The Soviet Union united multiple nations, languages, cultures and peoples into one giant bloc of automotive misery.
The Union’s ‘planned economy’ meant that those that could get their hands on a private car, after waiting over a decade for the privilege, could choose between a polluting two-stroke econobox, or another polluting two-stroke econobox. This was the ‘other’ one for East Germans between ’66 and ’88, the Wartburg 353.
The Wartburg 353 wasn’t a bad car when it was launched in 1966, although the engine coming from a 1930s design wasn’t a high point, and was even exported to the West (TLCB’s home nation included).
It was a bad one by the 1980s though, as the Communistical restrictions on the populous meant it didn’t need to keep pace with the Western cars that were unavailable behind the Iron Curtain. If you needed a car in East Germany it was this or the Trabant…
Previous bloggee Legostalgie has recreated the Wartburg 353 sedan beautifully in green bricks, following his brown estate version that featured here last year. The doors, hood and trunk open, there’s a wonderfully life-like interior, and there’s more to see at Legostalgie’s ‘Wartburg 353’ album on Flickr, where a link to building instructions can also be found.
Jump back to Soviet East Germany via the link above, plus you can check out two of Legostalgie’s previous communist cars via the bonus links.
Grey, ugly, and slightly depressing. Most Soviet items, whether architecture or vehicular, seemed to follow these designs rules, but at least the UAZ-452 got a good nickname.
‘Bukhanka’ means ‘bread loaf’*, and became attached to the UAZ-452 thanks to its slightly loaf-like aesthetic.
The 452 has maintained said shape since its launch in 1965, and it’s still being sold virtually unchanged today, even taking until 2011 to gain seatbelts and anti-lock brakes.
Used as a van, ambulance, pick-up truck, military vehicle, minibus, and countless other applications, the ‘Bukhanka’ is common sight across Eastern Europe, and has been recreated brilliantly in brick-form by previous bloggee PalBenglat.
Pal’s 6-wide ‘Bukhanka’ captures the design of the original wonderfully and there’s more to see at his ‘UAZ-452 Bukhanka’ album on Flickr. Click the link above to loaf on over.
*And not, as it turns out, when several gu… nevermind. Google carefully kids…
This is a Trabant 601 Combi, one of the great mobilisers of the people, and it comes from Eurobricks’ PsychoWard666 who has constructed it solely from the parts found within another historic people mover, the 10258 London Bus.
Both the Trabant and the AEC Routemaster bus are icons of their time and location, and – despite being rather different classes of vehicle – are more similar that you might think.
Each was designed to mobilise as many people as possible, and thus had a monopoly in its respective market, and both designs endured long beyond their intended lifespans, with the Trabant produced from 1960 right up until the fall of the Berlin Wall, whilst the Routemaster remained in service until 2005, outlasting far more modern bus designs.
Of course whilst this meant each became a symbol of the society they mobilised, they were also seen as polluting, noisy, uncomfortable, and dangerous by the end of their lives. And if you don’t think a Routemaster is dangerous you’ve never been on one at 2am. Although to be fair that applies to all of London’s buses.
Back to the model, and PsychoWard’s Trabant 601 captures the East German peoples’ car beautifully, particularly considering the parts limitation of the 10258 donor set. Building instructions are available too, so if you own the 10258 London Bus set and you’d like to turn one classic transportation icon into another you can find out how to do so at the Eurobricks forum – Click the link above to take a look.
Skoda might produce some rather good (if fantastically dull) cars today, but it hasn’t always been that way. Prior to Volkswagen’s ownership, Skoda were, um… let’s just say ‘not highly regarded’, causing the Czech brand to become the butt of a million mostly-bad jokes.
Part of that unwanted reputation was due to this car, the 105/Estelle, built from 1976 to 1990.
Designed for poor quality Eastern European roads, the 105 had its engine in the back for better traction, and because the Soviet Union refused to let Skoda built it in a more modern front-engined front-wheel-drive configuration, as it would have been better than all the crap made elsewhere in the bloc. Communism literally preferred to build a worse car than to allow the inequality created by progress.
Quality was also woeful, even if the design was actually OK, but at least that meant is was consistent with the other Soviet Union products of the time.
