"Moskvitch" (that means "Muscovite") is a brand enough well-known in Europe, because some model was imported in some West european country, until 15-20 years ago; because of this, it suffered the confrontation with the Western cars, for the poor quality and construction. This brand always realized popular cars, not always remarkable, but it realized also enough interesting prototypes, never entered in production for the lack of money and of resources.

The beginnings

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In 1930, the AZLK ("Avtomobilny Zavod Imeni Leninskogo Komsomola", in english "Youth Communist League Auto Works") was founded. This name remains also after the revolution of 1991. The AZLK is, therefore, one of the oldest Russian automotive plants (with the GAZ): in the upper picture, we can see the administrative building, a square construction with 12-13 floors. 

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The factory, initially a simple division of GAZ, launch its first non-GAZ car in 1939: the "10", first pic above. At this time, the factory was called "KIM" (Kommunist Youth International); the "10" model was submitted to the hard judgement of Stalin, who censured the design of the headlights, the coachwork with only two doors and others little things. Result: the car was totally modified (i don't think that the designers refused to obey Stalin...), therefore the production of the "10" type was started too late, and was very limited. In the post-war years, the factory changes her name in "MZMA" ("Small Car Moscow Factory"), and produce the first car with "Moskvitch" brand: the  "400/420" (second and third pic above, and, in the fourth pic, the same model on the assembling line). This model was a copy of the Opel Kadett (the model  before the war), but with four doors, and not only two, always because of the Stalin's orders. The "400/420" was in production until 1956: sure, it was a outdated car during the '50s, with a technology (and design) typical of a '30s car.

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In 1956, the "402" (up, to the left) came into existance. This was a model much more modern in the design...but with the old engine of the period before the war, 1.2 with only 35 hp, and gearbox with only three speeds. This defect was resolved with the following version "407" (second picture), with a new engine (aluminium head, 45 hp, 4 speeds); in the third picture, the "403". The range of this model was produced until the mid-'60s...

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...also in 4x4 versions: up, the "410" with 35 hp engine, the "410-H" with a more modern 45 hp unit, and the "411" station wagon. All these cars were realized 40 years before Subaru Forester and others! The total production of these special off-road versions, was approximately 12.000 units. The Moskvitch cars of the '60s were the early Russian cars that obtained some success for the export: the design (for the first time in Russia, available also with two-colours painting) was not very original, but pleasant.

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 In 1967, the "408" (first pic, above) cames into production. This car has the 1360 cc. engine, with gears-drive OHC, assembled by the UZAM, a factory located in the city of Ufa that produces airplane engines; on the following version ("412", third and fourth pic) the engine is a 1500 cc. with a traditional chain-drive OHC. The "408" was designed also with a coupč coachwork (second picture above, Moskvitch "408 Tourist"). 

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The Moskvitch "412" engine (first pic above), inspired to the BMW "1500" of the 1961, has an interesting feature: the cylinders barrels can be removed, therefore they can be easily replaced, extending the life of the engine. It's a not secondary value, considering that the Russians don't have specialized repair shops (and the replacement of an engine is very expensive for a Russian)! In the third and fourth pics above, the last version of  the "412": the "2140" (or "1500 SL" for the export), slightly modified with rubber bumpers and new rear lights, and always with the same 1500 cc. engine, still today used on the recent model "Sviatagor". The "412" was produced also by the automotive section of the weapon factory Izh of Izhevsk till the mid-'90s (the production of the Moskvitch version was stopped in the 1986). 


Racing cars - The Moskvitch F.1!

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The Moskvitch has tried also to partecipate to several competition, sometime with success. In the years '50, on the base of the pre-war "400/420", was realized the car in the two pics above: the "404" Sport, equipped with the same engine of the "400/420", but with four carburettors. This car has won three Russian Championships: but the concurrents were very few...

