From Russia With Love: 1954 Moskvitch 400

It is amazing to consider that a nation like the Soviet Union could beat the rest of the World into space, but the mass production of the motor vehicle caused the country no end of confusion. The Moskvitch 400 is a perfect example of this. Approved by the Soviet Government for mass production, the 400 was launched on April 28th, 1947. Mass production meant that by the end of that first year, 1,501 cars had rolled off the production line. In 1948 the company managed to produce 4,808, and it took until 1952 for the 100,000th car to be produced. This particular Moskvitch is the 400-420, which Barn Finder Roger located for us, so thank you for that Roger. The owner refers to it as a rat rod, and that is probably a reasonably fair description. Located in Hunlock Creek, Pennsylvania, it is listed for sale here on Craigslist. The price for this slice of Soviet excellence is $3,950.

The Moskvitch 400 is based loosely on the Opel Kadett and built even more loosely. Quality control was not something that the company was known for, and during that life-span of the 400, heavier and heavier gauges of steel were used in a bid to stop crack appearing in various areas of the car. Being a 1954 model, by this stage, most of those issues had been addressed. I will sound one note of caution on this particular car. This is not a factory Cabriolet. The 400 Cabriolet (model 400-420A) was only available in a 4-door version. This means that someone has converted it, which might explain some of the really bad panel gaps around the doors and the absolutely hideous fit of the top. Still, the owner refers to the car as a rat rod, and this one definitely falls into the category of “near enough is good enough.” As ugly as all of that is, there is actually something quite endearing about it. This is an automotive ugly duckling, although I doubt that it will turn into a beautiful swan any time soon.

The interior of this little Soviet treasure is 100% custom. There is absolutely nothing original to be seen, and the source of some of the parts will probably remain a mystery. The dash and door trims are custom made, while the steering wheel is an aftermarket item. I believe that the rear seat is original, but with a different cover on it, while the bucket seats and steering column look like they might all have started life in a Lada. The effect isn’t terrible, and the concept actually isn’t bad. If it was all tied together with matching upholstery material and carpet on the floor, it really could look pretty nice.

The little Moskvitch would originally have been powered by a 1,054cc 4-cylinder engine that produced a whopping 23hp. Those engines were built from a fairly poor-quality alloy and were prone to problems. This one has undergone a bit of an upgrade and is now fitted with what I believe to be a Lada 1,568cc engine, producing around 76hp. The original 3-speed manual transmission has made way for a 4-speed Lada unit, while the front brakes are from a Toyota of some description, and the rear brakes started life fitted to a Datsun pickup. Presentation under the hood could at best be described as ordinary, and I would definitely be doing something about the rat’s nest of wiring before something disappears in a ball of flames. The car currently runs on an external gas can, because while the original tank has been removed, cleaned, and coated, it hasn’t been refitted to the car. The owner floats the idea of fitting the Moskvitch with either a V6 or V8 engine, but I wouldn’t consider this before I checked the structural integrity of the car. If this did start life as a sedan, I would want to check the whole car before I chose to add more power to the equation. Otherwise, it has the potential to end in tears.

This Moskvitch is an interesting car from an interesting era. If it was completely original I would probably really like it a lot. It isn’t even close to original, but it has that certain something that makes it interesting. It is a pretty rough vehicle, but there is the potential to tidy up some of the rough edges, and that would improve the presentation no end. If you owned it there would be one thing for certain: This is not a car that you are likely to lose in a car park.

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Comments

  1. Dusty Rider

    I can’t explain why, but I like it. It reminds me of the car in the movie “Who Killed Roger Rabbit”.

    Like 4
    • Jerry Brentnell

      buy this thing build a square tube frame for it drop a 327 chev with a 4 gear behind it and get out and kick the ass of 5 liter mustangs oh ya paint it orange with a rebel flag on the hood ye haw!

      Like 3
      • Dave Mazz

        I’d paint it Revolutionary Red with a gold Hammer & Sickle in the hood, and call it “The Commissar”. :-) :-)

        Like 4
  2. Charles

    Hard to tell if you’re serious here. 4 space-saver wheels. Interchangeable front-rear fenders. Poor door fit-up suggests the next pothole will total the car.

    Like 2
    • Sam61

      Shame on Chrysler for ripping off the commies…PT Cruiser convertible.

