Wednesday July 4, 2012 no. 1 – Soviet cars

Through pouring rain we go back to Five O’Clock, our favourite Vladivostok cafe with a portrait of the Queen. Plus, I discover leafing through some English magazines, it has “Queen and People”, a souvenir postcard collection from the 1977 Jubilee with all of the cards still attached, showing the royal family, the colonial crests, the royal garter, etc. There’s another magazine telling the story of the royals in-depth, and how they battled back from public approbation as recently as the 1960s. But even at this distance, the whole royalty thing is starting to grate, and I content myself with a 1996 guide to Yorkshire. I hadn’t realized that many an ugly, pissant little town in Ontario is named after a grand, hundreds-years-old one in Yorkshire.

Since M. found a listing for the Automotive Museum here, I’d been going on about seeing Soviet cars. So we take a bus out to the burbs and get off a few stops early, which affords us a treacherous climb along a jumble of curbs, driveways, jutting buildings and broken concrete, all inlaid with dirty puddles, that passes for a sidewalk. On the other side of the street, it changes to a wide path of sharp gravel, so we take that – it’s still raining, the water is still rushing along the street, but at least we’re above it now:

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Here are Vladivostok hills and, for good measure, a giant factory. The Soviets placed these near homes, which I guess is convenient, if not great for the lungs, particularly in all the fog.

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After finding the museum and another long trek up a steep hill to find a bank machine, we trudge back past the Soviet-era beige and grey blocks to the museum. We’re the only people in it the entire time.

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There’s a quote from Stalin explaining how the auto industry must be made a priority, though I wonder how many Soviets had access to these cars, or indeed how well they worked.

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Soviet cars were either grand…

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Note the red-plastic crest:

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… or unintentionally cute:

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Or maybe it was intentional. But the Soviets aimed for grand in most things.

A Soviet muscle limo! Perhaps it featured in an early 70s Tajiksploitation film:

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This has to be a reversed-engineered Vespa, the T-200 Tyla:

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But it can’t be a Vespa because they’ve added a crest:

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A WW2 re-enactment. The players were only dressed up as Nazis, a pretty sensitive topic here, or so I thought before I saw this:

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Soviet motorcycles look pretty basic to me – lots of giant springs – but they held continent-wide rallies on them, so maybe the simple mechanics meant they were easily repairable:

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Look, Soviet mods from 1960!

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This is from Nazi Germany. Can you tell?

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I like this Czech bike from 1938:

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A British entry from 1926. You probably get five rides before your spine collapses:

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An ice-racing bike:

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1972-1990, the ravages of age:

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Maybe a driver’s test certificate? I love the machine-age aesthetic:

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Why isn’t motorcycle-planking with giant silhouettes of Stalin an Olympic sport anymore?

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The Young Communists look like annoying do-gooders. “You’re just in time for ‘Sponge Bath the Old Folks’ Day!”

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Something forlorn about this one:

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Outside there was a row of freshly painted military vehicles that hadn’t moved in a while. Here’s a Varyushka rocket carrier – called Stalin’s organs for their effectiveness against the Nazi army – with very realistic-looking rockets:

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