Tag Archives: Soviet

Messing Up Afghanistan Since 1978

The news coming from Afghanistan at the moment is heartbreaking. A rare case of successful international cooperation, the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan and subsequent defeat of its Taliban ‘government’ brought freedom, equal-ish rights, and prosperity to millions of Afghans.

It also brought about a fantastically corrupt (although democratically elected) government and the deaths of tens of thousands, but despite this it would be hard to argue that many Afghans – particularly women – weren’t better off for the intervention.

Which makes it tremendously sad that all of those gains (and the blood spilt to achieve them) may now be lost thanks to a hasty politically-motivated Western withdrawal, with the Taliban regaining power even quicker than they lost it twenty years ago.

More tragically, it’s not the first time that foreign powers have put their own politics before the lives of Afghans…

This is a Soviet BTR-80, a remarkable 8×8 amphibious armoured personal carrier, as used in the Soviet-Afghan War.

Back in 1978 a coup in Afghanistan overthrew the presidency, replacing it with the ‘Democratic Republic of Afghanistan’, a puppet Communist government supported by the Soviet Union, which many of the Afghan people resisted via a brutal guerrilla war.

The UN ordered the Soviet Union to withdraw, which they ignored and engaged in a 9 year war in support of the Communist government, razing villages, destroying farmland, laying millions of landmines, and committing rape and torture.

Sanctions and a mass boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics followed, but worse was to come for the Soviet Union, who ultimately lost the war to the Afghan Mujahideen and the international community supporting them, which – many argue – hastened the collapse of the Soviet Union itself.

The BTR-80 used towards the end of the conflict was still a mighty impressive piece of hardware though, and so too is this spectacular fully RC recreation by Sariel.

With eight-wheel-drive, four-wheel-steering, all-wheel suspension, a three-speed gearbox, motorised hatches, a remotely operable gun turret, rotating and lit searchlight, a working winch, and powered propellors all controlled via bluetooth thanks to three SBricks, Sariel’s BTR-80 is an engineering masterclass.

You can watch all of those incredible features in action via the video below, plus there are more stunning images of Sariel’s creation available to view at his ‘BTR-80’ Flickr album. Click here to make the jump to a pointless war in Afghanistan sometime in the late ’80s.

And back to that disastrous piece of Soviet foreign policy; even after the Soviet Union withdrew defeated, peace in Afghanistan was not forthcoming. A civil war continued to rage, taking the death toll to as many as two million Afghans.

Eventually, after years of turmoil, it was the Taliban who ended up in power, which brings us right back to 2001, the international intervention, and now – twenty years later – the rapid undoing of everything that was won.

Donate to Unicef in Afghanistan here.

Why Do Skodas Have Heated Rear Windows?

To keep your hands warm when you’re pushing!

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.

The Dissappeared

Revealed, somewhat oddly, at the 1970 London Motorshow, the Volga GAZ-24 was a large luxury car produced by the Soviet Union for – as was often the case – its own military and Government officials.

A special permit was required to purchase one (because Communism), which meant that we’d have been rather nervous if we saw a GAZ-24 driving behind us; by the mid-’70s there were an estimated 10,000 political prisoners in the Soviet Union, and there was a lot of space in the GAZ’s trunk for bodies…

This stunning recreation of the Volga GAZ-24 comes from previous bloggee Legostalgie, who has captured the classic American styling brilliantly (the Soviet Union may have hated America, but they loved its cars).

A detailed engine bay, realistic interior, four opening doors, and an opening trunk large enough to enable a few ‘disappearances’ all feature, and there’s much more to see at Legostalgie’s ‘Volga GAZ-24’ album on Flickr. Click the link above to obtain your special permit.

Call the Emergency Serv… Oh

It’d been a peaceful week here at TLCB Towers. Sure there was an Elf fight to break up after one of them found an almost empty (but evidently still delicious) glue stick in the bin, but otherwise creations have been found, meal tokens have been awarded, and no-one has been squashed. Until today.

This is a GAZ 66 fire truck, an all-wheel-drive Soviet water tank on wheels that is still used in Russia today. Well, this one isn’t, being rather smaller, but it’s just as impressive as the real thing.

