The most beautiful cars of the USSR that never saw the conveyor

They appeared and disappeared at the same time, and neither of them ever saw the light of day. This short story is about two cars that never became competitors, but remained some of the most beautiful cars the Soviet Union could have.

Frankly speaking, there was only one of them directly in the USSR – the prototype Moskvich-408 Tourist, which appeared in 1964. The second car was a convertible based on the Fiat 124, called the Fiat 124 C4. It was built by Milan body shop Carrozzeria Touring by order of Fiat for the Turin Motor Show in 1966. After studying the demand, the Italians realized that about 1,000 orders could be collected for the car, which, by the standards of those years, was not bad. But by the time it was supposed to go into mass production, the Carrozzerria Touring atelier had disappeared, and the base model Fiat 124, originally designed and offered to Fiat by the Pininfarina atelier (which partially caused the bankruptcy of Carrozzerria), began to become obsolete and moved to the USSR, reborn as VAZ-2101.

Taking a successful European car, adapting it to Russian conditions, and building a factory for it is a great idea. Moreover, exporting such a car would be easier as well: it wouldn’t need to invest in advertising in foreign markets as everyone already knows it. But if the choice of a car for the USSR would have been made not by politicians who were firm friends with the Italian Communist Party, but by test drivers, our “Kopeyka” would have probably been an excellent front-wheel drive [Renault 16](

The 124 C4 convertible was not technically much different from the Fiat 124. Carrozzeria Touring simply took the 124 and added a few touches. The doors were made longer and different shape, the body was reinforced with crossbars behind the rear sofa. And, of course, instead of metal roof, there was a soft folding one.

The C4 shone at the Turin Motor Show. But another convertible built from a Fiat 124, the Fiat 124 Sport Spider, designed by the Pininfarina atelier and eventually selected by Fiat for production, shone more brilliantly. The little C4 project had no chance of surviving in such conditions.

Fiat 124 Sport Spider

And in the USSR, meanwhile, no less tragic history of another beautiful car developed – the Moskvich, born with the name Grand Tourist, and which later became simply the Tourist. Renault Caravelle is considered to be the muse of its creators, which is similar to it approximately as a cat is similar to a dog. But this car was “copied” from the scheme of detachable one-piece roof and the way of installation in its place tent top.

It was possible to build such a car partly because of the request of the Belgian company Scaldia-Volga, which sold “Volga” and “Moskvich” in Europe. According to its owners, the open-top car could be useful for a European owner and could be used in the Soviet motorsport. After all, the regulations of those years did not allow for many races “sedan” body, so race fans built a coupe both independently and in factory conditions. Remember, we wrote about the most interesting history of sports Victory?

In addition, the coupe could become a good base for running in of the 412 engine, the introduction of which chief designer Andronov was very difficult to defend in a battle with the authoritative designers MZMA and the Ministry, which objected to the “expensive” Moskvich.

The first Tourist was black and wore the numbers “00-62 proof”. The second car was originally blue, with numbers “00-44 sample”. Subsequently, both cars were repainted and remade so many times that even MZMA employees who worked at the time cannot remember all the details. Both machines were eventually lost.

There were two “Tourists” made in the early 1960s. The first was, to put it crudely, a Moskvich-408, which had its roof sawed off. A beautiful plastic hood was used as a removable top, which was not folded or retracted anywhere, but was made in one piece and had to be stored in the garage. The underside was reinforced with an X-shaped subframe, adding rigidity to the body.

The second car was more advanced. The doors were made longer (on the first car the doors remained standard – the frame was simply removed from them), and it made boarding on the back couch more comfortable. By the way, the doors, fenders, hood and trunk were made of aluminum, reducing the weight of the car.

Most sources indicate that under the hood of the second car was placed an experimental engine with electronic fuel injection, developed by the CNITA (Central Research Institute of fuel equipment of vehicles and stationary engines). Fuel cycles were controlled by electronics, which fed one batch of mixture to all cylinders once per cycle (that is, once for two revolutions of the crankshaft), and also changed the mixture depending on driving conditions. Metered the amount of fuel electromagnetic nozzle.

But the experiments with fuel injection began at the MZMA only by the late ’60s, so the “experimental” engine of the second Tourist, most likely consisted of separate pilot units: a gasoline pump and carburetor. And the injection, if it was installed, it was later. In general, both of these cars were a real testing ground.

MZMA employees recall that for their own needs they sometimes converted some sedans into pickups and station wagons – to transport goods around the territory. And rumors about such a car sometimes turned into news “MZMA developed a new Moskvich pickup!”. Sometimes it was vice versa: a prototype became a delivery van when it was not needed. It is not possible to find all truth now.

The fate of Russian “tourists” is also Russian. They simply disappeared and no one ever saw them, except for forum commentators who claimed that one of them was at a neighbor’s garage. The sporting regulations allowed sedan racing, which put the Tourist’s sporting career in question.

But most importantly, the MHMA was incredibly busy with current work. It finally got the go-ahead to develop the 412 to replace the hopelessly obsolete 408 Moskvich, and began creating duplicate documentation for all of its products for the new plant in Izhevsk.

The Tourist project, which was planned to run up to 150 units per year, was given up. The choice between the creation of a profitable mass production vehicle and a few beautiful toys was evident. And to wish such a car publicly in those years was improper and even dangerous: the news that someone preferred an export cabriolet to a Soviet man’s car would have got out quickly.

With the Italian 124 C4 everything happened even more banal – it remained the only copy. This car is still alive and in a European collection. We haven’t seen it in serial production, but we have a chance to see it alive. Unlike Moskvich.

It’s human nature to be sad about hypothetical possibilities. During a century of automobile industry not only these two cars perished. Hundreds and thousands of rejected variants rest under the weight of circumstances. Ugly and beautiful, outdated and ahead of time, they trot along the roads of some parallel universe, which sometimes we like more than the one we live in. Entire factories disappeared along with the models, as happened with AZLK. Philosophers will disagree with us, but we, petrolheads, have only one reality. And in it, unfortunately, there are no such beautiful cars as the Moskvich Tourist and the Fiat 124 C4.

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