A Moskvitch in England

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Sir,

Second time lucky ? Can I, as one of the select band of Moskvitch private owners (and also as the scribbler who carried out the “Ironmongery and Hardware” test to which you graciously referred) hope for a few column inches in which to comment on your eminently fair road-test of the 407?

My car, bought at the end of October 1960, replaced a Citroen DS19, and therefore had quite a standard to maintain. Perhaps the highest praise I can give it is to declare that it has not disappointed.

In three months it has covered 5,800 miles, being driven gaily up A 22 and into the heart of London five days each week, and motored with even gayer abandon at week-ends. Most open-road cruising has been at 60/65 m.p.h. (the speedometer, checked electronically by the Churchill factory at Feltham, reads just a mile an hour fast) and the first 20 miles of my daily run were covered in 32 minutes, compared with 30 minutes in the Citroen. At this point, I should add that the first two journeys after fitting a Peco Twin-tune Exhaust Booster saw this time reduced to first 30, then 28, minutes. Usual disclaimer!

Under these conditions, carefully maintained fuel records show that from 1,400 to 5,800 miles the overall consumption has been 26 m.p.g., latterly improving to 28 m.p.g. I have several times covered 210 miles on a tank of commercial-grade Shell. As another point of interest, a trial tank of Jet 90 resulted in slightly smoother running, but a slump to 24 m.p.g. The maker’s claimed 43 m.p.g. is, as the handbook makes clear, at a steady 25 m.p.h.! Some day I’ll try it….

I find the general handling of the Moskvitch excellent, especially when the roads are slippery, and mine seems able to surpass most British 1½-litre cars on fast corners. It is, however, a very slow hill-climber, needing full noise in third to stay with a Mini-Minor on gradients steeper than 1 in 10. Oddly enough, though, I have never found it necessary—or even possible—to take “recourse to second gear” to restore pick-up. Third-gear flexibility is ample; near-peak revs in second gear occur at a speed of only 32 m.p.h., and the change down is awkward.

On top speed the last few m.p.h. do indeed take an unconsciously long time in coming. On the other hand, I have timed the car at 71 m.p.h. over a measured quarter after a standing start one mile away, with an approach through an S-bend and up a very slight incline. I’ll admit this was “one-up.”

Just a few more points of interest. Not all these cars have the comic wing-nut seat adjustment. Mine is lever-controlled, with spring loading. Over-cooling is a fact, but it is anything but odd on a Russian car. Tackling deep snow or unmade, dusty roads calls for a lot of low-speed work at high engine speeds, and even in the temperatures of a Russian winter greater-than-usual cooling capacity is needed. Anyway, summer temperatures of over 100 F degrees are not uncommon. This point is one our manufacturers should bear in mind when selling cars to the Russians.

The “cellophane” side panels are actually cloth-covered fibreboard; the “cellophane” is plastic, intended to protect the cloth before delivery. Very well-tailored plastic covers are fitted to the seats, for the same reason, when the car is delivered.

By the way, V/o Auto-export are the exporters; the car is built by the MZMA (Moscow Small Car Factory), in Moscow. MOCKBИЧ is Moskvitch, since in the Cyrillic alphabet C=S, B=V, И=I, and Ч=CH.

Troubles ? When mine was a few weeks old the clutch toggles went awry; and the radio aerial failed to work properly. Both faults were rectified by the concessionaires, who fitted a new clutch, free of charge, on a “leave the car in the morning; pick it up at night” basis. They also put themselves to the considerable inconvenience of replacing a shattered windscreen by removing one from a stock car and fitting it while I waited. Thank heavens I have found one firm who still maintain the tradition of real service.

Oh!—a word of warning to those taking your final paragraph too seriously. You need strong nerves to own a car whose fellow you are unlikely to meet in “a month of Sundays.” Walking round Fleet Street recently I did meet another Moskvitch, the same colour as mine. I nearly had heart failure. I thought mine had been pinched …! [Possibly this was our test-car, on its way to be photographed in the City.–Ed.] I am, Yours. etc., John Clarke. Crawley Down.

 

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