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Soviet Cars Living and Dying in Poland

Kamil Kaluski August 14, 2014 Eastern European Cars, Featured 24 Comments

russian cars living and dying in poland

World War II started on September 1st, 1939 with the German invasion of Poland, everyone remembers that from their high school World History class. What many may not remember is that in addition to the attack from the west, Poland was also invaded by the Soviet Union, under the direction of  Joseph Stalin, from the east, on September 17th. At the end of that September, Hitler famously said “Poland never will rise again in the form of the Versailles treaty. That is guaranteed not only by Germany, but also… Russia.”

Stalin would soon learn that he shouldn’t be making deals with the devil, as Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941. Red-faced Stalin pushed back, switched sides, and in the end help to defeat the Axis Powers. In the process of Stalin’s flip-flops, 40 millions Russian lives were lost and millions of Polish people were either killed or forcibly transferred to effing Siberia. While victorious in the defeat of Germany, the Soviet Union never regained the trust of the western world. The potential of U.S. versus USSR war existed as early as May of 1945 and continued throughout the Cold War. Things are clearly different today (sarcasm).

Following the war, and the division of Europe, Poland fell under the control of the Soviet Union. The signing of the Warsaw Pact (comically called the Treaty of Friendship, Co-operation, and Mutual Assistance) between the Russian-controlled Eastern European countries put Poland further behind the Iron Curtain. As if centuries of fighting were not enough, now the people of Poland had to deal with this communist bullshit for almost fifty years. Fed up with it, the fall of communism began in Poland in 1989. The Berlin Wall fell in 1990. The Soviet Union dissolved in 1991.

For those years when Poland was under Soviet control, it was limited to the kind of cars it could produce and import. Of course only cars from other Eastern Bloc countries were imported and sold. Today we look at the Soviet cars that are currently still living and dying on the streets of Poland. As always, all of the pictures were taken recently in Poland by the awesome readers of Zlomnik.pl, a site which them complies them into sort of a monthly V.I.S.I.T. post. Big thanks and much love to them!


We’re starting our journey off with the Porsche 911 fighter, ZAZ Zaporozhets. Like the iconic Porsche, the Zaporizhets has a rear-mounted air-cooled engine and… well… that’s where the similarities end.

It was Soviet Union’s People’s car, mimicking the small Fiats, Beetles, and other such cars.


Russian KAMAZ trucks. I remember these well from my childhood. This one has been tastefully modified by its weirdo owner.

Kamaz is currently the biggest truck maker in Russia. They make conversational trucks as well as military vehicles. Kamaz won the grueling Dakar Rally an amazing eleven times.


The Lada Niva does not need an introduction. Here is a weird LWB crewcab-without-rear-doors homemade pickup truck version


And here is a properish overlander.


Another modified Kamaz. This must be the GT version.

Now let’s take a break and look at the other posts from this series:

American cars living and dying in Poland

American Cars Living and Dying in Poland (part 2)

West German cars living and dying in Poland

East German cars Living and Dying in Poland

Japanese cars living and dying in Poland

Italian cars living and dying in Poland

French Cars Living and Dying in Poland

Czechoslovakian Cars Living and Dying in Poland

Swedish Cars Living and Dying in Poland

Polish Cars Living and Dying in Poland

Obscure, weird, and random cars living and dying in Poland

The Museum of Communist Polish Cars in Krakow


Lada 2105 or 2107 2104 wagon. I recently learned that the name Lada was an export name, in USSR/Russia they were known as VAZes.


Lada Samara. You can just smell the free world in this 80’s designed vehicle. FWD, sleek modern looks, why would anyone buy a VW Polo over it?

Don’t answer that.


Samaras took the aftermarket tuning world by storm. And by storm I mean a morning drizzle.


Being that all of the eastern bloc cars are now in demand, people buy them with the intention of restoring them. Unfortunately many end up rotting away or are restored in an amazingly horrible way.


Volga 24, made by GAZ. This looks like a late 80s version, what with the fancy cassette door handles.


Basketball and Matchbox cars. I get this guy. This is a GAZ 69, but a Romanian ARO was made under a license and it was identical.


When I was little, the Volga always seemed like a big car… it isn’t.


Moskvitch 1600 series. I don’t think I have ever seen those in Poland, but I did see a ton of them when vacationing in Bulgaria.

Ah yes, Bulgaria, the land of great seafood, Moskitches, and topless German women tourists. That’s all I recall from that country which I visited about four times in the early 1980s, before the age of ten.


GAZ 21, awaiting restoration?


