Getting a car in the Soviet Union of the 1970s was very similar to not getting a car in the Soviet Union in the 1970s. Most of the time was spent not having a car. Waiting lists could be a decade long, and most people just waited it out. But not Boris Karavkin, an artist from Minsk. He just built his own damn car.
Amazingly, Karavkin is still driving the car to this day, and he's getting ready to do some more upgrades on it. Karavkin learned the technical skills he needed while working in a weapons factory, and was inspired by cars he saw in magazines, especially science magazines.
The car is called the "Fantasy," though, really, this car was more grounded in reality than any of those Zaporozetes or Moskovitches that only existed as entries on a waiting list for most people. Boris did all the plans and drawings himself, and got some of the parts while working at an auto parts store, drawing posters and doing other design work for them.
The car itself I think has a pretty fascinating design; it's got proportions somewhat similar to an AMC Gremlin, with an interesting reverse-rake C-pillar and some nice two-tone orange and cream paintwork.
The car also has an ingenious sliding-door system, and a swiveling driver's seat for easy entry and exit. It's currently using a front-mounted Zhiguli (Lada) engine making 64 HP, though the car started off with a Zaporozets V4. Based on the design of the car (air intakes to the rear) and some earlier shots of the car in the video, I think the Zaporozets engine was likely rear-mounted, and he later switched to a front-engine design when he upgraded to a more powerful Skoda engine.
Originally, the car had front suspension from a Zaporozets, but it was "terrible." Boris had seen McPhearson struts in Western car magazines, and somehow managed to use that setup up front.
The Fantasy uses parts from all sorts of cars, like rear shocks from a Volga, but the overall design is extremely original. I especially like the front-end treatment, with the trapezoidal glassed headlight enclosures and the spread-wing-looking grille.
The interior seems to be made up of bits from a number of other Soviet-era cars, tied nicely together with a long slab of fake wood.
He's fought with getting the car registered in the past, but in 1973 he did manage to get it registered "by some miracle." That may be a Russian euphemism for a bribe?
Building the car took him about five years, and while it's clear he loves the car — driving it for 40 years and turning down a number of offers to sell it — he's pretty realistic about any novelty or romance regarding building your own car:
"Therefore, my advice for the do-it-yourselfers who might want to "reinvent the wheel" as I did would be not to waste so much time on this venture. Buy a car from a dealer, now it is not a problem anymore."
Well, okay, that's true. It's not a problem anymore. But I still can't help but loving this delightfully awkward and innovative little car built by a man sick of waiting to drive.