Today though, the rear-engined rear-wheel-drive layout makes the Skoda 105/Estelle something of a curiosity, with a reasonable following that it probably wouldn’t enjoy if it had been built as Skoda originally intended.
This excellent (and very orange) Model Team replica of the Skoda 105 comes from Legostalgie of Flickr, who has captured the car in its rear-engined rubbishness wonderfully in brick form. A detailed interior, opening doors, front trunk, and engine cover all feature, and there’s lots more to see at Legostalgie’s Skoda 105 album.
Click the link above to view all of the ace imagery, and to warm your hands on the rear window.
We like crap cars here at TLCB. The office car park features several. OK, by ‘like’, we mean ‘own’, but we do genuinely like it when they’re built from Lego bricks.
This is one such crap car, the Lada 1200 / VAZ-2101, and whilst the car-based efforts of communism were almost uniformly terrible, there is a lot to like about the Lada 1200.
Developed from the then decade-old Fiat 124, the Lada 1200 actually had a throughly excellent base, as back in the 1960s Fiat were one of the most forward-thinking and technologically advanced manufacturers* in Europe, with the Fiat 124 winning the European Car of the Year award in 1967.
The Lada 1200 was therefore actually quite a good car when it was launched, with a strengthened chassis, more advanced overhead cam engine, and the Fiat’s one key foible – rust – almost eliminated by Lada and VAZ’s use of much thicker steel and paint.
Of course decent engineering can be very much undone by poor build quality, limited competition, and corner cutting, which sums up communistical manufacturing nicely, and thus the Lada (and Soviet cars in general) quickly became known for being total crap. And that was even when compared to rivals like the Austin Allegro.
We’ll much rather take this one then – which features build quality on a level never achieved in Lada factory – from TLCB newcomer Legostalgie.
Legostalgie’s Model Team recreation of the Lada 1200 / VAZ-2101is superb, with opening doors, hood and trunk, a detailed engine and interior, and infinitely better build quality than the real thing.
Neatly pictured on a grey sofa (we think!), Legostalgie also proves you don’t need a professional set-up to Photo like a Pro, and there’s more to see of his wonderful Lada 1200 / VAZ-2101 model on Flickr by clicking these words.
This 1950s East German oddity is not a tractor. It is, apparently, a RS09 ‘universal carrier’, and we’ve deliberately chosen an image that hides just how weird it is. Powered by a two cylinder diesel engine that made about one bhp, the RS09 was produced from the mid-’50s until the mid-’70s, and could be attached to any number of Communistical mechanised items.
Built by Jundis, this smart Technic recreation of the RS09 features a straightforward digging bucket in place of some of the weirder attachments, and also includes a working two-cylinder piston engine with power-take-offs, a mechanically raising/lowering drawbar linkage, and an oscillating front axle with steering.
There’s more to see of this Radschlepper 09 Universal Carrier on Eurobricks, where you can see further imagery including a photo of the decidedly strange real thing, and where Jundis assures us some of the weirder attachments are soon to follow. Click here to check it out.
Every day’s a school day. Following yesterday’s post featuring a vehicle by a successful German truck manufacturer that we’d never heard of, here’s another.
This is an Industrieverband Fahrzeugbau W 50, or ‘IFA W50’ for short, which is what we shall definitely be calling it. Constructed in East Germany from 1965 to 1990, the IFA W 50 was titled simply after the conglomerate that ran all of the East German vehicle manufactures at the time, including Trabant, Wartburg, and a host of other rubbish Communist companies, plus a few designs pinched from West German DKW.
Like many manufacturers behind the Iron Curtain the W 50 was produced in huge numbers, partly because it was built for so long, and partly because, well… you couldn’t buy much else.
Almost 600,000 IFA W 50s were built during its 25 year production run across over sixty body varieties, with up to 80% exported throughout the Soviet Union and sympathetic countries in some years, until Germany reunified and the Union began to collapse, abruptly ending production in 1990.
This neat Lego recreation of the East German truck comes from Clemens Schneider (aka popider) of Flickr and it features a working tipper and a rather accurate drivetrain too. Head to Clemens’ ‘IFA W 50’ album via the link to see all the images.
Italy, no stranger to maniacal despots itself, had a nice little business selling its old products to scumbag dictatorships in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. The most famous of these is probably the Polski-Fiat 126, built under license in Poland alongside the Italian made, and actually quite good, Fiat 126.
