A frying pan steering wheel: The best of homemade Soviet cars

In Soviet-era Russia, families needing transportation lined up at the car office, filled out their paperwork and waited up to six years for their wheels to arrive. Many chose to instead spend those years building their own cars, from iron-clad sports cars to pods with a frying pan for a steering wheel. Here's some of the best... and worst of what Soviet-era Russia garage-builders wrought.

Part of the "Oldtimers" classic car show in Moscow, the collection on display last week caught by photographer Anton Jaroshenko was often born of necessity, by creators who used whatever parts and body equipment they could find. But some of the vehicles show that even in a land choking on Ladas, there's a universal language of automotive beauty.


To see this gallery all on one page, click here

All photos courtesy Anton Jaroshenko. Hat tip to 4X!


Work (1964)

Leave it to a Soviet builder to call his ride "Work." Powered by a three-cylinder engine, it's clear someone had decade-old pictures of a Corvette to draw from.


Proton (1985)

An electric car with batteries and motor from heavy equipment, the Proton officially confirms that even Soviet-era tool shed fabricators had more style than some General Motors products of the same time.


Solo Buggy (1980)

Among Soviet homemade car builders, the Sherbinin brothers were among the most well-known and adventurous. Who else would build a Meyers Manx clone perfect for troping along the shores of the Black Sea?


KD (1963-69)

If the ZAZ Zaporozhets was supposed to be the Iron Bloc answer to the Volkswagen Beetle, this would be its Karmann Ghia. Using the V4 from a ZAZ-965A and typical Soviet manufacturing pace, KD managed to build six copies of its sportish coupe over six years.


JNA/"Satan (1986)

The Sherbinin brothers probably peaked with this pinnacle of late Soviet-era coachbuliding. The "Satan" was a one-off sports car that gained notoriety in the U.S.S.R. thanks to placement in a popular movie — "popular" defined as being "a movie people were allowed to see." Still a daily driver, it now has more than half a million kilometers on its chassis and power from a straight six borrowed from a BMW 535.


Pangolin GT (1982)

Of all the Soviet homebuilders, none became more renown than Alexander Kulygin and his Pangolin GT. Built in an era where East German designs were still being stamped out, the Pangolin looked like a modern sports car without blatantly copying the worst of the bourgeoisie West. The looks were its only selling point; underneath the fiberglass body lay the 62-hp Lada four-cylinder engine, but it was enough to make the Pangolin far sportier than any production vehicle. This version has a targa-like top, but the original car eschewed doors for a cockpit that swung open, one-upping the Lamborghini. Following perestrokia, Kulygin emigrated to the United States, where he attempted to recreate his success with kit cars, this time using Pontiac Fieros as a base. He died in 2004 in a car crash.


Who Needs Scrambled Eggs?

Some Soviet vehicle builders had to make do with whatever parts they could scrounge, even if it meant convering an airplane body into a road-going vehicle. And if the cockpit is missing its controls, how do you find a replacement for such a beast?


Just liberate a frying pan from the kitchen — as you saw in the first picture at the top of this story — and live with boiled eggs rather than scrambled.

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