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The cool cars of St. Petersburg

Illustration for article titled The cool cars of St. Petersburg

Russia has earned an iconic status among car people for its very peculiar carscape. A lot of rugged Russian cars have been in production for a long time, the still-quite 1971-ish UAZ Hunter probably the most well-known among them (available from 6200$ new until the end of the year). Avtovaz, GAZ, UAZ, Moskvitch and a host of other Soviet brands used to churn out cars for an insatiable market for decades. Many of these cars survive to this day - and they have recently gained attention of collectors both in the East and the West.

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In addition, import restrictions are few in today’s Russia, so you will find Japanese, Chinese and Persian cars in traffic that you will hardly ever see on European or American streets. This massive photo dump illustrates some of these cars still to be found on the streets of Russia’s most Western, hospitable city: St. Petersburg.

Lets start with Russian classics:

To my opinion, the GAZ 24 (and its many iterations) is one of the most beautiful Soviet cars ever produced.

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Illustration for article titled The cool cars of St. Petersburg
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Illustration for article titled The cool cars of St. Petersburg

Not all of them are taken care of:

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Zeus and ... ?

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Illustration for article titled The cool cars of St. Petersburg
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Illustration for article titled The cool cars of St. Petersburg

The Moskvitch 400-series was a series of rugged compact sedans, wagons, pickups and delivery vans. Growing up in the GDR, I remember how my privileged uncle had to do a thorough check of his “Mossi” whenever he went on a larger trip - that is, about 200km. It sounds ridiculous today, but back then, making sure the car is fit for such a journey was a mundane procedure.

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An updated version of the same car:

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Illustration for article titled The cool cars of St. Petersburg
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Illustration for article titled The cool cars of St. Petersburg

The ZAZ Zaporozhets - noisy, air-cooled engines provided some sort of directional movement. Eventually.

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Illustration for article titled The cool cars of St. Petersburg
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Then there’s the true Soviet star, the GAZ M21, a car designed to last forever. The first car branded “Volga”, it is a true collector’s item, as high prices in RUB confirm. That is especially true, if you go for a car that has already made the journey westwards.

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Illustration for article titled The cool cars of St. Petersburg

The UAZ “Bukhanka” - one of the cutest and coolest 4x4 vehicles on the planet, still available new in various forms - is everywhere. As is the Patriot, a tough, half-modern SUV. The Patriot managed to beat the Lada 4x4, TaGAZ Tager and Great Wall Hover in this epic 7000km comparison test through the desert and more.

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Illustration for article titled The cool cars of St. Petersburg

Various Ladas are everywhere, too. The Kalina (Europe’s cheapest car), Granta, ever-strong Niva and a host of other models are the stable of Russian roads.

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Contrasts are big in the East:

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So what about those imports? This Samand LX from Iran - with Russian plates - was the biggest unexpected surprise. As we were late for the opera, I can only offer you one blurry shot:

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Japanese cars are huge, the more so, the further East you get.

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You didn’t realize what car this is, you say? C’mon:

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A little family car intermezzzo. What kind of mural do you drive your kids around with? You lose anyway:

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Chinese cars feature quite large. This is the first time I saw a Geely Emgrand, the brand being most famous for having swallowed Volvo - so far very successfully - and for building the new retro-London taxi.

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The Lifan 3-series is a BMW copy, but not the one the name suggests:

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A Lifan Breez, not very different from another car named “Verona”:

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The Great Wall X240 isn’t all that ridciulous-looking:

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A Korean Ssangyong that is actually a rebadged Isuzu Axiom (thanks, MRF95!). And as commenter Spasoje points out, Renault-Nissan gained control of Lada a while back - which explains why the Datsun below reminds us of the Kalina. It is one.

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Now we’ve come so far - time for the gaudy stuff!:

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Illustration for article titled The cool cars of St. Petersburg
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The streets of St. Petersburg are - no doubt - entertaining. But, to round this off, if I am truly just to the city, the streets are full of modern cars. The interesting bits above are mere icing on the cake, in 2015, ordinary European and Asian cars appear to be the vehicles of choice in this wealthy city. Thanks for reading this!

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