think about it, the two 240s are way cool.

              • FuzzyPlushroom

                Nah, they're three-speed electric wipers and their speed stays consistent. That's how the heat in my '89 works, though, since the blower motor's gone out.

    • Haven't seen one in Poland, and if they do exist they're pricey.

  • Stu_Rock

    Tatra 603!!!!!!!!!!

    • Extremely rare and already established as a rare collector's item.

    • Jay

      Coming soon to a Hooniverse article near you : )

  • Buy the Polish 4Runner!

    Sorry, Kamil. I don't foresee this being simple or profitable. I wish you all the best nonetheless.

  • erikgrad

    How about a Lada Niva? Here is a completed eBay auction for one I hunted down, for resale reference: http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?V

  • Number_Six

    The Tatra 613 with awesome flourescent green interior as featured on this very site. http://hooniverse.com/2012/08/27/classic-profile-

    • That's moss on the seats.
      The weatherstripping leaks.

      • Number_Six

        Oh, so it's got green on the green so I can be green while I drive my green Tatra!

    • Jay

      The later ones (1985-1992), not the early chromka that I did the article on, are still used as daily drivers in some parts of Eastern Europe, believe it or not.

  • None – just move in next to Murilee Martin and you know he'll eventually have one that you can drool over without engaging in project car hell.

    • The idea is to get that hot babe come to me.

  • <img src="http://assets.hemmings.com/uimage/5959924-425-0.jpg?rev=1"&gt;

    There's an 1,800-mile Yugo on Hemmings…

    • Wow, somebody got a Yugo to go 1800 miles? Amazing!

      • tiberiusẅisë

        That's a lot of pushing.

      • Let's not rule out odometer fraud. Not all of those miles may be legitimate.

  • Lex

    I share this dream, though Russia rather than Poland as my choice to import from, and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

    Bring over a Lada (Kombi if possible) and i'll buy it from you when you're done.

    I'm also beginning to strongly consider importing from Germany to fill the driveway with e30 variants that have attained the magical 25 years of age.

    • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

      The Lada Kombi is a great idea. There was a guy at work here who's grandfather had one for many decades. Was a reliable useful car in that Russian – need to be part mechanic to keep driving one – way.

  • Sjalabais

    You are definitely thinking classic here? I am above average fascinated by UAZ. They still make their version of the Soviet military jeep and call it Hunter: http://www.uaz.ru/eng/models/hunter/
    Under "commercial vehicles" you will also find their 4×4 utility van, pickup etc. When I struck oil in my garden my plan is to buy one of these, rust prove the hell out of it, and use it for everything that smells exhausting.

    Apart from that: Old Wolgas, especially the 24 and 3102, have a special place in my heart. That's what the apparatchik were driving, and in good paint combined with the chrome grille these cars have attitude.

  • Devin
  • <img src="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/7/7a/Putin_with_his_1972_Zaporozhets.jpg/640px-Putin_with_his_1972_Zaporozhets.jpg&quot; width="500">
    A Zaporozhets, like Putin owns. Probably an early 968, after they'd ditched the 966's fake grillework, but still had the bulging air intakes on the rear fenders. A 'busa candidate if there ever was one.

  • Devin
  • A UAZ van, for sure.

  • TurboBrick

    Okay, newer better answer, this time with more reading comprehension and less western imperialist corruption… Skoda 110 coupe:

    <img src="http://dayerses.com/data_images/posts/skoda-110-r/skoda-110-r-03.jpg&quot; WIDTH="500">

    • looks like a scared goldfish

    • Nice toutch is the side opening trunk
      <img src="http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5093/5463729069_ea340cd394.jpg"&gt;

      • Vairship

        I'm wondering if they swapped the trunk hinges to te other side for the UK market? Naaah… Let those imperialist running dogs get run over while retrieving their decadent bags from the trunk!

    • bhtooefr

      Interestingly, that engine family is still in production with a direct injection OHC head, and a turbo.

      So, there's something partsbin, might even bolt right in, to make it go quite a bit faster.

  • jeepjeff

    Kaengsaeng 88 and a hip-hop DPRK/Commie themed LeMons team.

    EDIT: Unfortunately, I have no idea how to make this a reality. Other than to ask Jim to join the team as Kim Jong The Illest (to steal an old joke).

    • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

      Holy crap don't think you'll find that in Poland so you either get on the US terrorist watch list or spend time in Polish jail for suspected guns running, eeeek!

      • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

        Wait that reminds me, what was that Romanian SUV? Anyway you won't find many in Poland, but it was cool.

      • jeepjeff

        I think trying to find one in China would be a way better bet.

        But yeah, the "would this land me on the terrorist watch list" is a big unknown with the whole plan.

        EDIT: "The Whole Plan" consists of "Man wouldn't that be cool? I have no idea where to even start with trying to find and import one of these…" I really meant it when I said "asking Jim to be Kim Jong the Illest" was as well developed as the idea got.

  • oldcarjunkie

    I've already owned three Lada Nivas but if I can dream then lets do a long lost but potentially re-discovered Syrena Sport
    <img src="http://www.retroprl.pl/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/syrena_sport-4.jpg"&gt;

  • I vote Wartburg 353 Trans, East Germany's best (Only?) answer to the capitalist pig in front, party in back El Camino.

    <img src="http://dayerses.com/data_images/posts/wartburg-trans/wartburg-trans-03.jpg&quot; width="500">

    <img src="http://data.motor-talk.de/data/galleries/0/87/5771/18072385/353-trans-ohne-4331.jpg&quot; width="500">

    Or, if you want more people space, the Kombi!

    <img src="http://www.die-besten.de/wartburg/tests/353/kft68kombi/353-2.jpg&quot; width="500" />

  • Number_Six

    If I could have two, I'd add a Wartburg 311 coupe.
    <img src="http://retronom.hu/files/images/518e09cf99e6fd1397b0f76d0777356e17385758.preview.jpg&quot; />

  • ramLlama

    Kamil, I see nothing but money lost and immense heartache with this plan. So my advice would be to not do it until you have the space to keep the car. Bringing it over only to keep thinking "X more days until it /has/ to go" will make for less than enjoyable ownership, methinks.

    That said, you should bring over a Skoda Rapid, if you can find one! (First cool Skoda that wikipedia yielded me, that falls within the 25 yr + communism barrier. I have always liked Skoda, even after VW bought them out)

    • Alcology

      Or help me find more people to start up a shared garage in boston and then you can keep your car there and we can all work on cars in one big commie party garage.

      • Let's do it!

        • Alcology

          I had a post in the forums that died an awful death, but I'll resurrect it. I found a 5000sq. ft. garage in Lynn for 1000 a month. Leaky roof, but otherwise pretty good. Might still be available. Little far, but who knows.

          • topdeadcentre

            In Lynn? There's cheaper, drier, or even just better-neighborhood garage spaces listed on the list of Craig.

            • Alcology

              I haven't found any. It's tough because a lot of spaces will specify "no automotive work please" They may exist, but I have yet to see them

              • I'd love to have a place to visit when I'm back east… even if it IS in the city of sin.

                • Alcology

                  You'll never come out the way you went in! A truer garage motto cannot be found.

                  • FuzzyPlushroom

                    You ask for water, they give you a gin; the landlords say 'no', but always give in?

  • How about a Socialist French Citroen BX? http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/One-two-U-S-Magic-

    I've seen this in real life and it's part of an awesome collection. http://karakullake.blogspot.com/2010/06/super-fre

    • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

      <img src="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/31/Dacia_1300.JPG/400px-Dacia_1300.JPG"&gt; How about a real French commie car, Dacia 1300! My awesome bar owning aunt (RIP) had one, was really sporty car for the times 😉

      • I saw a bunch of those in Chiapas, Mexico. They were held together with twine.

        Also, thanks for the Iowa chop tip. Best pork chop I've ever had. I also tried a loose meat sandwich at Tastees in Sioux City.

        • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

          Excellent! Some things are just worth shortening your life a bit for, cause what sort of living would that be otherwise? Anyway, now you really got me craving a loose meat sandwich 🙁

      • Number_Six

        I drove a Dacia through Transylvania back in the early '90s. I strongly recommend nobody take this suggestion.

      • TurboBrick

        Oh yeah, I was thinking of this one too. What's worse than a license-built Fiat? A license built Renault!

