Soviet Cycle-Car: 1983 SMZ S-3D

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Hang onto your big, furry hats, this one will be a little different. This is a 1983 SMZ S-3D. This highly-unusual yet highly-desirable (for me, at least) car is listed on eBay in London, United Kingdom with a Buy It Now price of £550 ($803). It’s in rough shape so you’ll need to drag out the welder for a weekend or two. But, once you’re done you will never, ever see another one at the car show that you enter it in. At least in the US you’ll never see one.

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It looks like it’s coming and going at the same time; classic “three-box design“. This is a Soviet microcar, or, a cycle-car, made specifically for physically disabled folks in the former Soviet Union and they weren’t weren’t officially sold to non-disabled people. They were made by Серпуховский Мотозавод, you know that company, don’t you?! It’s the Serpukhov Motor Works and between 1970 and 1997 they produced this car for folks who couldn’t operate foot pedals; it has only hand controls, there are no foot-operated pedals at all. These are small cars, at 2.6 meters or around 8.5′ in length. Here is another car showing the luggage compartment in front. And, here is a photo of how this car will look after you’ve restored it and are on your cross-country tour.

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Here is yet another case where spending ten minutes cleaning things up a bit may have led to a quicker sale, or even led to more money. But, I digress. The seller says that this car has “some rust and dents”, which you can see from clicking on the eBay link. These cars were provided by the former Soviet Union to disabled people on a five-year, no-cost basis and at the end of five years they were to turn them in and get a new one, again at no cost. They were known as “motor-wheelchairs” in the USSR and they were similar in idea to Britain’s Invacar. Some of the owners were able to register the cars in their own names and that’s how some of them made it out into public. They are very rare cars.

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Here is a YouTube video showing a restored car putt-putting around in all of its cool, blue-smoke glory. This is actually a nice design, in my opinion. We generally may not think of the USSR as having been a design powerhouse, but this car turned out well. I don’t have a clue what the gauges or buttons or switches are for, or even how the operating controls work; hopefully one of you will know how this thing worked. If you do, please let us know in the comments section.

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The seller says that the car can’t be started because some parts are taken off, but they have two spare engines and a lot of spare parts, which is very nice. You’ll need those, parts will be almost impossible to find for this car, unless one of you knows a source that I don’t know of. There is no question that either you or your preferred motorcycle shop will be able to get this baby humming in no time. This isn’t rocket science, but it is a Russian-made IZH-P3-01 motorcycle engine with 346cc and 28 hp, giving this 454 kg (1,000 lb) car a top speed of a respectable 43 mph, more than enough for getting around in the city. This car is right in my sweet spot, if this car was in the US it would most likely end up in our garage. Is this unusual Russian cycle-car too far out in left field for you or could you picture yourself driving to a car show in something like this?


  1. Tirefriar

    Scotty, I’m somewhat surprised you are taking a liking to this “car”. This is a death trap, even by the Soviet crash standards. This was a great idea to give disabled people mobility but outside of that purpose it’s next stop should be the local crusher

    • brian

      I doubt it will end up as a daily driver on the LA freeways. Properly restored, this car is a gem.

  2. Tirefriar

    On the other hand, this little gem could be a pioneer in paddle shifting….

  3. Dan h

    Poor folks who had to drive those things.
    As badly as our early 80’s American cars sucked(imho), we had it WAY better!

  4. Howard A Member

    I always chuckle at what people in other countries had to drive. We were cruising around in 455 Trans Am’s, and the poor Ruskies drove this. ( I’m sure for many NON-disabled folks, this was as good as it got) It beat walking, barely. Not to worry, Tirefriar, with Scotty’s tall frame, his legs would probably stick out over the front wheels, ( and with the rust, showing someone must have drove this in winter, that might be possible), it’s just he has a “hankerin’ for the unusual, and he sure adds some zing to the site. Funny he mentions the Invacar, as Simpson fans know, Homer test drove an Invacar at “Crazy Vaclav’s Place of Automobiles”, where I’m sure this was there, as well.
    ” Hello, Autoplace, how can I help you”? “Hi, I need a set of points for a 1983 SMZ S-3D,,,hello?” ( dial tone)

  5. Stephen

    Compared to this, even Britain’s AC70 and Invacar would be considered roadworthy, and a Reliant Regal would be the lap of luxury.

