Last October I went back to my native Poland for the first time in twenty-five years. Much what I found there was either exactly the same as it was was when I left or completely, 100%, different. With regards to cars things were about 90% different since I left in 1987. Most people replaced their crappy rust buckets with German crappy not-yet-rust buckets or well made and affordable Japanese appliances.
However, there is the 10%, which my father proudly belongs to, what what his Lada Niva and all. These people either cannot afford new cars, such as my cousin and his hand-me-down Polonez, or feel too nostalgic to let them go. There are others however, that either just don’t care, or perhaps use them as promotional vehicles, or simply abandon them in the spot where they last ran.
With all this, a new group of enthusiasts has emerged, varying in age, but with the common love of what they call “oldtimers” and “youngtimers”*. The question of difference between what exactly is a youngtimer and an oldtimer is one of many debates. I personally think that the line in the sand is the year 1987, because that’s what I left the country. It’s like the New Testament and Old Testament and the I’m the automotive babyjesus.
Whatever you call them, these classic cars are not only sought after but also appreciated, much in the way an original ’84 Country Squire is appreciated in the United States. Except that there are more older cars in Poland because the cost of cars, and gasoline, is much higher there. One of the websites that serves this classic car community is www.zlomnik.pl. In the past I called that site the “Polish Hooniverse”, because I liked it so much. Regardless, let’s now go on a second tour of rare and interesting cars of Poland with the one and only Zlomnik. Enjoy.
The Polski Fiat 126p, commonly known as “maluch”, and not to be confused with the bigger 125p (see what they did there) is derivative of the Italian Cinquecento. Except it could not have been called that because it had a 600cc or 650cc engine. Regardless, it was a miserable car that nobody in the 70s and 80s wanted but everyone desperately needed. Few are seen around these days, and to see more than one at a time is a rare sight. To see four is a Kodak moment.
In the 1980s a French car in Poland would usually have foreign license plates or a lunatic owner. Despite all that there is number of these around, running or rotting.
American influence and Russian technology, or something like that, is what resulted in one of the first Polish post-war cars, the Warszawa. These can only be seen in museums now or parades.
The USDM Corollas and the rest of the world Corollas have always been slightly different. I always do a double-take, because I know it’s a Corolla but I also know it’s different. Hatchbacks are cool.
On my recent trip I only visited big cities, specifically Warsaw and Krakow. While on a train between the two I saw a lot of junk yards filled with imaginable treasures. Also, many properties had cars parked and not driven, almost deserted, such as the Skoda and FSO Syrena pictured here. Rust in pieces my friends.
Front-wheel-drive, two-stoke Wartburgs were once much respected vehicles. Solid-ish East German steel, good in winter, roomy, what’s not to like? Well, the mixing of fuel for one. Or the very specific and loud conu-conu-conu noise they made. Or the smoke.
Bigger than the Fiat 126p, and smaller than the 125p sedan is the Italian 127 coupe. Sporty? I doubt there was anything sporty about it. Interesting, yes. Rear overhang was smaller than the front overhang. Hatchback, which is cool.
These are the “youngtimers” I spoke of. They’re mostly that because I don’t know exactly what they are other than that they a Lancia and a Fiat. Youngtimers, made or imported into Poland after the automotive babyjesus has left the country.
WTF is this? A Rover? I have no idea but it’s probably dead. Youngtimer going on eighty.
Youngtimer Iveco van. Such exotic delivery vans did not exist while I was there. Being Italian they probably did not exist for long after they were imported there either. Why the eff wouldn’t you just get a solid Mercedes van like everyone else?
Before my uncle dumped off his second Polonez on my cousin, he had this exact one. I think the year was 1986 and he just spent a year working 80-hours-per-week in a New Jersey factory so that he could afford this beauty. It was that year that the car was face-lifted and it gained that window on the C-pillar. That thing was hot, it was like driving an Audi R8 today,… twenty miles an hour, so everybody sees you…
The fudge is this? I don’t know. Crack is available anywhere. Lack of signs make me think that this zebra is not a promotional vehicle. Maybe hippy or hipster owned. Maybe someone desperate for attention.
Awesome youngtimer, probably a one-off import as I don’t think that these were sold there. I love Japanese vans of that era and the 4×4 one are the coolest ones.
Oldtimer, I think, or right on the cusp. Sadly not a rear-engined turbo version and probably as sporty as a ’91 Hyundai Excel. I like the styling which reflects the classic lines without being all retro. Today’s designers should note this.
Another use for a Polonez, aside from the twenty mentioned here, is a funeral car. Yea, it was probably “converted” in some two-bay garage as evidenced by the panel gaps and their alignment… or perhaps those have warped from extensive use… or both. Regardless, if you want to be laid to rest it would be difficult to find a worse way of going with less class.
This is the UAZ 452D, a two-person pickup truck. Very rarely seen in this configuration in Poland, even in the 1980s. I hope it serves for a long time and then gets preserved for our kids to see.
Oh, a Volvo 480! And a GT one at that! Youngtimer! I have no idea what the GT represents, turbo engine perhaps? This one looks like it will spend some time in that spot, probably a victim of electrical gremlins… and/or a flat tire. A bit of trivia: it had suspension designed by Lotus, and the Renault engine was tuned by Porsche! While that sounds Project Car Hell-ish now, think of the marketing associated with it when the car was launched! Also, note the P1800/C30-like glass hatch.
Oldtimer? You betcha! Add rear doors and you got yourself an Audi A7. Hmm, I wonder how the current Passat would look with a hatch-like ass. It would be cooler if it was a hatchback.
Very popular in Poland, and frankly all over the world. Obvious oldtimer import from Germany. I am seeing surprisingly little rust on this guy. perhaps it was re-sprayed at some point.
And I’ll leave you with this little gem. Who says you need a $50,000 Ford F-350 to plow some snow.
*Yes, English terms have now become annoyingly popular in the common Polish language, as well as many other European languages.