Lada 2107, based on a Fiat 124. It was made for decades after the 124 went to pasture, only it was improved by the Russians.

Yes, it was RWD.


Another 2107, here in three-tone primer-blue-rusty. I believe that the only difference between the 2105 and 2107 was a grill, which made it more luxurious.


Another Niva. My father who lives in Poland has a newer one. I’m going for a visit in October, can’t wait to drive it!


Lada VAZ 2101 (sedan) and 2102 (wagon), were the predecessors to the 2105/2107. Similarities to the Italian Fiat 124 a lot more visible here. When I was a kid I thought that there was completely different cars, not just updated/face-lifted.



Another Moskvitch. Roof racks very popular because trunks were small.


Another weird modified Niva. At least I think it’s modified, I don’t think it rolled out of the factory like this.


Chaika, the car of some very important commie, but not the top-top important guy, because those were driven around in Zils.

He’s got the wrong flag on it.


UAZ 469B in front of a gorgeous 1986-ish FSO Polonez.


Another 2102. Looks like pre-WW2 building.


Lada, or VAZ when sold domestically, 2103 2106. This was the model between 2101 and 2105, which makes sense.

Green leaf sticker used to represent a rookie driver back in the day. This car seems to be registered to the same person for many years, so that sticker was probably just never removed.


Modified Niva Sport Activity Vehicle. BMW blatantly copied this when they were developing the original X5.

The above statement may not be true.


It’s a late model Lada. It may be Korean based or it could be an original design, I really don’t know/care.



Older Volga and an updated version – oh, so modern!





Some Moskvitch.

Sąd w Mrągowie

Dang, that’s a nice size garage. What’s the woman in the window, it’s a poster or a tv or something, right?


Historic plates, perked at contemporary furniture store.


An earlier GAZ Chaika. What American car does it look like?


Old GAZ 21 visiting from Ukraine.




I guess the winch stopped working. Perhaps it would off-road better with matching tires?


Side air inlet transforms into a taillight. Very 1960s space-y design.


I think those headlight things were used to make the headlights give off less glare but still illuminate the road for the driver, so that the vehicle is less visible from above, kind of like modern night vision. Can anyone confirm?




One of the last ZAZs. Yes, it has a rack on the engine lid. Dual tailpipes… how capitalistic.


Mosktitch wagon. Looks very AllRoad-y.


Someone just threw it out.

Worn out tires? No problem, just wrap some chains around them and keep going. This ZIL 131 has seen some shit.


  • dukeisduke

    I absolutely loooooove that sweet Lada wagon (the white one).

  • dukeisduke

    The Chaika is reminiscent of a Packard Clipper. I don't remember if it used their tooling, like the older ZiL.

    • Jay_Ramey

      No ZiL or ZiS used Packard tooling.

      This is one of the most pervasive urban legends about Soviet cars (and it just refuses to die for some reason) it got started by a carelessly written British book which was filled with hearsay and BS stories.

      But yeah, very similar design to Packard Caribbean and other Packards of the time.

      • dukeisduke

        I knew about the older car, the ZiL or ZiS 110 – the old Pate Museum of Transportation south of Fort Worth (near Cresson) had one, and I saw it several times back in the '80s and '90s, when helping with setup for the Pate Swap Meet. But it turns out that even that car was reverse engineered (from the Packard Super Eight), as the Packard archives contained no records of any tooling or stamping dies being transferred to the USSR:

    • I was going to say it looks like a mid 50s Packard merged with a Checker Marathon.

  • dukeisduke

    According to Wikipedia, the second-gen Chaika (the M14) was just a new body over the same first-gen running gear. The first-gen used a three-speed auto with pushbutton controls, possibly a reverse engineered Torqueflite.

  • Jay_Ramey

    Insane trivia: the GAZ 14 did actually stay in government use till about 1996-1998, though it would not have carried a flag like that because the remaining 14s were limos didn't really drive anyone terribly important. But they did have very exclusive government license plates.

    • Didn't someone uncover that there were dozens unfinished ones in the factory?
      I swear I read that somewhere.

      • Jay_Ramey

        There are/were a bunch of unassembled shells at the ZiL plant. Some of them were used to make 410441 parade cabrios a few years ago.

        The tooling for the GAZ 14 Chaika, however, was completely wiped out of existence in 1988, blueprints included.

        • dukeisduke

          Yes, the drawings and tooling were destroyed under orders from Gorbachev, as a part of his perestroika "fighting privileges" campaign.

  • Sjalabais

    The 280 truck convoi from Russia to Ukraine is all Kamaz, too, I guess?

