Conqueror of the abroad: Moskvich-412

Photo: Torsten Maue (Wikipedia)

For several weeks, we have been talking about multi-day rallies, including two intercontinental events, in which Soviet teams took part in a car, well known to every citizen of the USSR — «Moskvich-412». And today in our weekly «Legend Alive» we would like to tell the story of the creation of a small but very proud car.

Where does a car start: from an idea: a layout, or perhaps the most important thing — from the engine? The story of today’s main character began with the creation of a more powerful engine at the design stage of the predecessor model — «Moskvich-408». The motor was to be installed on a sports modification «Tourist» and only then — on a civilian version, but in the end only a new 1.5-litre overhead motor remained from the project, which became the starting point for creating a new model.

«Moskvich-412» has changed the idea of small cars in the USSR. A small car with a working displacement of 1480 cubic cm could accelerate to 145 km/h! For the mid-1960s this was a new word in the automotive industry, although design problems arose at the beginning of production. Teardrop-shaped vertical taillights, round headlights were inherited from the 1964 model, but the body had to be modified to accommodate all the components of the new car. However, almost immediately after production, engineers found the optimal solution, which made it possible to produce both models (408 and 412) in a unified body until an updated version is designed. Its appearance did not keep everyone waiting long, literally three years later, the designers received a new body, which made it possible not only to place the power units, but also to update the appearance. Horizontal lights with triangular turn signals at the back and elongated in front, rectangular headlights from the GDR, as well as a cage-shaped grille with wide low cells significantly distinguished the car from its ancestors.

In addition to the exterior changes, the new body meets the passive safety requirements of the UN Economic Commission for Europe. The car was equipped with fasteners for seat belts, the protruding parts of the passenger compartment were supplemented with soft pads. Thus, the USSR received the right to export Moskvich, which led to the appearance of two new brands abroad. In the People’s Republic of Bulgaria «Moskvich-412» was produced under the Rila brand, and in Belgium it was known as Scaldia.

In addition to working on passive safety, engineers were able to improve the technical characteristics of the car, which should have reduced the risk of accidents on the roads. The new dual-circuit braking system improved the vehicle’s active safety, which, coupled with passive safety updates, made the Moskvich one of the most advanced vehicles in the Soviet Union.

It should be noted that throughout the entire production time of «Moskvich-412» (and this, for a minute, more than thirty years), engineers continued to improve the characteristics of the car. For example, in January 1968 separate front seats appeared in the cabin, in November of the same year the gear lever was installed in the floor, at the same time a steering column that folds upon impact appeared in the car.  And in the early seventies, «Moskvich-412» acquired «fangs» on the bumper.

But no matter what updates the engineers carry out, progress does not stand still, and after 32 years the history of the production of a small but proud car came to an end (at the Moskvich plant the car was produced from 1967 to 1977, and at an automobile plant in Izhevsk — up to 1998 — editor’s note). Fortunately, as the production of «Moskvich-412» was shut down, the car itself has not sunk into oblivion, and to this day you can find it on the Russia’s roads or at retro-car events, for example, at the «GUM-Autorally». If after reading this you would feel like buying a «Moskvich-412» and take part in such an event, then get ready to empty ypur wallet for quite a large sum. The cost of a car in good condition reaches 150 thousand rubles (circa $2040/€1730)!