Only last week, Dave Leadbetter entertained us with his tales of their Brexit roadtrip to the Russian frontier. Disappointingly though, they didn’t encounter much in the way of old East Bloc cars during their travels through Poland. Which got me thinking… Did we miss out on an eastern treasure trove as the Iron Curtain fell? Which car posters did the young Soviet boys hang on the walls of their childhood room? And did the USSR ever build a communist interpretation of a Lamborghini Countach?
The vast Soviet Union grew to a population of 294 million people just before it all collapsed and the curtain fell. They had enough space for them all though. A population density of only 13 people per square kilometre might give you an impression of just how big the union was. The most common means of transportation was the railway while only the more privileged could afford ownership of an automobile. Nonetheless, they produced approximately 2 million cars a year in those final years before the USSR imploded, effectively making them the sixth largest car producing nation in the world. The Soviet’s well-oiled propaganda system fed the outside world with impressions of high technical abilities and constant development during the Cold War, leaving the entire Western World in a fear-induced iron grasp for decades. Once the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, a rather different truth suddenly became apparent to us all, and there really wasn’t much to be impressed about. In fact, in hindsight it was all somewhat laughable.
The period car adverts from the Soviet illustrate perfectly that automobiles accompanied by women were clearly deemed an effective means of luring in the consumers east of the Iron Curtain just as it was west of it. Presumably, most of those consumers were males back then. Even so, the Soviet adverts were significantly more restrained than those seen in the west – or from the Land of the Rising Sun for that matter.
As you can see, it’s not quite as exciting as some of the other articles we try to spoil you with on a sassy ViaRETRO Friday. With your most tainted retro glasses firmly in place, the cars might seem interesting and the colours hip, but the sexual motivation is seriously lacking.
Now imagine that Soviet boys room and one can’t help but wonder whether there would have been any car posters pinned to the walls? And if so; of what?
I’m sure Alexander Kulygin must have had several car posters in his childhood room as his passion for cars was quite extraordinary. It was a passion which eventually lead him to build his own fantasy of the ultimate sportscar during the early eighties. I’m guessing that someone might have handed him a copy of the mandatory Lamborghini Countach poster, as his inspiration clearly came from the iconic Italian wedge. He dubbed his sportscar the Pangolina 444GT.
Kulgin’s concept was a pronounced wedge. But more than that, he had designed it so that the entire front comprising what would have otherwise been the doors, windscreen and roof would tilt forward as one large shell. Once open, it thereby allowed access to the cockpit for both the driver and the passenger, and even to the engine bay once the dashboard had been tilted forward too.
Only one example of the Pangolina was ever built. Later it was modified to have a targa roof and more conventional doors while it was also painted red. The Pangolina even starred in a couple of movies – which might just be entertaining to watch. Surely they would include the best of Soviet ingredients to spice up the plot – such as female Soviet spies. Striking beauties having endured intense training to extract secrets from powerful men by using lethal weapons such as knives, machineguns, pronounced cheek bones and long stocking-clad legs while guesting lavish hotels and casinos…