The two cars were almost identical in the 1970s, with the Polski version using a few lower specified components but otherwise being indistinguishable save for a little ‘p’ on badge.
The Italian-made 126 ceased production in 1980 after an eight year production run, however the Polski-Fiat version, with its Communist standard long waiting list (with Poles largely dependent upon coupons from the Government to buy one), survived for another twenty years, by which point it really was a turd.
This wonderful model of the Polski-Fiat 126 isn’t a turd at all though, being a thoroughly excellent recreation of the humble Polish peoples’ car. Built by previous bloggee Dornbi of Flickr it captures the real 126p beautifully (and is pictured above alongside an equally good communist counterpart Trabant).
Head to Poland (via Italy) sometime in the 1980s at Dornbi’s photostream by clicking on the link above.
White, cheap, and made of plastic. ‘Qualities’ shared by both this Lego model of a Traband 601S and, er… an actual Trabant 601S. The Trabant’s plasticky bodywork was actually produced from material derived out of recycled cotton, which meant it didn’t rust and was readily available in an economy where metal was precious, and – perhaps surprisingly – it was also quite an advanced car when it launched.
However four decades of zero development due to its monopoly in the East German market (thanks communism) meant that the Trabant quickly became a symbol of everything that was wrong with the other side of the iron curtain.
Fortunately once the wall fell East Germans rushed a) into West Germany, and b) into cars that weren’t a Trabant. Still, it was a vehicle that mobilised a nation, and it is therefore one of the most important car designs in history. Flickr’s Dornbi has paid tribute to the little East German oddity with his lovely Creator/Model Team version, complete with opening doors, raising hood, and an interior resplendent in ‘medium nougat’. See more on Flickr via the link above.
We continue the small-scale theme with this, László Torma‘s ace Speed Champions scale Trabant 601. An unlikely race car, László’s Trabant uses a be-stickered curved brick for the doors which he kept because his son said they were cool (the Elves agree by the way), and thus the Trabbi has a slightly more sporting nature than was originally intended. Clever techniques have been used throughout the build to recreate the communist car’s famous shape and there’s more to see of László’s 601 in both race and road car specification on Flickr – click the link above to take a look.
Iiiin the red corner, representing West Germany, driven by Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, Hermann Göring and Pope Pius XI, and powered through the 1930s by eight cylinders and a supercharger, it’s the Großer Mercedes 770!
Aaaand in the beige corner, representing East Germany, driven by peasants, and powered through the 1950s… and 60s… and 70s… and 80s… and 90s… by two cylinders and hope, it’s the Trabant Combi!
Two very different yet very German cars today, represented by two very different but very excellent Lego creations.
Above we have the Großer Mercedes 770, built by Aleh of Eurobricks in Technic form and absolutely packed with amazing technology. Aleh’s recreation of one of Mercedes-Benz’s most opulent vehicles includes Power Functions drive and steering, an inline-8 engine hooked up to a three-speed+R gearbox, working all-wheel mechanical brakes powered by a Medium motor, all-wheel suspension, LED lights, and SBrick bluetooth control.
At the other end of the automotive scale we have this wonderfully replicated Model Team style Trabant Combi, resplendent in an authentic hearing-aid beige and built by fellow TLCB debutant Dan Falussy. With opening doors, hood and hatchback plus folding seats, Dan’s homage to the world’s finest cotton car (yes really) is about as well equipped as the real thing, and very probably better built.
There’s more to see of each model on Eurobricks (as well as Flickr in the Trabant’s case) via the links above. Take a look and choose your winner!
Cars from behind the Iron Curtain were almost universally crap. Cars like this, this, this, and this for instance.
But there was one exception. A glorious, wonderful, magnificent oasis hidden in the vast automotive wastelands of Communist Europe. Tatra.
Now famed for their indestructible off-road trucks, Tatra used to produce cars too, and what cars they were. This is their incredible 603, powered by a 100bhp air-cooled V8 mounted in the rear, and with an amazing aerodynamic body that was extensively wind-tunnel tested way back in the 1950s.
This stunning Lego replica of the 603 is the work of Horcik Designs of Flickr, and it faithfully recreates the T2 version of Tatra’s masterpiece. Working steering, suspension, V8 engine, opening doors, hood and engine cover, and a six-seat interior are all included, but Horcik’s real party-piece is surely that spectacular bodywork.
