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Diecast Delights: Wartburg 353 Pickup

Jay Ramey June 20, 2013 Diecast Delights 5 Comments

wartburg 1

Eastern Bloc states weren’t big fans of small commercial vehicles, despite whatever impression Hollywood films may give you. The reason was quite simple, small businesses that would need things like pickups simply didn’t exist, and nobody really owned any huge private property out in the countryside to the point where they’d need a pickup. So the few pale impressions of the El Camino that existed out East were never plentiful. And one of those rare pickups was the Wartburg 353.

The Wartburg 353 came out in 1966, and was powered by a 993cc two-stroke engine. Though “powered” may be too strong a word, since the 353 was underpowered even by Eastern Bloc standards. Aside from this minor shortcoming (coupled with a ridiculously long waiting list time) the 353 was a pretty popular car. These are still in daily use in some places where there really shouldn’t be that many of them, like St. Petersburg. No, not St. Petersburg, Florida. The other St. Petersburg, the original one.

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The pickup version itself tended to be used by institutions such as TV and fridge repair shops, furniture stores, and art galleries. Kidding about that last one. The canvas-topped Wartburg was never a common sight even when it was new, and the whole segment of canvas-topped pickups was never really big. Part of this had to do with the fact that stuff used to and continues to get stolen out of pickup trucks that aren’t secured. Another reason is that something like this was very much a luxury, even if 99 out of a hundred buyers was the government.

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This model is very nicely executed, right down to the interior of the truck bed.  This Wartbug by IST is an upmarket scale model for 1:43, so prices for this typically start at $24.00, though you’d be lucky if you can find it for that much. But don’t pay more than $30.00, no matter how much you convince yourself that you need it. In case you need convincing otherwise, just call over your significant other and tell her that you’re thinking of spending north of 30 bucks for an Eastern European toy car. That’ll sort you out.

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This version by IST comes with a stand and a plexiglass jewel box, but cheaper and nearly identical versions by IXO come in a clear blister pack.

Scale: 1:43
Manufacturer: DeAgostini, IXO, IST
On sale since: 2011
Typical price: $15.00 – $30.00 + shipping
Easy to find: yes
Colors: cream, light green

[Images: Copyright 2013 Hooniverse/Jay Ramey]

  • Sjalabais

    Incredible what they find and shrink!

  • Neen85

    I see a resemblence…surprising grill/headlight design for a '77 vehicle

    <img src="http://image.bilgaraget.se/extra/carimg/294101_294200/mazda-b2200-294185_34851414.jpg"&gt;

  • Synchromesh

    Very cool model. I've never seen one before.

    Regarding St. Petersburg – I have my doubts about many of these rolling around there. I'm originally from that city and left in 1992. Wartburg was never officially sold there. I saw a few of these in sedan form show up in the early 90s as second-hand imports from East Germany. I know there is a wagon version too but I've never seen a pickup. IZH actually made a small pickup based on Moskvich models in both covered and uncovered versions and those were popular. There is also a small pickup based on Lada 2104.

    • Jay_Ramey

      I saw on the interwebs that some 353 sedans were apparently running around the city, but yeah, probably totaling around a couple dozen. They must have been brought in back in the 90s. I agree that there's very little reason for them to be there, cause who would wanna bring one in when you've got old Volvos?

      Same for Minsk, it appears to have an unusual Wartburg 353 population.