Ten Awesome Soviet Cars, Comrade!

In the U.S.S.R. the winters are cold and the cars are strange. Here's your best choices for the ten most awesome and strange cars the collective ever produced.

This is Answers of the Day — a feature where we take the best ten responses from the previous day's Question of the Day and shine it up to show off. It's by you and for you, the Jalopnik readers. Enjoy!

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Ten Awesome Soviet Cars, Comrade!

10.) Skoda Rapid

Suggested By: smackela

Why It's Awesome: Back in the day, the Skoda Rapid was said to handle like "a poor man's Porsche" by Autocar Magazine. Built in Czechoslovakia between 1984 and 1990 on an older Skoda chassis, the car of course still had the same reliability problems we know and love. But it looks pretty cool, and a number of them were rallied at the time, so it can't be that bad, right?

Ten Awesome Soviet Cars, Comrade!

9.) ZiL-117

Suggested By: tonyola

Why It's Awesome: Introduced in 1971 with a 6.9 liter V8 (the same lump as in the older ZiL-114), the 117 was big and threatening. It resembled Chrysler Imperials of the mid-1960's, but with that Russian automotive magic. The cars produced around 300 hp, which was sorely needed to haul around over 6000 pounds of car.

Photo credit: Russian Cars Forum

8.) SZD

Suggested By: Avtoprom

Why It's Awesome: The SZD was originally produced as a kind of motorized wheelchair to the disabled folks in Russia. Often given for free or with a very large discount to those that needed them from the government, they were rarely given to healthy individuals. Available on a five-year lease, they were repossessed at the end of the term and a new one was issued. Surviving examples are rare, as many were destroyed by the government, or rusted out.

Photo credit: Youtube

Ten Awesome Soviet Cars, Comrade!

7.) Volga GAZ 21

Suggested By: AMG=OMG

Why It's Awesome: The GAZ 21 was the first to wear the Volga name, way back when in 1956. Now, it's achieved legendary status, occupying the same sort of mythical place in Russian car culture as the Citroen DS does in France. There were various different versions produced during the car's roughly 24-year-long lifespan, some had automatic transmissions, others were the special V8 versions produced exclusively for the KGB. The civilian models were four cylinder machines, producing only 70 hp. On a good day.

Photo credit: Panoramio

Ten Awesome Soviet Cars, Comrade!

6.) Tatra 603

Suggested By: KAR120C

Why It's Awesome: Built between 1956 and 1975, the 603 is one of the most distinctive cars to come out of the former Czechoslovakia. It was built in three series, though as the newer models came out, the older ones on the roads would be returned to the factory. There, they would be disassembled and rebuilt, swapping out the old parts for new ones. This makes it very difficult to tell what model Tatra you're dealing with today. Most notably, the car's got a big honkin' V8 stuffed in its trunk.

Photo credit: UK Tatra Register

Ten Awesome Soviet Cars, Comrade!

5.) Melkus RS 1000

Suggested By: szaftoskolbasz

Why It's Awesome: What do you get when you take the 3-cylinder, 993 cc, two-stroke 50 hp engine from a Wartburg 353 and drop it in an arguably pretty good looking sports car body? Why, the East German Melkus RS 1000, of course! Sure, it might not get you where you're going very quickly, but I'll be damned if you could find something better looking to motor slowly in, in 1969 East Germany.

Photo credit: Resim Motoru

Ten Awesome Soviet Cars, Comrade!

4.) Stratopolonez

Suggested By: Lotte

Why It's Awesome: This is a good one. We're all familiar with the Lancia Stratos, but how many of you are aware of the Stratopolonez? It's like a Stratos, but more ridiculous. Take frame, engine, suspension, brakes, and general demeanor of the Stratos, but get rid of the body. Replace it with a Polish designed and built hatchback, enter the little monster in Group B, and there you have it. According to the poorly-translated Polish Wikipedia page for the car: "The first time, people living near the factory telephoned the police "to suppress the horrible noise." Before the race debut of the car did not pass any tests or even a set of geometry. During the first race run by Andrew Stratopolonez Jaroszewicz made as many as three uncontrolled rotation around its axis, but still won." Sounds like a winner to me.

Photo credit: ForzaItalia.pl

Ten Awesome Soviet Cars, Comrade!

3.) ZiL-112 Sports

Suggested By: HammSammich

Why It's Awesome: The ZiL-112 Sports was the first (and probably only) race car built in the Lihachiov factory. It featured the inline 8 cylinder engine out of the ZiL-111, which was good for about 230 hp. It sported a limited slip diff, radial tires, and disc brakes, all firsts for Soviet Union-produced cars. It also almost looks like a Ferrari 250 TR, which is always nice.

Photo credit: English Russia

Ten Awesome Soviet Cars, Comrade!

2.) Trabant 601

Suggested By: 87CapriceEstate

Why It's Awesome: The Trabant 601 is the poster child for horrible East German cars. Its body was built out of a strange amalgam of lint, fiberglass, and who knows what else. They had tiny little engines, and made strange noises; but they look so cute! Initially neglected right after the fall of the Berlin Wall, newly revitalized interest in these cars is starting to increase prices.

Photo credit: indy_slug

Ten Awesome Soviet Cars, Comrade!

1.) Lada Niva

Suggested By: fhrblig

Why It's Awesome: Everyone's favorite "Communist Land Rover," the Niva holds a special place in the hearts of many off-roading enthusiasts. Considered the first crossover SUV, the Niva features unibody construction, independent front suspension, and no air conditioning. Production began in 1977, and continues to this day. These cars are so good off road, Jeremy Clarkson famously lit a cigarette with the car's lighter while speeding across the British countryside in a 2008 episode of Top Gear. And finally, as with all Ladas, the Niva comes from the factory with a 21-piece 'Do It Yourself' repair kit for the inevitable roadside repair.

Photo credit: Autoshatterkepek.hu