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Half a century ago, in 1947, the Moscow plant of small cars began mass production of Moskvich cars. Despite today's difficulties of the plant, the Moskvich brand remains popular in Russia, loved by many, and, of course, its half-century history deserves kind words.

Sergey IONES

They decided to produce small cars at the KIM car assembly plant back in the late 30s. In those days, subcompacts were not intended for the “wide sections of the population”, but for a small stratum of distinguished people whom the authorities endowed with the right to have their own car - not too comfortable, low-power, but a car.

Before the war, they developed, tested and prepared for production a good model of KIM-10. But Stalin did not like her two-door body, and the pre-war German "Opel Cadet" was appointed "to the position" of the Moscow subcompact.

There is a version that the technical documentation for the Opel Cadet and a significant part of the equipment for its production in Moscow were exported from Germany as trophies. Old factory workers, for example Alexander Fedorovich Andronov (for many years the chief designer of AZLK), claim that the Department of the chief designer prepared the drawings independently, and the equipment was supplied by GAZ, ZIS and other Soviet enterprises. One way or another, the plant’s staff, which was then headed by Vasily Nikolaevich Takhtarov, completed the entire production preparation cycle in just a year and a half. By the beginning of 1947, the first Muscovites-400 were assembled, the 100th car was made by May Day, and in total about a thousand and a half were produced by the end of the year.

Moskvich-400, in general, turned out to be adapted for severe operating conditions. The supporting body was quite strong, the engine (1074 cm3, 23 hp) pulled well at low speeds, “digested” bad gasoline and oil, and the unusual “opelevskaya” front suspension, traditional springs at the rear and 16-inch wheels withstood riding pits and bumps. Designers faithfully fought with the "childhood diseases" of the firstborn. During 1948-1953, the engine was repeatedly upgraded, increased to 26 hp. its power. We introduced a synchronizer in second or third gears, and the shift lever migrated from the floor to the steering column. Reinforced the body. In the end, in 1954, the car was assigned a new index - Moskvich-401.

At the turn of the 40s and 50s, an attempt was made to modernize the body: blown front fenders, alligator hood, protruding trunk, three options for the design of the front end. But all heavy industry was focused on military needs, and no one was going to spend money on new stamps for a passenger car. Moreover, the Muscovites tried to save steel. Therefore, the very common delivery van "Moskvich-422" and its experienced cargo-passenger version "Moskvich-421" had wooden doors and sidewalls, a dermatine roof. By the way, part of the “Muscovites” produced in the years 1949-1952 was with a convertible-type bodywork. “Moskvich” even had to serve in the army: in small batches they made the APA-7 special vehicle with an installation for launching jet engines, built pickups with benches along the sides, differential lock, all-terrain rubber.

Despite the modest dynamic characteristics, “Muscovites-400” and “401” took to the tracks of sports competitions. It is worth recalling that in 1950 Lev Aleksandrovich Givartovsky, the head of the test department of the plant, became the first USSR champion in road racing. The “sports direction” at MZMA developed successfully thanks in large part to the efforts of Igor Aleksandrovich Gladilin, deputy chief designer. We checked the latest developments on sports cars, created original designs: the MZMA-1 racing formula, the record Moskvich-G2, coupe, and spider.

In the 50s, the attitude towards cars began to change: now ordinary Soviet citizens could buy them, for which even a small Moskvich seemed like a miracle of technology. Demand for cars began to grow sharply, and queues appeared.

In 1953-1955, the factory was preparing for the transition to a new base model. Of course, experience was not always enough. Therefore, the body of the future Moskvich-402 was designed by GAZ designers. The noticeable stylistic similarity of the new Moskvich with the Volga GAZ-21, which was being created at the same time, emphasized that a new generation of Soviet cars is entering the road. Soon after the commemorative XX Congress of the CPSU, in April 1956, the factory workers made a transition to a new model, Moskvich-402, without stopping production.

Its body was attracted not only by its contemporary appearance: the novelty was a spacious lounge with large windows and good visibility, a heater, heated windshield, and a dual-band lamp receiver. The front suspension of the Dubonnet was replaced by a lever-spring, which, unlike the gas one, was made pinless. Another novelty was telescopic shock absorbers (on the Volga until 1962, lever shock absorbers were used). However, the lower-valve engine (1220 cm3, 35 hp) remained just a modernized version of the “401st”. A new overhead valve engine was developed, but due to the eternal lack of funds and the inflexibility of technology, it was not possible to master the modern MZMA-406 engine with an aluminum block and wet sleeves.

The capabilities of the plant corresponded to the MZMA-407 motor with its cast-iron block and three-bearing crankshaft. It also represented the development of an old design. A novelty was the aluminum overhead valve head. Displacement increased to 1358 cm3, power up to 45 hp at 4200 rpm The “Verkhnyaklapanny” car with the Moskvich-407 index replaced the Moskvich-402 in the summer of 1958. By 1960, the three-speed gearbox was replaced by a four-speed gearbox, and the rear axle gearbox was made hypoid. “Four hundred and seventh” differed from its predecessor in its external decor; There was a two-color option.

But the best model of this generation was the Moskvich-403 of 1962-1965 with a strong and reliable front axle, new steering, and outboard pedals. New nodes were laid down in the hope of moving to the next, 408th model.

During the thaw years, much was said about entering the forefront of technology, the introduction of original developments. In relation to the MZMA, this meant the expansion of the model range: on the basis of Muscovites-402 and 407, their modifications appeared - station wagons, vans.

