It’s rather underpowered and lacking in racing cred, but you’ve got to love the Art Deco tank looks of this GAZ GL–1 sports car—from 1938, of all years.
Think 1938 in the Soviet Union and sports cars are not exactly the first things that come to mind. The year was the height of the Yezhovshchina, the crescendo of Stalin’s great purge, when a shocking percentage of the people got a one-way ticket to Siberia—or a bullet to the head.
Some, but not all, as this GAZ shows. Designed by Evgenie Agitov and built on an M1 platform, a clone of the Ford Model B, it originally came with a 65 hp four-cylinder engine, good for a leisurely 90 mph, with the later addition of a 100 hp six cylinder unit bringing that up to the ton.
By the time it was finished in 1940, motor racing fell somewhat out of fashion in favor of mechanized warfare, so the car was never raced, but it did become the fastest car in the Soviet Union. The original is gone, but this wonderful fire-engine red reconstrucion was built this year for the Moscow Museum.