    <img src="http://cdn1.spiegel.de/images/image-736384-galleryV9mobile-wygk.jpg&quot; width="600">

    My uncle had a Moskovich 1600 that he traded in for a Yugo days before the wall came down. Awful timing! Zaporozhets are mostly remembered for their outstanding noise generating capacity. But the GAZ 24…is just too pretty to be laughed at. I want one badly, 1982 modell with All The Chrome. Prices have been going straight up for a while.

  • Jay_Ramey

    Don't forget their fume-generating capacity inside the car.

  • The Zaporozhets side air scoops just MAKE the car.

    • ˏ♂ˊ mzs zsm msz esq

      The scoops are often called little ears.

      Kamil, that is a pretty Polonez.

  • Slow_Joe_Crow

    For some odd reason I really like those Lada Niva crew cabs so I hope somebody comes up with more info.

  • Alexander

    Late model Lada 110 (VAZ-2110 internally) has original platform. And Lada Niva Pickup really has been produced by AvtoVAZ but in small numbers (for example – VAZ-2329 http://wroom.ru/cars/lada/2329)

  • Rick

    I owned a 1987 FSO Polenez while stationed in Germany. I miss that car.

  • Krautwursten

    Some of these cars feel like home to me. My family being from East Germany, my grandpa owned a Ukrainian Zaporozhets, some sort of Czechoslovakian Skoda (also rear engined) and an East German Wartburg (with an evil capitalist VW Golf engine in it, which were assembled for West Germany in East Germany and put in some East German cars in a trade deal between the nations) throughout the years and my dad got an East German Trabant just years before the reunification through his grandma who was put on the waiting list in his place for almost a decade.

    This scarcity of new cars inflated the price of used cars beyond that of new cars and led to the saying "I'll have to wait for a new one because I can't afford a used one".

    My grandpa was lucky to sell the Skoda shortly before the end of socialism because afterwards it would've been worth next to nothing, and the way this worked – because private car sales were officially prohibited – was that people who wanted to sell or buy cars would attend "car meets" and sellers would leave their windows slightly open and walk off so that interested buyers could throw pieces of paper with their telephone number and a price offer into the car. The old man still praises the reliability of these cars and how easy it was to work on them.

    Trabants were notoriously simplistic with their 27hp two stroke two cylinder engines and almost complete lack of factory features, but my dad worked around it by putting a cassette radio with a self built extended battery pack in the rear footwell. It didn't look long after the fall of the wall for him to replace that car – with an almost equally cheapo solution, a bright red Daihatsu Charade that soon suffered the popular Japanese illness of faded hoods.

    Maybe I'll get around to digging up some pictures of these old buckets on the weekend.

    • ˏ♂ˊ mzs zsm msz esq

      Did you find any photos?

  • dead_elvis

    _______ Cars Living & Dying in Poland has become one of my absolute favorite Hooniverse features. I hope they keep cropping up as often as you're willing to keep posting 'em. I was lucky to spend a month in Germany during the summer of 1986, and the week in East Berlin was like being dropped into some sort of bizarro-world of cars previously unimagined by my 16 y.o. self. This feature definitely brings back some great memories of that trip & fills in some of the details on stuff I saw & wondered about.

    That updated Volga has proportions reminiscent of a Subaru Baja.

    <img src="http://hooniverse.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/maj1421_zpsc4cd9af5-700×393.jpg"&gt;
    <img src="http://www.subaruspecs.info/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/2004-Subaru-Baja-Sport-4dr-Crew-Cab-3.jpg"&gt;


  • Synchromesh

    The green Moskvitch-looking car is actually a relatively rare Izh Kombi. It was a hatchback based on a Moskvitch and produced at the city of Izhevsk. They're pretty rare nowadays but I saw one near my old house in St. Petersburg.

    When I was in Poland in 2011 I only saw 2 Soviet cars upclose – a 2107 in excellent condition, probably still a daily driver and a beat to hell 2109 clunker. There were tons of Polish Fiats of all sorts (both 125 and 126), Polonezes, etc though. I wonder where all these cars came from.

    Btw, the Chaika GAZ 13 IS based on the last Packards. Russians bought the tooling so the headlights are dead on for mid-50s Packard models.

  • Manic_King

    I just went to road trip, crossed Poland twice, stayed in Puck (and went to Hel and back, ha) and didn't saw any interesting iron curtain era machinery, only 2 Polski Fiat 126p cars, one in traffic, one as a ad for garage.

    But in France, Beach-Niva! Rear hatch removed and replaced with tent-like solution.

    <img src="http://www.upload.ee/image/4224025/niva_fra.png"&gt;