Built by Danifill of Eurobricks, this fully RC Technic recreation of the Soviet-era fire truck proved to be a throughly capably Elf-smushing machine.

Lured in by the functioning flashing blue lights and the fact that, well – it’s a fire engine, the Elf at the controls drew in a crowd of Elven admirers, before promptly squashing them thanks to the GAZ’s genuinely surprising turn of speed.

An RC Buggy Motor, Servo steering, a BuWizz bluetooth battery, live-axle suspension, and four-wheel-drive deliver equip Danifill’s creation with impressive Elf-smushing performance, whilst a tilting cab, V8 engine, opening and locking doors, and detailed fire apparatus add nothing to that, but do look most excellent.

There’s lots more of Danifill’s remote control Technic GAZ 66 Fire Truck to see at the Eurobricks discussion forum, including further imagery and a link to a video of the model in action, plus you can see one of the builder’s earlier fire engines to feature here by clicking this bonus link.

Take a look via the links above whilst we apply some Elven first aid…

Cotton Communism

From one iconic classic to another, although this one perhaps for very different reasons…

The Trabant 601 was a reasonable little car when it first launched in the 1960s, despite the shortage of metal in post-war Europe forcing its construction from cotton, and its two-stroke 600cc engine.

The cotton body meant that it didn’t rust, which – combined with a near monopoly in East Germany and a production run until the collapse of the Soviet Union some thirty years later – led to well over two million Trabants being on the roads at one point.

That number quickly fell once East Germans could buy Volkswagens and Opels instead though, as even by the ’80s the 601 was hopelessly outdated, such is the folly of Communism.

Cue this excellent Model Team version of the Trabant 601, built by Flickr’s Legostalgie who has recreated the classic cotton car superbly in brick form. A detailed interior, engine bay, and opening doors, hood and trunk are included, and there’s more to see at Legostalgie’s ‘Trabant 601’ album by clicking here.

Vintage Erection

If the content of TLCB’s spam folder is to be believed, we’re in for a future of certain erectile disfunction. However, not all old things have trouble getting it up, as this unusual GAZ-AA ‘Tower Wagon’ by Kent Kashiwabara proves.

The GAZ-AA was effectively a Ford Model A constructed under license in Russia, long before the two countries hated one another and the Soviet Union began buying everything from Fiat.

This particular GAZ-AA is based on the Model-A pick-up, but features an extending platform tower mounted behind the cab that can whir skywards, in Kent’s model thanks to some cunningly concealed Power Functions motors.

Remote control drive and steering also feature and there’s more to see of Kent’s erection at his ‘GAZ’ album on Flickr. Click the link above to get it up.

Back in the Dnepr

This wonderful creation is a KMZ-Dnepr K650, a Soviet Ukrainian motorcycle based on the 1930’s BMW R71. Whilst this version is 650cc, early bikes were fitted with a 98cc Wanderer engine design taken from Germany as part of reparations for World War 2, before KMZ’s own much larger 650cc was used for the rest of the design’s long production run.

Of course the BMW bit of the KMZ-Dnepr pre-dates war reparations, as the Soviet Union officially licensed the design from Germany before the two countries later went to war. In fact Germany and Russia held talks about becoming allies, with only Hitler’s ideological greed preventing Stalin from agreeing. Had they found common ground then this TLCB Writer would probably be typing this in German.

Fortunately Hitler and Stalin didn’t team up, and Germany invaded the Soviet Union just a year after the deal to license the BMW R71 was signed. This led – rather oddly – to the bike fighting on both sides of the conflict; the BMW version for the Axis Powers and the Soviet IMZ-Ural copy for Russia.

Production of the KMZ-Dnepr version shown here commenced in Ukraine in 1946, and continued right up to the fall of the Soviet Union, with both civilian and military versions produced. This beautifully presented replica of the KMZ-Dnepr K650 comes from KMbricklab, making their TLCB debut, and depicts the German-Russian-Ukrainian bike in both civilian and (awesome) military two-wheel-drive sidecar variants.

