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:
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. 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.