Friday, September 23, 2011


SMN report:
The ModelSpace brand from publisher DeAgostini has a fascinating offer starting now: a dozen-vehicle range of vehicles from the days of World War II, and the later Cold War era, when the Soviet Empire vied with the West.

You speak Russian?
Each 1:43 scale car comes with an imported Russian-language magazine (two spreads shown above) so, unless you speak Russian, you’ll need to crank up your Google translator program. Actually, the language drawback makes the whole thing a lot more interesting, as the cars are only available on general sale today in Russia and the Ukraine.

Marvel and drool
In the words of DeAgostini’s somewhat breathless copywriter: “Marvel at Russian build quality, drool over Soviet refinements - the country that invented austerity!” And that’s about right as, powerful as the USSR was politically, the quality of its technology was, should we say, rather basic. Iron Curtain machines did the job, but with little notion of style or finesse.

Style knockoffs
The cars themselves cover a range of awfulness in automotive design, with names like VAZ, GAZ, and ZAZ. Many of them were poor knockoffs of American style, yet today there’s a period charm that outweighs the copycat looks that first marked them out.

Definitely different
As 1:43 scale models go, these are all fair to good, though without much sophistication. But no matter, they are worth having for that ‘difference-factor’. DeAgostini offers various purchase options, including money-saving bundle deals.

GAZ 11-73
The GAZ 11-73 (top picture) was produced from 1940-46, albeit very slowly, and only 1250 were made -  just 50 or so examples are thought to survive today. First intended as a civilian car, the 11-73’s size and large V6 engine made it ideal as a military staff vehicle. The model is 110 mm (4.3 in) long and 39 mm (1.5 in) wide.

GAZ-13 Chaika
Chaikas were the wheels of choice for the thugs of the KGB, as they swept along the central VIP lanes of ‘everyone is equal’ socialist Moscow, and if a dissenter bound for Siberia was handcuffed in the back, so much the better. The Chaika (Russian for ‘Gull’) was a Communist version of chrome-n-fins Americana of the day, and like the 11-73, was a limited production machine - from 1960-81, less than 4,000 were made. The Chaika diecast model measures 134 mm (5.3 in) long by 46 mm (1.8 in) wide.

Other cars in this import set are just as interesting. For more information visit DeAgostini here.