Gorgeous detailing and clever building techniques are evident in abundance and there’s lots more of KMbricklab’s superb build to see at their ‘KMZ-Dnepr K650’ album on Flickr. Click the link above to make the jump to Soviet-era Ukraine.

*Today’s lightly butchered title song.

Nice Niva

We often mock Communist-era Eastern European cars for being slow, highly polluting, ageing designs built for far longer than they should have been. Because we’re so much better in the West…

So here’s a Communist-era Eastern European car that’s a slow, highly polluting, ageing design that’s been built for far longer than it should have been. And we absolutely love it.

No, we’re not consistent.

Anyway, this is the Lada Niva / VAZ-2121, a wonderful compact off-roader that was not only more advanced than the famous Western offerings of the time (cough Land Rover Defender cough), it’s still in production without becoming just another enormous luxury SUV (cough Land Rover Defender cough).

This lovely Model Team recreation of the Niva captures the real car brilliantly, with opening doors, hood and tailgate, a detailed interior and engine bay, plus some suitable over-landing accompaniments mounted on the roof.

Flickr’s Legostalgie is the builder and there’s more of this superb Soviet 4×4 to see at his ‘Lada Niva / VAZ-2121’ album – take a look via the link above!

Slowly Sovieting

Some might think today’s title could refer to Russia’s creeping direction under its definitely fairly  democratically elected President, but – fortunately for us as we don’t want to experience Novichok poisoning – it also relates perfectly to this; Sariel’s amazing fully remote controlled pneumatic and motorised Ural 375D 6×6 truck.

Sariel‘s latest astonishing creation is a spectacularly engineered replica of the mighty Soviet military truck, built entirely from Lego pieces, plus a few choice third-party-supplied enhancements.

The first of these is an SBrick bluetooth controller, which allows the four-motor 6×6 drive, steering, servo-powered 3-speed gearbox, three pneumatically locking differentials, and Brickstuff LED lights to all be controlled remotely via a mobile phone or other bluetooth device.

Sariel has further enhanced his model with RC4WD ‘Rock Crusher’ tyres, fitted to Lego rims and mounted to live axle suspension on axles 1 and 3, with pendular suspension on axle 2. A motorised rear winch, working V8 engine, opening doors and hood, and a canvas load cover complete the build, and make Sariel’s Ural one of the most realistic and technically accurate trucks of the year so far.

There’s a whole lot more of this incredible creation to see at the Eurobricks forum, plus the complete gallery of stunning imagery is available to view on Flickr, where there are even a few images that seem to depict a TLCB Elf in shot, but we might be imagining that.

You can also check out a video of the Ural 375D 6×6 in action below, in which the working functions, bare chassis, and a pug named Muffin can all be viewed.

YouTube Video

Whole Lotta Lada

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.

*What the hell happened?

Heavy Metal

This is some heavy metal. The Ural 43206 features the usual terrible Soviet name, but otherwise it’s a most excellent heavy-duty off-road truck.

This Model Team recreation of the Ural 43206 is equally excellent, and it comes from previous bloggee Krzysztof Cytacki (aka dirtzonemaster).

Featuring a full remote control drivetrain, Krysztof’s model deploys two XL Motors to drive all four wheels, with impressive suspension on both axles, and a Power Functions IR receiver mounted in the cab.

Of course as anyone who’s put XL Motor torque through a LEGO UV-joint will know, off-roading with a driveline made from plastic can cause a few issues, usually in the form of a UV-joint exploding.

This isn’t something that will afflict Krzysztof’s Ural however, as he’s replaced the LEGO UV-joints in his model with custom metal ones, allowing for proper off-road ability.

A canvas load cover, opening tailgate, and detailed cab complete the build, and there’s more to see of Krzysztof’s metal-enhanced Ural 43206 off-road truck at both Flickr and via the video below, which includes a suitably metallic soundtrack. Click the links to take a look!

YouTube Video

It’s Not Easy Being Green

Green has traditionally (and logically) been LEGO’s colour of choice for flora, being used for trees, plants, and grassy baseplates. It also features as a stripe in fictional energy company Octan’s livery, but that’s about as far as it went for green pieces for decades.