  • Does a Czech OT-810 count as a "big truck"?
    <img src="http://forum.valka.cz/attachments/12257/OT-810_rovny.jpg&quot; width="500/">
    How about a BRDM2? It only has 4 (driven) wheels.
    <img src="http://www.warwheels.net/images/brdm-2young1.jpg&quot; width="500/">

  • Kogashiwa

    Volga Siber

    <img src="http://www.photosled.com/data/500/siber-volga.jpg"&gt;

    Actually … no don't do that.

  • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

    Kamil my father in law found this great site for looking for cars:

    <img src="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/8/81/Polski_Fiat_126p_rocznik_1973.jpg/400px-Polski_Fiat_126p_rocznik_1973.jpg"&gt; The prices in 126p have climbed in recent years cause of nostalgia, but still not prohibitive. For what you are trying to do I think it is your best bet. There was that insane listing on BaT from NJ so if you try and sell it later for a decent price it might just not be your "buying the 4runner" story at least so much. I think there are enough people to get one for nostalgic reasons if the price was low in USA. Plus they are small (get a parts car too) which helps you in your predicament. And they honestly sort of suck really so you should not feel too bad having to let it go. Good luck, oh and remember Tim's first quote from the article this morning: "I can sell my…."

    • http://bringatrailer.com/2012/07/12/restored-1976

      Ha! See what I mean, that's fucking crack pipe price raised to the infinite power!!!!

      You can pick up a mint one for $500, have it home for, say, a total of $2500… drive around, sell it for $3000 and be happy.

      • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

        Be careful, a lot of us Poles think this logical way that you do. So to be enticing you would have to price it something like $1700 and sell $1500. Also in reality Poles that are selling cars are really big time liars. That $500 maluch is not going to be mint.

  • The three-wheeled Velorex models are becoming a bit too trendy (and just serve to reopen the whole question of car vs. motorcycle), but you could probably find a nice 435-0.

    <img src="http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8425/7849372132_e464df8bf6.jpg&quot; width="500">

  • A Ural has all the faults of a car with none of the benefits of a motorcycle. So there is that.

    • safetystephen

      Ahem. I would say one of the great benefits of an unreliable motorcycle is the knowledge gained from repairing it. It tends to make me a popular fellow as I enjoy fixing friends bikes for payment in hamburgs and root beer. Isn't free chow a good socialist benefit? I'm the Kolkhoz's resident mechanic I guess. A wiser man than me once said "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs."

  • david42

    Kamil, your idea is charming but insane. I don't know how many commie-car enthusiasts there are here, but I'd wager you'll have a tough time offloading anything you find.

    So: ZiL! (Sorry, I know that's not gonna fly… but I have TWO model ZiL 41047s sitting on my bookshelf, and if I saw a real live one cruising around Boston, I would probably collectivize my apartment building.)

    Personally, I always liked the GAZ-24 Volgas. A Russki Caprice, if you will. Hell, I might buy it from you once your 12 months are up. All I would need is my own extra parking space… and some wrenching skills.

    • What's the worst that can happen?

      • Zils are super rare and have price classical status.

        • david42

          Yeah, I know the ZiL is the impossible dream.

          Maybe one of those UAZ jeeps. You might even be able to keep it running with parts from China.

  • buzzboy7
    • And anyone you ran over could honestly say they got screwed!



      I'll show myself out…

  • Frere P.

    What about a light commercial vehicle? The E. German Barkas is highly-thought of even today. Did any make it to Poland?

    <img src="http://world-viewer.com/data_images/barkas-b-1000/barkas-b-1000-04.jpg&quot; width="600">

    I would go Romanian–Oltcit Club 12. If you can find a decent one that hasn't been turned into a rally car. They require careful attention, but perform fairly well (in my very limited experience).

    <img src="http://www.all-car-brands.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/oltcit_club_1981.jpg&quot; width="600">

    • facelvega

      Wow, I thought I was coming to say Barkas, but really I was coming to thumbs up your comment.

    • Sjalabais

      The Barkas is a super cool little van. But prices have jumped lately. It's not gonna be a cheap deal, unfortunately.

    • facelvega

      Barkas frenzy! Great build quality, useful as hell, and still look great. And with a one liter, two-stroke, three cylinder engine in a full size van, what could go wrong?

      • I got a lift through East Berlin in one, back when there was an East Berlin. Now that I'm much older, I realize I was far to quick to dismiss it as crappy Eastern Bloc junk.