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In the 1951, the engineer I. Gladilin realized the first of a series of car specifically engineered for the competitions (although with power units derived from the normal production): the Moskvitch "G1" (first and second pics, above), with aluminium coachwork and a 1100 cc. engine, 70 hp, 190 km/h, derived from the model "405" (subsequently, this engine was replaced with the newer "407" engine). This power unit was even equipped with four carburettors derived from the motorcycle Izh-49 , therefore realized for a two-stroke engine! The total weight was 670 kg. Same techinical base for the "G2" (third, fourth and fifth pics), equipped with an aerodynamic coachwork (spider or hard-top), and capable of 223 km/h. This car won several speed records in USSR. 

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 In the 1961, the "G3" (first and second pics, above), designed by L. Shugorov and more derived from the production models, was launched. The engine was placed front, the tubular frame was renforced in comparison with the previous models; the suspension were indipendent on the front wheels. The engine -derived from the "407" model- received convex pistons, and the power was increased to 76 hp. In the 1963, the following "G4" (third and fourth pics, above) was realized, again with rear engine (derived from the "403" model), and equipped with better carburettors of Western production (Weber). The suspension were indipendent on both the axles, the power was 81 hp (92 hp with the following "412" engine). Also this car obtained several successes in the USSR championships.  

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In the '60s, the Soviet industry thinks to "show the muscles" also in the automotive competitions, realizing a F.1 CAR! In the 1965 the Moskvitch starts the developement of a 1500 cc. DOHC engine, 8 cylinders, with 200 hp/10.500 rpm (!), for the "G5" (first pic above), the car for the Russian ambitions in the F1. The engine was named "GD-1", and, already during the first tests, was capable to develope an effective power of 162 hp/6000 rpm. For the developement of the cylinders and the valves, the engine of the Vostok "S-360" motorcycle (parallel twin, DOHC) was taken as example (in the second pic, one head of the F1 engine). The camshafts works on roller bearings; the total weight of the engine, complete with four dual Weber carburettors, was 158 kg. Moreover, for the first time in Russia, disk brakes on all the wheels were adopted. The coachwork (realized in fiberglass) was developed in the wind tunnel. Although this effort, the lack of financing by the Soviet ministry for the sport activities stopped this interesting project. The "G5" was subsequently "recycled" for the national competitions, with a 4-in line engine derived from the "412" sedan, but with a new DOHC head, and with a displacement increased to 1840 cc, for a max power of 124 hp (third pic, above). The only remaining part of the F1 project, besided the chassis, was also the gearbox, specifically developed for the F1. Anyway, the Moskvitch "G5" remains as the only real effort of automotive challenge by the Soviet Union: unfortunately, the rockets for the war have stolen the money for the rockets on four wheels...a pity!

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With the normal models in production, the Moskvitch competed also in some international rallyes (up, one Moskvitch "407" and  two "412" rally). There were also very hard competitions, as the London-Mexico City 1968 (where the Russian team classified on second place), or the Safari-Rally in South Africa (third place). During the "Tour d'Europe" 1971, the Moskvitch team even obtained the first place, although the resources were not the sames of the Western factories!


Various prototypes

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During the '60s, the Moskvitch tried to produce, under the direction of Igor Aleksandrov Gladilin, also off-road vehicles: in the second and third pics above, the "415" and "416" (the number identifies the version, with soft or metal top; in the first pic above, instead, the first prototype of this vehicle, clearly copied from the American Jeep). The engine was the same of the "407" sedan, 1360 cc., 40 hp; the gearbox was with four speeds, with a 2-speeds transfer box; the max speed, 105 km/h. The mass-production of this vehicle was abandoned, to facilitate the production of the sedans. The project was reprised in the early '70s, with the more modern 1500 cc. engine of the "412", and the car was renamed Moskvitch "2150" (fourth and fifth pics above); unfortunately, also this renewed version remained as prototype.

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Always during the years '60s, the Moskvitch "408" engine equipped also a prototype of minivan (never went in production), essentially destined to be used as taxi, therefore quite important in the Soviet Union, where the collective transport was more important than the private transport. The "PT" (four pics above, in two different stages of realization), realized in the 1964-65 by the VNIITE, a Russian design institute, had the Moskvitch engine placed rear, in transversal position, and there were several interesting features, as the driving position adjustable through the longitudinal movement of the pedal block (with the seat in fixed position), and the seats realized in a stamped polyurethanic element, to reduce the price of production. The car -destined theorically to be produced in the city of Erevan, Armenia- features also a steel "space-frame" with a coachwork composed by plastic panels fixed on it: although the outdated engine, this was a very modern car, considering that the space-frame with plastic panels is still today used on several prototypes!