In recent times though, LEGO’s range of green hues has expanded massively, with ‘sand green’, ‘lime green’, ‘dark green’, ‘blueish green’ and, as here, ‘olive green’.

Despite increase in variety of greens however, the pieces within each hue are often still rarer than evidence of humility from Donald Trump, which explains why Rolands Kirpis took a year to find all the olive green parts required for his Ural 375D. Find them he did though, and his 12 month search paid off as his Ural looks stunning.

Underneath the olive green exterior Rolands’ truck is fully remote controlled, with three L motors driving all six wheels, a Medium motor powering the steering, along with working suspension, opening doors and hood, plus a detailed interior and engine bay.

There’s loads more of Rolands’ brilliant build to see at his photostream – click the link above to go (olive) green.

Soviet Snowrunner

This is a UAZ 3151, one of the Soviet Union’s many fantastically-boringly-titled, but actually very capable off-roaders. Built by Keymaker, this stunning fully RC recreation of the Russian off-roader not only looks the part in both standard and off-road modified forms, it’s absolutely packed with brilliant Technic engineering.

Drive for all four wheels comes from two L Motors whilst a Servo controls the steering. A Medium Motor operates front and rear remotely locking differentials, and not only are both axles suspended, the suspension height can be adjusted via an L Motor to vary the ground clearance.

These off-road mods are apparently inspired the video game ‘Snowrunner’, and Keymaker has gone further with his Technic model equipping it with a removable hardtop roof, removable bodywork, folding rear seats, an opening glovebox, opening and locking doors, a working inline-4 engine, and LED head and tail lights.

It’s an incredible build and one that’s definitely worth a closer look. Head to Eurobricks for full details and a video of the UAZ in action, and to Bricksafe for the complete image gallery, where you can find outdoor shots and pictures of the model in various states of off-road modification.

Skies over Suez

We love a ’50s MiG. Sure they were a symbol of the oppression of millions, a regime seemingly intent on causing nuclear annihilation (not on their own we might add), and the terror of the Cold War, but they looked so cool!

In service from the early 1950s, almost 11,000 MiG-17s were built for use by a wide variety of scumbag dictatorships, and – somewhat unbelievably – three militaries still operate them today, some ’70 years after the design first flew.

This particular recreation of the Soviet fighter is an Egyptian Air Force unit, as built by John C. Lamarck, and it looks every bit as cool as the real thing. A removable tail-section reveals the jet engine inside, there’s working landing gear, accuarate Egyptian Air Force decals, and a range of exciting-looking weaponry that was used in Egypt’s defeat of the British, French and Israelis during the Suez Crisis in 1967.

What were we saying about the MiG-17 and scumbag dictatorships? Yeh, in this case TLCB’s home nation might not be able to hold the moral ground…

Head to John’s ‘MiG-17F’ album on Flickr via the link above to blow something British up in 1967.

A Canadian in Siberia

Canadians are known for their politeness and generosity. Although that might just be in comparison to their noisy neighbour in the basement. Still, even Canadian inventions demonstrate this altruism, with the country responsible for insulin, the pacemaker, the garbage bag, the electric wheelchair, road lines, and the Wonderbra, all of which – we’re sure you’ll agree – have been massively beneficial to mankind.

Cue today’s creation, a Ural 5920 tracked off-road truck, based on a design shared by the Canadians (of course) in the early 1970s. The Soviets took another decade to copy re-engineer the Canadian design, fitting a Ural 375 cab and starting production the mid-’80s until the collapse of the Soviet Union.

This magnificent fully remote controlled Technic recreation of the Ural 5920 captures the Canadian Soviet tracked truck brilliantly, including the two huge track bogies that swivel thanks to motorised linear-actuators. An XL Motor drives each pair of tracks (plus the V8 piston engine under the hood), and each track wheel is suspended by an individual torsion beam, allowing the model to traverse a landscape as varied (albeit smaller) as that travelled by the real thing.

Previous bloggee Samolot is the builder behind this amazing creation and there’s more to see – including a video of the model in action and detailed photos of the remarkable drivetrain – at the Eurobricks discussion forum, plus the complete image gallery can be viewed via Bricksafe here. Click the links above to head into the wilds of Siberia.