7 Soviet-era Crap Wagons Rebuilt Into Cool Hot Rods

Updated May 23, 2018

Remember the terrible cars of the Soviet era? Most were melted into something useful like sewer covers. A few survived and been modified by their owners.

Before anyone thinks that we’re picking on these cars, please keep in mind that when people lived in the Soviet Union they disliked these cars (if they were even allowed to purchase one) because 1. even when they were new they were dated 2. they were unreliable 3. they often lacked in basic creature comforts and 4. (it should be said again) unreliable. With the exception of Skoda, which is now owned by VW, all the other companies left the car business as soon as consumers had the choice to buy a Honda, Toyota, BMW, Mercedes, or even a Chevrolet.



Skoda 1100MB

The Škoda 1000 MB and Škoda 1100 MB are two rear-engined, rear-wheel drive small family cars that were produced by Czechoslovak manufacturer AZNP in Mladá Boleslav between 1964 and 1969. They were powered by an inline 1.1 L engine producing 52 hp. the engine was tuned to 62 hp for later models, and also bored out to 1.3 L for rallying. The engine was water-cooled, and comprised of an aluminum block with a  cast iron cylinder head. The 1100 MB had a four-speed manual all-synchromesh gearbox, four-wheel independent suspension, and drum brakes all around.

Skoda M1000


GAZ 21 Volga

The GAZ-21 was a luxury sedan (their terminology, not ours) in the Soviet Union between 1956 and 1970. Powered by a stout 4.0 L overhead valve aluminum four cylinder engine that produced up to 85 hp in its export version (higher compression. Well over a million GAZ-21 Volga cars were produced. As you can see by the photo below, the customizer has a fond spot for the car. First. it’s been converted to two-door configuration, not offered by the factory. the doors are then hinged Lamborghini style. The interior has been completely reworked and update. No word on driveline modifications, though we know the basis is probably a car from before 1962, when the leaping deer hood ornament was dropped.

Gaz 21 Volga


GAZ-24 Volga

The GAZ-24 was the replacement to the GAZ-21 and was produced from 1970 to 1985. Versus its predecessor it offered more interior room due to the shape of the roof and the axles pushed out to the edges of the chassis. With power steering not available, the car gained the nickname of “the barge”. The engine was the same 2.4 L four cylinder, now rated at 95 hp. Though our customer has done an outstanding job chopping and lowering his GAZ-24, we don’t know anything about the engine. It would be very cool if he’s managed to get his hands on one of the few 190 hp 5.5 L aluminum V8 engines installed in GAZ-24 used by the KGB as interceptor and security car.



Tatra 603

The Tatra 603 is a large rear-engined luxury car which was produced by the Czechoslovak company Tatra from 1956 to 1975 (when under Communist rule). It was a continuation of the series of Tatra streamlined sedans started by the Tatra 77. In Communist Czechoslovakia only high-ranking party officials and heads of factories were driven in 603s. Its rear-mounted air-cooled 99 hp 2.5 L V8  weighed only 400 lb, providing the car with a 47/53 weight distribution. Suspension was independent coil spring all-around, MacPherson struts in the front and swing axle in the rear. This owner has certainly taken Tatra’s emphasis on aerodynamics to the extra and given us a few of what a Tatra car might look like had they continued production past 1999.

Tatra 603


FSO Syrena

The FSO Syrena was a Polish automobile manufactured between 1957 and  1972 with a total production of 521,311. It’s thought of the national car of Poland. During its remarkably long production run it underwent only minor modifications. All Syrenas were two-door sedans powered by a two-stroke engine. early models carried a two-cylinder engine while later models featured a 40 hp three-cylinder engine. The owner of this model combined his pride of his Polish heritage into the colors scheme, as well as extensive smoothing of the body, lowering, large diameter wheels and tires, and a full-upgraded interior.



Trabant 601

No one who witnessed of the fall of the Berlin Wall will forget the image of thousands of East Germans pouring across the border into West Germany in these flimsy, crappy,  fiberglass-bodied, 600 cc 27 hp two-stroke powered “cars” belching smoke as they crossed the border. The Trabant has taken on a bit of a cult status since those cars, as best exemplified by the car below where the owners must have invest many, many times the scrap value of the cars into converting it into woody surf wagon.



Lada 1200 (VAZ 2101)

The VAZ 2101, known in Western Countries as the Lada 1200) was a Fiat 124 sedan upgraded to handle the rougher conditions found in the Eastern Block. Given the low wages in the Soviet Union at the time, VAZ was able to sell the Lada as the lowest-priced car in Western Europe.  They were even sold in Canada for a period in order to purchase Canadian oil drilling technology and equipment. Our example car here is finished in a very contemporary orange with tasteful gunmetal gray wheels and the right stance for a car of that type.




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Chris Riley
About Chris Riley

I have been wrecking cars for as long as I've been driving them but I keep coming back for more. Two wheels or four, I'm all in. gives me a chance to give something back to the automobile community.

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