Czar & Driver: The Top 10 Weird & Bizarre Russian Automobiles
Russia is known more for cranking out tractors and tanks than designing and manufacturing quality motor vehicles, which might explain why the world's largest country makes some of the world's strangest cars.
These 10 weird & bizarre Russian autos will leave you colder than a Siberian slumber party while graphically illustrating the real reason why all those Russian dash cams are aimed outwards: to prevent their lenses from cracking.
10) Volga Valley Of The Dolls
Russia is home to a number of so-called “living Barbie dolls” but only Lena, above, has a matching pink car. OK, so the car is, ahem, a dolled-up Nissan sedan but we'll assume most of the girly accessories such as cut-out heart wheels and cute interior detailing was done in the Motherland.
It's easy to imagine the effect buxom blond Barbie in her pretty pastel pink machine might have on other drivers but this is Russia: the other drivers and their rides are almost as distracting, though not in quite the same way. (bizarre Russian car image via StrangeCosmos)
9) Eight Wheels To Roll Ya
What is this I don't even... is it missing the treads? Perhaps this triumph of post-Soviet design simply tackles the problem of reactive side airbags in a simpler way; one airbag's as good as another, right?
Part ATV, part APC and part ADHD for good measure, this curious vehicle is, to paraphrase Churchill, “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma” that asks more questions than it answers. For example, do the windows roll down? And where are the door handles... heck, where are the doors??
Tire rotation is a chore not to be taken lightly but should you incur a flat tire, odds are the other 7 can get you wherever you're going to without too much difficulty. As for the oddly staggered heights of this vehicle's wheels, it's been suggested the upper tier come into play should the driver be traversing especially mucky permafrost and sink in a foot or so. Make fun of Russians all you want but know this: these muzhiks know about making time over melted muskeg! (bizarre Russian car image via English Russia)
8) Tanks, Comrade
We're not sure who owns the interestingly modified Lada above but one thing's for certain: he's the coolest Dad EVAR! Seriously, what kid wouldn't want to ride up there?
Inspired by the legendary T-34 tank that saved the Red Army's bacon in the Great Patriotic War, this is one Lada you don't want to tangle with when vying for the passing lane. Indeed, road rage takes on an entirely new meaning when the turret starts a-turnin' in your direction. Added bonus: no further mods are needed to participate in the May Day parade. (bizarre Russian car image via Life In Russia)
7) The Yellow Peril
Hey, can somebody clean up that pile of trash at the side of the road? What do you mean, “Which pile?” This vehicle sports “Mirage FF 3.7” nameplates out back.
We don't know any actual cars by that name but the word “mirage” derives from the Latin word “mirari” which means “to look at, to wonder at”. One look and we're wondering what drugs the vehicle's designer was on when he origami'd a perfectly good Lada... three words, by the way, which aren't normally uttered in succession.
The screaming yellow coupe also sports a UA (Ukraine) country identity sticker on its fugly rear, providing some small sense of hope... that Putin's special forces will finally put it out of its misery by blowing it up. (bizarre Russian car images via English Russia)
6) Red Square
When choosing to customize a boxy Lada sedan, most Russian “tuners” opt to add on extraneous wings, wing-dings and ding-a-lings. Not this guy; he's gone in the opposite direction.
Lada not boxy enough? This one's so boxy you'd think it partially melted inside its box during shipping. Obviously the owner thinks slab sides are a good place to start: he's extended the theme to the slab front. OK, we get it, it's not the most aerodynamic Lada around but having a car shaped like Red Square is bound to boost one's prospects of getting into the government's inner circle. (bizarre Russian car image via HumorSharing)
5) You Talkin' Russian To Me?
This Soviet-era taxicab concept is actually kinda nice! It features wide sliding doors for easy passenger ingress and egress, even when carrying big bags of soap and toilet paper bought after waiting in line for three hours at the GUM store.
And yet the commie-cab never proceeded from the concept stage to full-out production. Perhaps the expansive greenhouse turned the interior insufferably hot and humid (like a greenhouse, duh) in summer. Possibly the engine, produced with pride at the Red Star Tractor and Heavy Machinery Factory #178, was constantly “Stalin” due to inconsistent gas quality. Geez, that was a long way to go for a Stalin joke.
Maybe the real answer is more prosaic: most Soviet-era proletarians didn't have two rubles to rub together so jaunting all over town in some fancy-pants taxi was out of the question. As for the taxi drivers, most of those had already emigrated to places with paying customers, like New York City. (bizarre Russian car image via English Russia)
4) Needs More Jiggawatts
Those flying cars scientists and prognosticators have been promising us for decades? They're already here... assuming “here” is Russia! Septuagenarian retired pilot Valery Bulgakov demonstrated his hand-crafted flying car (named the “V. Bulgakov”, naturally) in August of 2011 at the Autoexotics motor show in Moscow.
Bulgakov took a clapped-out 1987 ZAZ Tavria car, lightened it by replacing the hood and doors, and added a pair of braced cantilever wings. As for the propeller... DOH! It would seem Bulgakov's Folly (a better name, come to think of it) gets airborne at a ground speed of 60 mph but can only reach 10 feet into the air while traveling a maximum of 600 feet. Back to the drawing board, Val, and here's a tip for you: “flux capacitor”. (bizarre Russian car image via Daily Mail)
3) That'll Buff Right Out
As described in a previous Motors.new article, Moscow car enthusiast Maxim Sarmatov is showcasing a unnamed, one-off (hopefully) four-seat vehicle swathed inside and out with real Canadian buffalo hide – including the engine compartment.
Correct us if we're wrong but even real Canadian Buffalo don't have hide on the inside, and even if they did it wouldn't help them look any less butt-ugly. Maxim, you're doing it wrong.
Anyhow, you'll need a lot of money (Sarmatov's asking $1,215,000), no wife and an astounding lack of taste if you want to park this football-shaped leathery limo in your garage. Oh, and wallpapering the garage in real Canadian buffalo hide won't help though it wouldn't hurt. (bizarre Russian car image via WeirdHut)
2) Half-Off Today Only
OK, we understand Russia's police are getting stretched a bit thin due to budget cuts but now it seems their cars are getting the same treatment. On the bright side, there are no longer any crooked cops in Russia – they're all on the straight and narrow.
Now don't be so quick to point fingers, this may be a dummy vehicle set up to deter speeders but it's no cardboard cutout. Check out this video and note the howling winter wind... Russian cops may be tough but even they need a sheltered space to, er, chill out once in a while. (bizarre Russian car image via Daily Picks and Flicks)
1) Dat ZAZ
Ever wish you could have your very first car back again, all fixed up and restored to original condition? Sentimental types would enjoy gazing at their vintage ride while reflecting on the long journey to success in life, love, and... geopolitics?
Indeed, Russian President Vladimir Putin is such a sentimental type... who knew? Note his gentle, genuine smile as he recalls his salad days (and Moscow nights) behind the wheel of his old ZAZ 968 two-door coupe. It's quite the snazzy ride, shockingly daring with those faux MIG jet air intakes on either flank.
Yep, young Vlad must have been quite the hellraiser and babe magnet back in the Cold War's heyday. Come to think of it, not much has changed. (bizarre Russian car image via Tamerlane's Thoughts)
“It hurts Putin you in the driver's seat”, to mangle an old advertising slogan, and the pain isn't limited to one's eyes and wallet. On the bright side, at least Russia's not rolling across its neighbors' borders in any of these motorized monstrosities. (bizarre Russian car images above via Damn Cool Pictures and at top via English Russia)