Here at TLCB we usually feature vehicles that are powerful, fast, and highly desirable. The East-German Trabant was… er, none of those things.
Built between 1957 and 1991 the Trabant was almost the only car available to the East Germans trapped behind the Iron Curtain. Powered by a two cylinder two-stroke engine originally designed by DKW (who would later go on to form Audi) it was slow, uncomfortable and horrendously polluting, but engine aside the Trabant was actually quite an advanced design.
Front-wheel-drive, independent suspension, and unibody construction were all unusual for the time, but alas so was using gravity to get the fuel into the engine, rather than pumping it. This of course meant that the fuel tank had to be mounted above the engine, and that made a crashing a Trabant an often fiery experience.
Further ‘innovative’ thinking was evident in the Trabant’s bodywork, which was constructed from a material called Duroplast. Made from recycled cotton, Duroplast was chosen as metal in the Eastern Bloc was scarce and expensive. This had the side benefit of giving the Trabant incredible longevity; whilst its West German counterparts from Volkswagen, Opel, and Mercedes had rusted their way into scrapyards, the Trabant could go on and on, immune to oxidisation.
Being the sole car available to the people of East Germany the waiting list for a new Trabant stretched between one and two decades, depending on where you lived, and the design was pretty much unchanged during its entire 40 year production run.
What started as a flawed, but nevertheless reasonable little car in the late ’50s became increasingly outdated in the ’60s, and by the 1970s the Trabant was an unfunny joke, and it still had almost a 20 year monopoly remaining. No car demonstrates the folly, and ultimately the cruelty, of Communism better than this one.
East and West Germany were re-unified when the Berlin Wall fell in 1990, and the Trabant’s monopoly on the new car market in the East collapsed overnight. Up against the likes of the Volkswagen Golf, Opel Astra, Ford Escort and countless others, Trabant production ceased just a year later.
Around 3.7 million Trabants were produced in sedan and – as pictured here – station wagon forms. Following the collapse of East German Communism in 1989 thousands of families loaded their Trabants with as much as they could carry and made the long drive (which became known as the ‘Trabi Trail’) via Czechoslovakia or Hungary to reach Western Germany and a new life.
Many then abandoned the little car that brought them, buying a used Volkswagen or Opel instead, but Flickr’s Vilém Šustr remembers the vehicle that, even if under the oppression of Communism, mobilised a country. There’s more to see of his wonderful Model Team recreation of the Trabant 601 Combi on Flickr – join the Trabi Trail by clicking the link above.
Communist revolutionary, ‘Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars of the Soviet Union’, and Ming the Merciless inspiration Vladimir Lenin is one of the most influential figures of the 20th century, pioneering the development of communism and the Marxist socialist state.
Decreeing that all resources should be under common ownership – thereby removing the need for money, reliance on social class, and inequality – Lenin was driven around in a 1915 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost, modified by Adolphe Degrease in 1922 to run on tracks, whilst 6 million people died of starvation during the Povolzhye famine. Yay communism!
Nevertheless, Lenin’s Silver Ghost was a very cool vehicle, and today it resides in Russia’s Gorky museum. If that’s a bit far to travel, previous bloggee Karwik has the answer, with his gorgeous Town-scale version of the unique vintage Roller. Click the link above to make the jump to Flickr.
This unassuming little white car is one of the most important in European history. Behind the Berlin Wall Communism was giving everyone a prosperous and bright future… wait, no, that’s not right. It was oppressing and crushing the people. Yeah, that’s it. And one of the ways it oppressed and crushed the people was by limiting them to one choice of wheels; the Trabant. But this did mean the Trabant became, by virtue of monopolisation, a great mobilisation force in the Eastern bloc.
Thankfully when the Wall fell and Trabants flooded back into the West many were abandoned as newly liberated Eastern Europeans switched into cars that didn’t pollute four times more than the European average, weren’t made of cardboard (yes, really) and also that didn’t explode in a head on collision.
But spare a thought for the humble Trabant. It may have been rubbish, but without it Eastern Europe would’ve been powered by the bicycle alone for 30 years.
Oh, we nearly forgot; this lovely Lego version is the work of Dornbi on Flickr. Check this and his other creations out here.