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 In the two pics above, another prototype realized by the NAMI, another Russian research institute: the NAMI-107 "Vasilek" ("vasilek" stands for "cornflower" in Russian), very important because it was the first Russian car with front wheel drive! The engine had 45 hp, and it was placed front, in transverse position. The designer of this car was E.V.Sabo; in the first pic, there is a drawing of the 1965, and in the second pic there is the prototype of the 1968. Anyway, also this car remained only a prototype, and the first Russian front-wheel-drive car, the Lada "Samara", was released only in the 1984! 

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For the normal production, the Moskvitch realized some interesting car, never entered in production for the lack of money. The first attempt was the prototype "3-5-3" of the 1970 (first pic above), quite traditional and with the same mechanical part of the "2140" (although the bigger dimensions of the coachwork), without important changes. There were other project to replace the "2140" (second pic above), and in the 1973 the prototype "3-5-6" (third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh pics) was realized. It had a not original look, but it was equipped with new suspensions, and the classic UZAM engine boosted to 103 hp, 1800 cc, two carburettors: not bad, for that period! Always with rear wheel drive, it was intended to be equipped also with a Borg-Warner automatic transmission: outstanding feature for a Russian car!

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Very interesting is the "C1" prototype (first six pics above, 1974), with a look similar to the first Saab 900! The engine was always the same of the "412" model, but with a displacement of 1700 cc, 81 hp, 150 km/h. The wheel drive was still of rear type, but the suspensions were totally new: front, the McPherson system; rear, with indipendent triangle arms, like the BMW of that period! Also this car was remained a prototype: a shame. The "C1" was followed, in the 1976, by the "C2" prototype (seventh pic above), with a look enough similar to the Opel Kadett D-series, and with some element of passive safety, as the cowl with programmed deformation. 

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In the first seventh pics above, the "C3" prototype (1976), with a typical '70s five-doors aerodynamic coachwork, and equipped with the same engine and transmission of the "C1". This car, about the design, is similar to the first front-wheel-drive car of  Moskvitch: the "2141" (1986). It was intended to be produced also in a sedan version. Like the "C1", also  this car had the BMW-style rear suspensions, and, indeed, an exemplar of BMW "520" was available at the factory for the tests and the comparisons. The last evolution of these cars was the "C-4" (eighth pic above), with a very interesting sport look!

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Between the years '80s and '90s, there were also attempts to realize some new MPV vehicle. In the three pics above, a bigger model of the same year, called "2139-Arbat", with a very modern design (the squared Renault "Espace" was realized only 4 years before) and with 7 seats, sliding door on the right side and 180 degrees-turnable seats, like the best Western realizations. Unfortunately, also this model never entered in production.


Years '80s and recent models

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As seen, the Moskvitch realized several interesting prototypes during the years '70s. Unfortunately, the team of Moskvitch's engineers was sadly forced by the Soviet government to copy simply the Simca "1308" (Car Of The Year 1976) for the final production car: one of the usual limitations to the Russian capacities...Indeed, the early drawings (first pic above) were not bad, with a modern front part, but the definitive version was equipped with more usual grille and headlights. Finally, in the 1986, the "2141", or "Aleko" for the export (second, third, fourth and fifth pics above) was launched. The "2141" has the front wheel drive, but with the engine fitted forward the front axle, longitudinally: also some Western cars uses this solution (the driveline of "2141" is the same of the Audi 100), that, anyway, is not ideal to obtain a good stability, with the weight balanced all on the front. The design, as said, is similar to the Simca 1307/1308, but, indeed, only the windows are in common with the French car; the engine/gearbox group was engineered with the English firm "Ricardo". 

