Top 10 car brands made in the Eastern bloc
Their engines polluted the air, they were noisy and sometimes strange looking. Some of them lived long enough to see the dawn of democracy; others are now part of museum expiations or private collections and just a few survived after 1989. They are the cars which once ruled the roads behind the Iron Curtain. Here are the most iconic car brands made in the Eastern bloc.
Zaporozhets was the first generation of city cars made in Soviet Ukraine by ZAZ. The car was created in 1958.The inspiration for the design came from the Italian brand FIAT. Zaporozhets was meant to become the car of the people and it achieved its purpose simply because there was no other choice. In its first years of its mass production, it had no equal when it comes to prize and quality. The factory produced modified cars for disabled people. This helped the brand gain even more popularity. The KGB/main security agency for the Soviet Union/ loved those small automobiles and owned ZAZ G-200 in their garage.
The Volga is one of the iconic automobile brands of the Soviet Union. In 1956 the Volga replaced another emblematic Russian car brand – Pobeda. The idea for the design came from Ford Mainline. The brand produced four generations of cars. Those cars were used as taxi cabs, police cars also ambulances. The Soviet elite loved this car. Owning the Volga was a symbol of wealth and status. First, two models were Volga Star and Volga Shark . They had a little deer mascot on the front of the car which became iconic for the brand. Unfortunately, it was removed in 1961. One of the last Volga models which came out in 2008 is Siber. It’s production ended in November 2010. In 2010 the owners of the factory announced there will be no further production of Volga.
Volga GAZ-21 "Star"
Moskvich is a Soviet car brand produced by AZLK. The factory was based in Moscow and the name of the brand means “The son ofMoscow”. This car was quite popular in the Soviet bloc during the 70’s and the 80’s . The first cars from this brand were produced in agreement with Opel. In 1945 Moskvich 400 came out. That’s why the car design looks a lot like Opel Kadett KJ38 from 1938. The most popular model was Moskvich 2140 which came out 1976. 2140 even reached the Eastern Europe market. They were sold in Belgium and Finland under the brand Scaldia. After the falling of the Soviet regime, AZLK started having financial troubles. To save the Moscvich brand , they decided to collaborate with Renault in the early 00’s. The project was unsuccessful and the factory closed in 2010.
LADA is another automobile Russian brand produced by AvtoVAZ. The factory is in Tolyatti. The first model of the car was VAZ-2101 and it came out in 1970. The design of VAZ-2101 is similar to Fiat 124. During the 70’s and the 80’s AutoVAZ exported cars to many countries, including Cuba. Sales to Italy were forbidden by an between the Russian government and FIAT. The Italians wanted to protect their own brand because LADA cars were much cheaper. The brand produced a successful off-road 4x4 vehicle called LADA Niva. In 2016 AutoVAZ released new model- LADA XRAY, which is a low-cost SUV.
LADA XRAY 2016
The Trabant was an automobile manufactured in Eastern Germany . It became a symbol of the country. The first Trabant was launched in 1958. It was a small, noisy and slow car known among the people from the Eastern bloc as Trabbi. Translated from German the name of the brand means “companion”. The car was named after the Soviet satellite- Sputnik. Trabant was produced without any major changes for almost 30 years. It was so popular in the Eastern bloc that to get one people were put on waiting lists. They waited between 11 and 18 years to get one. Trabant was the first car with a body made from recycled materials-plastic called Duroplast. That’s why many people call it “The cardboard car”. Off course, this doesn't mean Trabbi was eco-friendly. It was an absolute nightmare to the environment.
Trabant 601 DeLuxe Limousine
A Chaika is Russian luxury car brand made by GAZ. The name of the brand means gull. GAZ started producing Chaika in 1958 and ended in 1988. The limo was created to serve the needs of the regional government and the communist leaders. Fidel Castro owned a few cars from this brand in his garage. Some of them are now used as taxi cabs in Cuba. Chaika was unavailable to common people in the Eastern bloc. The signature color of this luxurious automobile is black. Almost all Chaika cars have white leather salons. They look pretty impressive compared to the "people's car"- Zaporozhets
Wartburg was another car marque made in East Germany. Just like Trabant, it was designed to be used by the common German people. In fact, those were the only two car brands available for private transport in Eastern Germany. The Wartburg was the better, more comfortable choice, but its prize was higher. The early models were favored by the people because of their design and quality Wartburg "311 and Wartburg "Star"/". The communist leaders dictated the rules of mass production. They forced the factory to produce cheaper and more simple car. This led Wartburg to a slow and painful end. The production ended in 1991.
Wartburg 311 Coupe
Dacia was a Romanian car brand from 1966. The first model was Dacia 1100 which was basically Renault 8 under a different name. In 1969 another Renault copycat came out-Dacia 1300. The model was a huge success. With small design changes and modifications, it was in mass production up until 2004. In 1999 Renault bought the controlling stake of Dacia, no surprise here. Today the brand is making cheap cars for every taste, although I don't recommend buying one they are popular in Eastern Europe.
Pobeda is yet another Russian car brand produced by GAZ. The engineer Andrei A. Liphart is the creator of the firs car under this name. Pobeda means "Victory"in Russian. Originally the car was intended to be called "Rodina"which means "Homeland". Pobeda(Victory) was a backup name, but it was preferred by Stalin and who would dare to argue with him. The first Pobeda prototype was ready in 1944. In 1946 it rolled off the assembly line. Pobeda is the first Russian car with electric wipers and built-in AM radio.
Polski fiat(Polish Fiat) or Fiat 126 is a car made in Poland. This car has a great meaning for the Polish people. They refer to it as "Maluch" which means "small one" or "toddler", or in some regions they call it Kaszlak which means "cougher". This car might be small in size, but it was considered a family automobile. This was one of the first cars available to common people in communistic Poland. The first Polski Fiat was constructed in 1973. The factory closed in 2000.