What is it?
A compact car, produced by Soviet automobile maker MZMA and launched for the first time in 1956. It’s the successor of the 401 series and is one of the most popular mass vehicles of its time.
Where and when was it made?
Production of the 402 started in 1956 in Moscow and two years later 94,080 units were assembled. In 1958 the 407 hit the assembly lines to reach a production run of 359,980 copies. In 1962 it was replaced by the 403 that remained in production until 1965.
At first, the model had a classic front-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout that combines the work of a 1.2-liter flathead gasoline engine with 35 horsepower (26 kilowatts) and a three-speed manual gearbox. In 1958 the motor was replaced by a slightly bigger 1.3-liter engine, channeling 45 hp (34 kW) to the rear wheels through a new four-speed manual gearbox.
What’s so special about it?
Well, it’s not the most inspiring vehicle, to say the least. But there’s got to be something special about a car that was produced in nearly 500,000 copies – it looks cute, has the right size and shape, and was cheaper than the Fords of that segment in the 1950s-1960s.
This Moskvitch could be considered as the first car in Soviet Russia that was offered in customer-adapted trim levels and application-based body versions. The 407, for example, was the most luxurious model in the series offering good comfort and standard equipment such as heater, radio, and different dashboard.
Speaking of technologies, the 402/403/407 series was a major leap forward compared to the 401 that it replaced. The new model featured independent suspension with double wishbones, telescopic shock absorbers, 12-volt electrics, more solid and comfortable car body, more modern trunk, and wider viewing range for the driver.
While it was not the prettiest car on the road, it is still a well-looking vehicle with design inspired by foreign rivals, such as the Hillman Minx, Fiat 1100, Ford Prefect 100E, and Jowett Javelin. In fact, the designers of the GAZ-21 Volga took part in the creation of the compact Moskvitch.
During its lifecycle, the model was exported to several Western countries, including Norway where it was a good offering on the market, considering its low import taxes and good durability. A total of 18,019 units were exported.