Category Archives: Soviet Cars

Lada

Lada”  («Ла́да») was originally the export brand for models sold under the “Zhiguli” name by AvtoVaz in the domestic Soviet market. I was told “Zhiguli” sounded too much like “gigolo” so they changed the name to Lada for the export market.

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I currently have a dozen Ladas in my collection, some made in USSR, the others made in China. Most are 1:43 scale.

The Fiat 124 based Lada 2101 was a big seller in the Soviet Union and in numerous export markets. A town and factory named Tolyatti, after the leader of the Italian Communist Party were built in the Samara region of Russia near the Volga river. The keys to its success were: competitive price, reliability, simple DIY-friendly mechanics and unpretentious functionality. Their cheap utilitarian nature made them joke fodder for some:

Why do Lada’s have heated rear windows?
So you can warm your hands when pushing it.

The father of one of my students recently gave me a Soviet made Niva, I was very pleased, I’d been looking out for one for a while but the prices at Dry Bridge Market were too high for my budget (200 lari = $65.15).

Lada Niva and trailer
Lada Niva and trailer

The Niva (VAZ-2121) was described by its designers as a “Renault 5 put on a Land Rover chassis.” It went into production in 1977 and was a pioneering SUV vehicle.

Lada Niva
Lada Niva by DeAgostini

Ladas may have been the butt of cheap jokes in UK but in the Soviet Union, where temperatures might vary between -60 C in the winter and 50 C in the summer, where the roads were poor and the petrol low on octane, they came into their own.

Moskvitch

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Moskvitches (Made in USSR)

I have a selection of 1:43 scale Moskvitch models made in the USSR. The blue car in the picture is an Izh Combi, it was considered to be the first Soviet hatchback. The Izh Combi was based on the Moskvitch 412, the five door hatchback design was a novelty in 1973 when it was first produced, only the Renault 16 and Austin Maxi predated it. The only East European Car my father ever owned was a Moskvitch 427, during the brief window when they were imported to Britain in the mid seventies.  My father’s was Mustard Yellow with a black vinyl roof. He didn’t have it for very long as my sister almost fell out the back, when the door unexpectedly came open on a journey. He decided it was safer to get rid of it and get a more dependable Ford Escort (My Dad’s Cars) instead.

moskvitch ad

Moskvitch advertisement from the early seventies

Moskvitch cars were sturdy, reliable on substandard roads and were offered at low cost. Demand always exceeded production, so people in the Soviet Union had to wait a long time for a new car. The models cost me between 15 and 50 lari a piece (approx $5 to $16). The saloon/sedan is a 412, the estate/station wagon is a 427, the van is a 434 and there is also a pick up version.

Moskvitch 427
Moskvitch 427

In addition to the Soviet made models I have some DeAgostini models of Moskvitches, also in 1:43 scale, which were made in China. These include a police version of a Moskvitch 400-420 and a racing car, the Moskvitch г-5. These would have originally come with a magazine in Russian.

Moskvitch x 5 DeAgostini
DeAgostini Moskvitches

The DeAgostini models are not as robust as the Soviet-made models and are clearly aimed for adult collectors and not playful children. The Soviet models also have opening parts, whereas the DeAgostini models don’t.

Moskvitch x 11
Moskvitch and Izh Models (6 Made in USSR, 5 Made in China)

Soviet Cars

My father had a Moskvitch 427 back in the seventies, his was Mustard Yellow with a black vinyl roof, I would love to find a similar model. I wish I had a photo of the actual car. Moskvitch were only imported to the UK for a brief time in the seventies.

Moving to Tbilisi really kicked off my diecast collecting hobby. In the markets here I have picked up quite a few models of Soviet cars to add to my collection.

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Soviet cars from my collection

These models can be divided into three types:

  1. Models made in the USSR as toys
  2. Models made in China by DeAgostini for adult collectors
  3. Models made in China as toys

Models made in the USSR

These models are mostly in 1:43 scale and will have opening parts. I have picked up a few for around 20 lari ($6.90), but usually they are fetching higher prices in the markets. At Dry Bridge Market boxed models have an asking price of around 150 lari ($51.71), which for me is too much. The first model I got was from my Georgian brother-in-law, a GAZ Volga 24-02, a model he’d had since he was a child.

Soviet cars made in USSR
Made in USSR

Soviet cars ussr bases
bases “сделано в СССР”

Models made in China by DeAgostini for adult collectors

soviet cars deagostini
DeAgostini Soviet Cars

I have more Soviet Models made in China in my collection than those made in the Soviet Union. DeAgostini produces a package of a 1:43 scale car and a magazine. The sixteen page magazine Avto Legendi (Legends of Autos) is in Russian, one series of magazines is for everyday Soviet cars, a second series of magazines is for emergency vehicles.

deagostini magazines
DeAgostini Magazines and cars

I wrote more about this in an old blog: Soviet Cars made in China by DeAgostini

These models are for adult collectors, they are not designed to be played with. Small parts like windscreen wipers break off easily. My ZIL came with a crack in the roof. They also don’t have opening parts.

soviet cars deagostini zil crack
ZIL with a crack in the roof and a snapped off wiper

Soviet Models made in China as toys

Recently some Soviet Cars of Chinese origin have been appearing in toy shops and market stalls in various scales. These are intended as toys, some have opening parts and all seem to have pull back motors. They are more robust than the DeAgostini models and some look good representations of the actual vehicle, they are priced between 10 ($3.45) and 20 lari ($6.91).

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Toy Soviet Cars (Made in China): UAZ 452, Lada Niva and Lada 2105

The Holy Grail for many Soviet car collectors is the French Dinky Moskvitch 408, these can fetch $100 or more. Although the prices may drop now Atlas Editions are making a reproduction of this model. I have only seen these on the Internet.

dinky-toys-france-1410-moskvitch-door_1_39bd8baf7c7fcf339d05db9b3dc95e95