        • facelvega

          I know a guy in Berlin who uses one as a cargo hauler for his design and music stuff, and I've seen at least a few others seeing the same use there. The guys who drive Barkases generally seemed to me exactly the guys who should be driving them, not hoons exactly but more like dirty-bearded gentleman-tinkers, like the Murilees of set design, furniture making, and general oddball projects.

        • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

          I'm starting to think that about the syrena.

          • You should. They're adorable.

  • mallthus

    Tatra 700
    <img src="http://www.tatra-krnepo.cz/Images/fotky/297_org.jpg&quot; width="500/">

    紅旗 (Hongqi) CA72
    <img src="http://world-viewer.com/data_images/hongqi-ca72/hongqi-ca72-02.jpg&quot; width="500/">

    Ча́йка (Chaika) aka GAZ M13
    <img src="http://www.limoprestige.in.ua/wp-content/gallery/retro-chajka-black/gaz_13_limousine_1959cnr.jpg&quot; width="500/">

  • Eduardo_CL

    A black Gaz 24 Volga with the Chaika V8 engine, just like the cars used by KGB
    <img src="http://motoburg.com/images/volga-gaz-24-01.jpg"width=550&gt;

    • Jay

      Very few survive, and the guys who have them aren't likely to let them go for anything less than $50K.

    • Always liked those… could be an easy seller…

      • Jay

        Kamil, there's one in the Boston area, a red one. It was at North Shore Concours last year, and at Greenwich the year before that.

        Don't bet on any of these being easy sellers down the road. Except if its a Tatra, and the prospective buyer is Jeff Lane : )

        • I saw it at Greenwich… this car is on the list.

    • Synchromesh

      That's a 2102 actually. 2101 was as sedan.

  • safetystephen

    I vote for a Polo-engined Trabant.

  • discontinuuity

    I'm thinking either a Cuban Yank-Tank
    <img src="http://www.inquisitr.com/wp-content/2011/09/Cuban-Car-from-America.jpg"&gt;

    or a Honda Cub knockoff from Vietnam:
    <img src="http://www.hardaker.co.za/vietnam-bike31.jpg"&gt;

  • Mallthus already beat me to it, but at least this one's already imported. It's at the Imperial Palace collection in Vegas.
    <img src="https://sphotos-b.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ash4/378576_10150384557083732_889207199_n.jpg&quot; width="600">

  • How about a V-12 BMW powered Volga coupe? Ok, so they weren't production cars, but so what?

    <img src="http://www.theautochannel.com/news/2002/10/02/148440.2-lg.jpg&quot; width="600">

    <img src="http://www.all-car-brands.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/a_level_volga_v_12_coupe_2003-1.jpg&quot; width="600">

    And then there is this one…

    <img src="http://www.hot.ee/rcclub/images/Volga1.jpg&quot; width="600">

    • dukeisduke

      I remember reading about the V12 Volga (Car and Driver). I like the car, but the wheels?

    • wow, comment load super fail. when i posted that there were all of 2 comments…

  • The logical answer (commie logic) is the Ekranoplane KM
    <img src="http://imgs.obviousmag.org/archives/uploads/2009/09070801_blog.uncovering.org_ekranoplano.jpg"&gt;
    Ofcourse there were smaller models available.

  • faberferrum

    How about importing from Canada? Here you go: http://ontario.kijiji.ca/c-cars-vehicles-classic-
    Been up for sale a long time. If I could, I totally would…

    • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

      Yikes stay away, not old enough even for Canada. It would be impounded at the border and later destroyed.

      • My math says 1990 plus 15 equals a year that's already in the past, so what's wrong with it in Canada? Heck, in three more years it'll be okay in the US.

        • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

          Ha ha ha, would you believe I have a BA (sorry AB) in math? Yes I simply live in 2002 I guess.

          • Would it be too cruel to add that your math was corrected by someone with a BA in geology?

            • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

              No, to the contrary, that rocks!

  • Michael B

    [youtube f5GIcL4FT9A&feature=related http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f5GIcL4FT9A&feature=related youtube]____Here it is: the Syrena. Listen to that sound!

    Pics: http://www.abc.se/~m9805/eastcars/showbrand.php?b

    • I remember that sound well. Damn.

  • Alcology

    As found on bringatrailer:

    just putting this here so you see it. could solve several problems you might face all at once!

  • Hello i am kavin, its my first time to commenting anywhere, when i read this paragraph i thought i could
    also make comment due to this good post.

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