  6. Fred

    Have to admit I like the restored look. But I’d only drive it around the neighborhood or a car show. It makes a Subaru 360 look like a Continental.

    • brakesevo

      Looks a lot like a King Midget to me but with hand controls.

  7. Van

    This would give a soccer player a nervous brake down.

  8. Matt Tritt

    I think you’re (almost) all missing the most important part here. These dreadful little thingies were provided free of charge to disabled people. I know of no “Western” country that provided such a great service to it’s citizens, regardless of the style or quality of the vehicle. The most we offer is a wheelchair charged to Medicare at an outrageous markup. Some things about the former USSR actually make sense.

    Like 2
    • Tirefriar

      Matt, don’t kid yourself. Just like with almost everything associated with Soviet Union, the idea here was great but the execution… well, that’s another story. Early 80’s were very tough on the Soviet economy. Level of quality control was somewhere around the ankles and deficit was key word. How many of these do you really think made into truly deserving hands? I don’t know the exact answer but willing to bet that may be just a few. At least here in the US, the wheel chair afforded by Medicare will not fall apart on you and getting one does not mean endless trips to various government offices and hospitals.

      • Matt Tritt

        Clearly. These cars appear to be poorly built, bizzarely styled and barely large enough to carry the groceries. Still – the intent was excellent, and the fact that any effort at all was made to try and make life a little easier for paraplegics overshadows the poor execution. Life under Soviet leadership was challenging, to say the least, not to mention the miserable Winters and shortages of used Levis. These little buggers had the potential to at least help a vulnerable segment of society.

  9. RON

    Right on Matt this country could do a lot more .might be hard on the butt, but the heart is in the right place

    Like 1
    • Matt Tritt


    • Brakeservo

      Great comment, now let’s get that “Bernie Sanders” bumper sticker on there too! (And yes, I’ve got the only Bentley and Mercedes in town sporting Bernie stickers!)

      • Tirefriar

        As a joke, right?

  10. Ray Rittam

    I would love having it, I love crazy and Odd vehicles and seem to always work them out.

    Like 1
    • St. Ramone de V8

      Me, too! I’d love to give this a shot.

      Like 1
  11. Yasha

    Copy and paste this into google and you’ll find a ton of images and info (albeit in Russian): инвалидка

  12. Brakeservo

    No, TireFriar, in absolute good faith and hope which trumps lunatic dreams of grandeur.

    • Tirefriar

      Have you ever lived in a Soviet block country?

    • Matt Tritt

      Excellent comment, Brakeservo.

  13. Brakeservo

    The quality of materials and workmanship in my Soviet Russian GAZ 13 Chaika was superior to any other car I’ve ever owned. The styling not so much, an amalgam of uninspired 1950’s Detroit excesses interpreted by the Politburo.

    • Tirefriar

      Comparing Chaika with this porto potty on wheels maybe akin to comparing a Corvette to a Vega (but that compare doesn’t even give a full scope)… The only thing that these Soviet cars have in common is that they were never retailed to public (officially)

  14. Scotty G Staff

    Update: I contacted the seller and it turns out that this car is actually in Latvia, not London! I’m assuming that importing a car from Latvia may be several levels more difficult than importing one from London? If anyone has had any experience with that, let us know; thanks!

  15. David
    I wouldn’t be so quick as to say you’ll never see another in the States…

    • Scotty G Staff

      I have seen that one, David. I meant, won’t see one at every car show or on the street, but that’s just my experience. The Lane Museum is hard to beat.

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