      Like 11
      • Robert White

        Chrysler reversed engineered it like the Chinese do except in the case of the PT Cruiser they over-engineered the ugly part which is the overall look.

        PT Cruisers are for the Good Humor Ice Cream man on his days off.

        Bob

        Like 1
  3. Jason

    At first glance, it looks like the inspiration for the Chrysler PT Cruiser convertible!

    Like 19
    • ChallengerChick

      That was my very first thought! LOL!

      Like 4
  4. Lance

    Winner in the Butt Ugly contest. Aztek came in second.

    Like 2
  5. John

    I’m with Jason. I’m pretty sure that it has some pt cruiser DNA.

    Like 3
  6. Kurt

    How would you find parts? These cars had no Packard DNA like the Russian built luxury sedans from the 50s.

    • Bill McCoskey

      Kurt,
      As a serious Packard enthusiast and the former owner of a Pre-WW2 Packard 180 Limousine, while in Europe in 1996 and 1997 I took the opportunity to closely examine a couple of ZIS110 Soviet limousines, and detailed all the differences I found. In order to keep this short I will provide some basic info on the ZIS110 history & difference;

      As part of the Lend-Lease program, Stalin was “given” 2 1942 Packard 180 limousines. At the end of the war he met with the ZIS engineers and explained what he liked [and didn’t like] about the Packards. So the ZIS organization copied many aspects of the Packard limos, making changes as required to meet Stalin’s expectations.

      The entire drive train is almost identical in appearance, however it’s all built to metric specification. The windshields are raked back an additional 15 degrees, and the rear of the car looks more like a 1941 to 1949 Cadillac limo. The running boards were removed, and the bottoms of the doors flared out, this was done to keep snow off the steps now recessed into the body.

      The few actual Packard parts I found on the ZIS110 and ZIS115 [the armored version] cars I’ve examined, include the Phillips radio [with a Russian dial] and the King Seeley instrument gauges, but with applied Russian symbols. Under the hood, we discovered the exhaust & intake manifolds were post-war Packard 356 engine parts, with the Packard casting numbers ground & polished off. Front suspension parts are similar in look, but on comparison they are much sturdier, likely due to the terrible Soviet road system.

      In closing, the 1947 to 1957 ZIS110 and the 1942 Packard 180 limousines look the same at first glance, but are 99% different.

      And as for the Packard factory sending the body dies to Russia, IT NEVER HAPPENED.

      Like 2
  7. John

    I like that front quarter view though….

    Like 1
  8. Rube Goldberg Member

    I think that front end is neat. I’m surprised other car makers of the 30’s didn’t integrate the headlights like that. The rest of the car does nothing.

    Like 2
  9. ken tilly Member

    Looks like Opel Olympia from the front.

  10. rod444

    Sometimes there’s a reason why a car is the only one in the country.

    Like 3
  11. Jeff

    Clumsy is the word for this. An old Moskvitch body had its top chopped off and finagled it to a Lada. Neither one apparently had an interior to donate. And that homemade top whew.

  12. UK Paul 🇬🇧

    Ridiculous thing. Needs putting out of its misery and i try to be pretty open minded.

  13. PDXBryan

    Faster Boris, vee need catch squirrel, get moose!
    But Natasha, I already have foot on floor!

    Like 3
  14. hatofpork

    “In Soviet Union, car drive YOU!” (I got nothing)

    Like 1
  15. wuzjeepnowsaab

    Funny…the Soviets did win the race to space but they couldn’t build a car to save their life. Makes you wonder how nervous the Cosmonauts were every time they buckled in for lift off.

    Like 2
    • ken tilly Member

      @wuzjeepnowsaab. Reminds me of the story where one of the moon astronauts looked around the space capsule and new that he was circling the moon in a vehicle that was manufactured out of materials obtained from the lowest tenderer!

    • Bill McCoskey

      Since all Soviet planning was done by the Central Committee, it’s pretty clear where they focused their efforts. Vehicles for the masses were mostly trolleys, buses, bicycles, and donkeys. The technology that would have gone into development of better cars & trucks went to the space race instead.

      Like 1
  16. Dane

    In one of the pictures there is a black car that looks like a Simca

    . Get some info on that barn find.

  17. Steve

    Make it into a gazzer.

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