Moskvich 408 / 412
/ 2140 / 2141 Aleko
manufacturer: MZMA*, later AZLK** - Moskvich (USSR)
(*MZMA – in
English „Muscovite Factory for Small-Volume Cars“)
(**AZLK - in English "Auto Works of Lenin’s Comsomol)
The name „Moskvich“ means „Muscovite“ in Russian (a person from Moscow), giving out the fact, that the company was located mainly in Moscow. The factory was established in 1930 as a division of GAZ - Volga, a manufacturer of mostly military cars and limos, and focused on budget, popular cars at the beginning. This was strongly supported by the Soviet dictator Stalin himself (as Hitler did the same with the VW Beetle) and the factory got its independence.
However for the tuning, we are interested just in the last four generations of Moskviches (since 1964)…
(Some of the below mentioned cars were also made in a gun factory in Izh (where also AK-47 Kalashnikovs were made) and in Bulgaria.)
Moskvich 408 (1964 - 1968)
The basic model of the
first generation (since 1964) was Moskvich 408. It had a
4-cylinder 1366ccm/40kW OHV engine, front positioned and a rear
wheel drive. This model was also made in other chassis versions
(models 433 and 426). In 1967, Moskvich launched a new
1500ccm/55kW OHC aluminum engine – a well modified 1939 BMW
engine (from the WWII reparations). The model with this new motor
was named 412. At the beginning, they shared the same kit, so
nobody could tell the difference between a 408 and a 412 from
outside. The car looked quite nice and elegant, almost like
smaller American cars of that time.
Moskvich 412 (1968 - 1975)
In 1968, the model 412 was given a new chassis and the production of 408 was stopped. The main difference to the previous model was just the chassis and the kit. Other chassis subvariants emerged soon, too. Personally I think it lost a lot of the elegance it had had – although the car was quite light and well motorized, it looked like a small, slow tank.
Moskvich 2140 (1975 - 1988)
The next generation (Moskvich 2140) probably should have closed the design gap between eastern and western cars, but in fact it crippled the car visage completely. The new thing was the disc brakes on the front wheels, btw. very robust and strong, totally oversized. The whole car was a strange combination of various technologies – the motor, although originally from 1939, was well modified and once you managed to start it, it was good; the concept of the front axis with a suspension stabilizer and the strong brakes was fine too. Going to the rear, the fixed rear axis with leaf springs and the big “tails” reminded the 50’s.
The problem of all these Moskvich generations was the corrosion, starting and operating the engine, high fuel consumption, low stability and low manufacturing quality. The pros were a relative reliability, durability and comfort. Moskvich was also surprisingly a quite successful racing car, especially in long-distance races – the team of 412s e.g. took 4th place in London – Sydney 1968 rally (16 000km race) and 2nd place in London – Mexico (1970, 27 000km race).
Moskvich 2141 Aleko (1988 - 1998)
The last generation of Moskvich, introduced in 1986, meant a complete change. However, despite to many interesting ideas of Moskvich engineers, the government forced the factory to copy Simca 1308 (A Car Of The Year 1976 – 10 years before the new Moskvich was made). Maybe it was a good idea in the end, because the new Moskvich 2141 Aleko was a nice car and at same time it meant the first significant changes in the previous 20 years – in fact, it was almost a brand new car, though not original. It also got a different engine, a 5-speed gearbox and a front wheel drive. The problem was that the car came too late, just before the end of the communist era, otherwise it would have probably been a big commercial success in the East Europian countries. In 1997, the company tried to change its bad economic situation by replacing Aleko with two facelifts: Svjatogor and Dolgorukij, new model Knjaz Vladimir and even with a higher-class limo Kalita, but this didn’t prevent the end of the factory.
There are really few Moskviches in Eastern Europe and I think you can count the tuned ones on your fingers. Still this car is used in former USSR countries and you can also see some horribly tuned pieces there. There are not as many of them as VAZs, but their look is much more entertaining, I think…
Versions and engines:
1964 – 1967/6
Moskvich 408 (sedan – since 1964)
Moskvich 433 (furgon - since 1966)
Moskvich 426 (combi – since 1967)
1967 – 1975
Moskvich 412 (sedan – since 1967)
Moskvich 434 (furgon - since 1968)
Moskvich 427 (combi – since 1968)
1975 – 1988
Moskvich 2140, 2138 (sedan)
Moskvich 2137, 2136 (combi)
Moskvich 2134 (furgon)
engines: 1500ccm/55kW, 1360ccm/40kW
1988 – 1998
Moskvich 2141 Aleko
(also sold as LADA Aleko)
engines: 1478ccm/53,5kW, 1569ccm/55,3kW (from VAZ 2106), 1700ccm/58kW
At the end of 90’s, the production of Moskviches dropped sharply and was stopped for good in 2001. The company tried to focus on different products, e.g. billiard tables, but went bankrupt in 2006. It was the end. The company facilities were bought by Renault, which built new buildings there, so at least the car making tradition continues somehow…