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Rare and Interesting Cars from the Streets of Poland

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.

Currently there are "41 comments" on this Article:

  1. Beav says:

    Great pictures and commentary….

  2. Dean Bigglesworth says:

    That's an excellent collection of awesomely horrible cars.

    The Lancia looks like a Thema, which could be had with a transversely mounted Ferrari V8! Not a huge sales succes, that one..

    The "Rover" looks like it has part of a Daewoo badge inthe front so it could be some kind of Korean Wundermachine.

    • Dede621 says:

      That's a Daewoo espero.

    • julkinen says:

      The red car is a Daewoo Espero. Based on Ascona/Cavalier running gear.

      Also, the Toyota there is a Carina II.

      • Dean Bigglesworth says:

        Heh, those Carinas used to be everywhere 15 years ago but i can't remember the last time i saw one. I see more Ladas in traffic.

        • duurtlang_ says:

          They've all been shipped to Africa a long time ago. And Eastern Europe. The Carina E (92-97) has all but disappeared here in the Netherlands as well, and the numbers of the first gen Avensis (97-03) are dwindling insanely fast. They've become quite rare already. I think it's the result of poor resale value, initial high availability and poor image in Western Europe versus high demand elsewhere.

          • Dean Bigglesworth says:

            I know most old Hiaces and Hiluxes and other similar cars have been shipped to Africa, but never thought old sedans went there too. On a similar note Ladas were common here until the USSR fell, after that the majority of them went back over the border.

        • TurboBrick says:

          Really? I'm going to guess that the number of the really old RWD Carinas has still remained constant.

          • Dean Bigglesworth says:

            Considering that the Avensis outsold the Mondeo / Passat / Vectra here by quite a large margin in the late nineties, there should be plenty of them driving around, but i see more of the others. And it's not because the Toyota is less reliable, that's for sure.. I'm in the south though, the situation might be different in other parts of the country. If i lived in the north, 400km from the closest workshop i too might drive an old Toyota.

            The RWD Carinas that still remain are mostly owned by Toyota enthuasists so they are in good shape and aren't going anywhere.

  3. duurtlang_ says:

    "a Lancia and a Fiat"
    Lancia Thema (post facelift, 1989-1995. Shared mechanicals with Saab 9000, Alfa 164 and Fiat Croma. Available from the factory with a Ferrari V8) and Fiat Argenta ('81-86, based on a 1972 design). The Thema has become very rare in Western Europe, the Argenta I haven't seen in over a decade.

    "WTF is this? A Rover?"
    mid 1990s Daewoo Espero. Based on 1980s Opel Vectra mechanicals. In the looks department a poor man's Citroën Xantia. Replaced in 1997 by the Leganza.

    Volvo 480 GT: GT meant, as far as I know, that it came with extra kit. ABS, A/C, traction control, leather. That sort of thing. It was available with a turbo, but then it would've been labeled GT Turbo. This one problably has the NA 2.0, not the 1.7 turbo.

  4. Manic_King says:

    Lancia Thema's doors are interchangeable with Saab 9000's. Warszawa is copy or sister car of GAZ 20 Pobeda.

    Kamil, I think You have oldtimer/youngtimer thing strangely mixed up. Young classics (youngtimers) are cars from seventies or eighties. I think not many nineties cars are considered to be any sort of classic yet. Especially Daewoo.

  5. dukeisduke says:

    At first I read Poland as "Portland". Darn it, no chance of Pobedas on Craigslist.

  6. Irishzombieman says:

    #1–I love stuff like this–cars that aren't necessarily expensive, but are weird and awesome and that I've never seen before. I'd spend the entire time I was there just staring at stuff like an idiot. I want that snowplow.

    #2–You're from Poland? How is it possible to be Polish without a single w, d, or z in your name? Or, alternately, a string of six consecutive consonants? Always figured you were from Ukraine.
    /winks, runs for door

  7. Alcology says:

    How's your progress on your import plan going?
    http://bringatrailer.com/2012/10/12/1981-polsko-f

    What.

    • Kamil_K says:

      I saw that. The seller is a 10 Guy high.

      I have people looking at stuff for me… given the right car and the right price I am ready to pull the trigger. I got time, so no pressure.

      Edit – that's the one I was thinking of. There was a similar car for sale for like $15,000. $4000 is still a lot but almost reasonable, someone will buy it.

  8. Vavon says:

    The "Maluch" is neither a Cinquecento nor a Seicento.
    It's the Polish version of the Fiat 126. Hence the name 126P!
    More info here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fiat_126
    <img src="http://www.classicandperformancecar.com/front_website/octane_interact/modelpicture.php?id=8656&quot; width="700/">

  9. TurboBrick says:

    I just can't even imagine a VW Transporter in any other color but that postal service orange or brown.

  10. mr. mzs zsm msz esq says:

    The 127 was really rare, that's something to see one being driven around like that! Also if a Volvo can't be my hearse, I'll accept a Polonez. Or maybe it won't matter to me actually, dang that's grave.

  11. Jay says:

    Nice collection of street finds, the Warszawa 203 is perhaps my fave out of all of them. Nice Skoda and Syrena as well, and I don't think I've ever seen that Audi hatch before.

  12. Goodwin says:

    Why no FIAT 125P? Are they all gone?

  13. Synchromesh says:

    I went to Poland last year and saw some of the cars mentioned here. I saw quite a few Polonez cars of various versions, a bunch of 126p in various conditions but only a small handful of 125p. The latter looked like a mutated Lada. Oh! And I finally did see some Ladas upclose! A beat up 2109 hatch and a 2107 in good condition. First time in 20 years!

    What surprised me was the American cars! I saw an 80s Camaro, a Charger coupe from same era and a few other ones, mostly old sporty cars.

    Overall a very strange mix of new European cars and old East Bloc ones. Of course I enjoyed the commie cars that much more.

  14. rpdred6 says:

    I like that giant green van

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