Hungarian photographer documents supercars under CommunismS

The golden age of supercars were heady days in the West, where there were actual people who could comprehend and buy them. But what was it like to look at the Ferrari 512 and the Lamborghini Countach in a world of planned economies and Trabant futures? An ongoing project explores the automotive dreams of Communist Hungary.

You could say that Attila Károly Nagy’s Scanzen is nothing but scans of old black and white magazine covers with some interesting old photos thrown into the mix, and you wouldn’t be far from the truth, but the context of his covers blows the mind.

The magazine was called Autó-Motor. It was the car magazine of choice for the Hungarian gearhead, mainly because there were no other car magazines to buy. The covers are completely up-to-date in contemporary avant-garde. The famous photo of the Countach prototype with the Renaissance statue in the background from 1971 is right there on the cover of the July 21, 1971 issue. Readers didn’t have to wait for the internet to be invented to learn about the Lancia Stratos concept either. It was on a 1970 cover. And so on.

Flip through the actual magazines though, which I’ve had the pleasure of doing so courtesy of Attila, and a very different picture emerges. The magazines had nothing to do with supercars and concept cars! They were all about the care and maintenance of Eastern Bloc

Hungarian photographer documents supercars under CommunismS

cars. While a short news item may have hinted at the latest twelve cylinders of aural delight from Maranello, the actual pages were devoted to fixing Trabants. The Sea of Trabants cover (left) must conceal incredible features on Ferraris though.

How the readers of Autó-Motor managed to bridge this Grand Canyon of schizophrenic editing I cannot imagine. Buying a car in the Eastern Bloc was a 10–15-year process. You applied for a car and waited. And waited. And waited. Years later, you could pick up your car in whatever color happened to be in stock. If you were lucky, the car had no significant issues with build quality. Those times were rare.

To live in this weird world of loony economics and look at Italian supercars which continue to amaze? How did anyone manage to stay sane? Maybe the arithmetically gifted realized the fundamental economic issues with Communism and knew that the day would come when the whole thing would go up in a cloud of off-beige smoke, and then, in their second-hand Fiats, they could head for a road open all the way to the Atlantic and beyond, carrying copies of Autó-Motor to show the way.

All images from Scanzen.