Particularly noteworthy is the all-wheel drive Moskvich-410 (with the engine 407 - Moskvich-410N). The leading front axle with dependent spring suspension, a “razdatka” with a transmission hand brake, mounted not above the springs, but under them the rear axle, floor gear shifting, all-terrain tires, a modified engine frame - all this distinguished it from ordinary “Muscovites”. In general, despite some shortcomings, it was a car well adapted to the Russian off-road. But in 1961, four-wheel drive cars were sacrificed to expand the production of export "Muscovites-407".

Yes, one can be proud that the Muscovites then arranged for foreign buyers, sold well in many European countries, especially Scandinavian ones. But for the Soviet consumer, this turned out to be a shortage of cars and spare parts, queues, a shameful distribution system for new ones and restrictions on the sale of used cars. And this also led to miscalculations in model politics.

Due to the troubles characteristic of the socialist economy, it was not possible to master some interesting developments in mass production - primarily the four-wheel drive Moskvich-415 with an open body and the Moskvich-416 with a closed one. Their family included another model for the military - a front-line transporter, an analogue of the future LuAZ-967. The minibus Moskvich-A9 and the van based on it did not reach the conveyor. But the Moskvich-444 subcompact was mastered at the Zaporozhye Kommunar plant under the brand name ZAZ-965.

"Muscovites-407" and "403" were considered quite dynamic machines. They widely participated in rallies, ring races, hippodrome races, which then entered the country's sports life, and their units were used to create sports and racing cars. In the early 60s, the Moskvich-G3 racing formulas were built with a front engine, the Moskvich-G4 with a mid-engine layout, and even work was underway on an eight-cylinder engine for the Soviet Formula 1 car.

But not only unusual models were dealt with at the MZMA: without wasting time, they created a new base model here in order to timely replace the “407th” family. Searches went on again, prototypes were built with a different body shape and styling, until finally the best option was found: the release of Moskvich-408 began in the autumn of 1964. In time, this coincided with the coming to power of L. Brezhnev. No one could have imagined then that the models obtained through repeated modernization of the “408th” will be produced for more than twenty years! The appearance of Moskvich-408 personified a trend characteristic of the 60s - the transition from rounded "pot-bellied" shapes to straight lines and almost flat surfaces. Our "flat" style has taken root so tightly that even in today's traffic stream, the Moskvich-408 more than thirty years ago does not seem like antiques.

In fact, the "408th" was considered the same transitional model as the "Moskvich-402" - a new body and a renovated engine. Even before he went into the series, a group of designers led by Igor Ivanovich Okunev began to develop a fundamentally new engine for him - he inherited many decisions from the German BMW-1500 of the 1961 model. The new motor was mastered at the Ufa Aircraft Engine Plant and, as the UMP-412 at the end of 1967, began to enter the MZMA. With it, the car received the Moskvich-412 index. In early 1970, he underwent modernization - the body was adapted to the requirements of passive safety of that time.

At the turn of the 70s, the plant underwent major changes. Even the name of the enterprise has changed - now it has become the Automobile Plant named after the Lenin Komsomol (AZLK). The main event was the reconstruction. In the new territory, about one and a half times the size of the old, the bodywork and assembly complex was located, combined into the new main building of the plant. The conveyor started operating here in October 1971, and soon the production of Muscovites nearly doubled.

The relatively successful design of the “412th” (primarily a powerful and reliable engine) and talented racers ensured vivid performances of the “Moskvich” in the international rally-marathons “London - Sydney” (1968), “London - Mexico City” (1970), “Tour Europe ”(1971) and others.

Since 1976, the Moskvich 2140 has become the main model. It was just another modernization of the obsolete "412th". The UMZ-412 engines were not enough (by this time Moskvich had also been mastered in Izhevsk), so even in the early 80s they produced the Moskvich-2138 sedan, the Moskvich-2136 station wagon, and the Moskvich-2733 van with outdated engines MZMA-408.

In the second half of the 70s, the plant management - it was long led by a pupil of the AZLK Valentin Petrovich Kolomnikov - came to the conclusion that the new base model should become front-wheel drive and, of course, a higher class than the Moskvich 2140. Moskvich-2141 samples, which were close to serial ones, were ready back in 1979-1981. But only a large foreign currency loan, which the active and energetic Kolomnikov managed to "knock out", allowed to completely switch to the production of a new car. The first production "Muscovites-2141" appeared on sale in December 1986.

You can have a different attitude to the 41st. One thing is certain - we cannot find another new car of this class for 6-7 thousand dollars. Tens of thousands of people drive these cars. What can I say - hundreds of thousands of “Muscovites-2140” run along the roads of Russia and the CIS countries, the “408th”, “412th” are still found, and some enthusiasts continue to ride on older cars of this brand.

Let us recall another thing: it was at the Moskvich factory that such outstanding organizers of the automotive industry as the first general director of the VAZ, and then the Minister of the automotive industry Viktor Nikolayevich Polyakov, as Lev Borisovich Vasilyev, who headed the KamAZ (later he was the deputy minister), grew up. Pupils of "Moskvich" helped establish automobile production in Zaporozhye, worked in scientific institutions of automobile profile, won the highest awards on sports tracks.

There is no doubt that a huge number of Russian motorists today will join in congratulating the plant on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Moskvich and hope that this is not the last round date in the history of our brand.

This is how the salon of the first Muscovites looked.

Moskvich 1947, one of the oldest surviving.

"Moskvich" is a convertible.

"Four hundred and second."

Moskvich-407.

All-wheel drive "410".

Sports line - the car "G 1".