Remember these buses? They’re the ones you see shrugging and continuing on their way after getting clipped by Ladas overtaking traffic in reverse in those Russian dashcam videos. In addition to the Budapest-based Ikarus factory that supplied buses for the entire Eastern Bloc and for a time even had an assembly facility in Indiana, the USSR and its satellite states largely relied on buses made by the LAZ factory in L’viv and by LiAZ in Likino just outside of Moscow. While Russia now mostly uses larger, boxier mobile retainer walls/targets for automotive shenanigans, the buses you see in videos today are descendants of the 1960s era machinery that’s reproduced in 1:43 scale above.
Both the Likino and L’viv factories made medium-size commuter and tourist buses starting in the 1960s that were the staple mode of transportation in many Eastern Bloc countries. The green LiAZ 677, in particular, got a reputation as an indestructible piece of engineering, with many examples built in the 1980s still in service today. Made by ClassicBus, SovA, Ultra, and half a dozen small workshops, these buses are very charming and for the most part very affordable. Let’s take a closer look at some of these.
The coolest thing about the LiAZ 677 which came out in 1967 is its 2-speed automatic transmission, a rarity among Eastern Bloc trucks and buses. Not even the Ikarus bendy-buses had autoboxes, and required quite a lot of shifting. Ikarus later got automatic transmissions, but by the 1990s their business had dried up completely, which cannot be said for LiAZ which is alive and well. The 677 came in many different modifications, such as LPG-power, a special version for sub-Arctic climates, and a police command post, to name a few.
The most surprising thing about the 677 is that the driver really has no access to the passenger compartment, which admittedly limits his ability to dole out extra helpings of whupass to unruly passengers, and instead has his own door on the side of the bus like in a truck. Even though entirely new LiAZ models started coming out in the 1980s, the 677 remained in production till the year 2000, an amazing 33 years on the line with hardly any changes. This 677 is made by ClassicBus and retails for around $90.00.
The LAZ 695E went into production in 1963, and almost 40,000 of these were made for domestic and export markets. This rear-engined bus was powered by a ZiL 130 truck engine, and had seating for 33 people. This 695E is made by ClassicBus and retails for about the same amount as the bus above, around $90.00.
The LAZ 695N was a facelift of the previous model, and went into production in 1976. These didn’t change as much on the inside as they did on the outside, and the ZiL range of truck engined continued on. The 695N was made, amazingly, through 2002, so there should still be plenty of them out there being crashed into by Ukrainian ZAZ Tavrias. This is a handmade model by Finoko and is reportedly worth around $150.00. As ClassicBus expands its lineup of buses, this scale model should be entering production in the near future.
The German eBays, conveniently located at ebay.de, are not a bad place to find Eastern Bloc buses in 1:43, and you shouldn’t pay more than $120 for the the shorter, non-accordeon buses like these. If you’re into that sort of thing.
[Images: Copyright 2013 Hooniverse/Jay Ramey]
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