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This car is not very remarkable, but it's one of the few Soviet cars with an enough good aerodynamic (Cx=0,34, first photo above); in the previous years, this feature never was taken in consideration...In the second photo, above, a sedan prototype (1997); the definitive sedan versions (called "Kalita" and "Kniaz Vladimir") are slightly different. In the third pic, a 4x4 prototype, called "Ivan Susanin", and, in the fourth and fifth pics, two rally version (the second with 4x4 drive).

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The Moskvitch "2141", although a technical layout not very advanced, was realized also in some special version. The "2141-KR" (four pics above) is the extreme developement of the muscovite car; it was realized in the 1989 for the Group "B" rallies, and it has a 1995 cc. engine -placed centrally- with two Weber carburettors, and 175 hp of max power! This car, after a not brilliant career, is now in a private collection. An exemplar of  Lancia Delta S4 is surely more prestigious...but it's not strange and particular like a Moskvitch rally car!


Recently, the Moskvitch tried to update his image, with a luxury car! In the four pics above, the Moskvitch "Ivan Kalita", based on the stretched  floorpan of the "2141", but with a new Renault engine (an old engine for Renault...), 2.0 injection, OHC 8 valves, 113 hp: for a "souplesse" drive, it's good enough (but also a newer 2.0 16V, always Renault, 140 hp, is available). The design has the signs of the "2141" structure, but it's enough pleasant. This car is produced in limited edition (only 100 per years), and the price -for the Russians people- is unapproachable!

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In the first pic above, a strange variant of the "Kalita": the "Duet", a two-seats car obtained simply "cutting" the original car (but a cabrio could be more pleasant...). In the second and third čics, a simpler version of the "Kalita": the "Kniaz Vladimir" ("Prince Vladimir"). It appears much more old than the "Kalita", and looks like an old Ford "Granada". In the third picture, the rear of the "Kniaz Vladimir", with the "modern" look of the lights (sic!), and the gothic characters on the plate...In the fourth pic, a "Kniaz Vladimir" of the GAI (the Russian police for the road traffic), always with Renault engine (2.0, SOHC, eight valves, 113 hp; good enough, but, if a band of thiefs has a BMW...bye bye, money. Moreover, for the "Kniaz Vladimir", a restyling of the rear part was planned (prototype in the fifth pic above); also the mechanical part will be modified, with a new engine (always Renault 2.0, but 16V with 140 hp) and new three-lever rear suspensions. 

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 The "2141" was update, and now the model is called "Sviatagor", in the first pic above. The engines are the old "UZAM" 1.6, the VAZ 1.7 (the same of the Lada Niva), and the Renault 2000 with 113 hp. The components were improved (now of western production: Valeo, Lucas, Hella, ecc.), and now the cars are slightly more reliable. In the second pic, the long-base version, called "Ivan Dolgoruki" (the name of the Moscow's founder); in the third and fourth pics, two pick-up versions. 

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Now, the AZLK produces also some Renault model under license ("19", "Clio", etc.). But the old former-Soviet brand is working in order to update its image. The main project for the future is the project "X1", that features the protoype of a new van in the two pics above. This MPV vehicle is planned also in a 4x4 version. But this is the less surprising realization...

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...because the project "X1" features even a luxury car, the "Alexander Nevsky", in the three pics above! This car, intended to compete with the highest luxury brands as BMW, Mercedes and Audi (!), will be equipped with V6 (3.000 cc, 185 hp) and V8 engines, and also with four and five-cylinders Diesel engines. The coachwork has a pleasant design, with the old-style vertical rear glass; the factory declares a Cx=0,30. The warranty for the corrosion will be more than 10 years (a very good progress in comparison with the old models...), and the price will be of 22.000 $, simply unapproachable for the 99% of the Russian people! I read that this car, realized with the collaboration of a German institute, will be even equipped with an INTEL processor for GPS and others on-board systems (!!!). True? False? We will verify in future...currently, it's a fact that the Moscuvite factory has a terrible lack of money: recently, even the erogation of electric energy for the whole plant was dropped, because of the not-paid bills...  

...long life to the Leninist Youth (but the life is hard)! 

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