No. 1, 2005

Vladimir Rogov, ,
Alexander Seleznyov


A Moscow museum features unique relics of automobile history

Antique and vintage cars are extremely popular all over the world for their nostalgic appeal and sheer beauty. The idea of creating a Russian museum of vintage automobiles had been in the air for decades. Finally, a group of enthusiasts led by Lev Zheleznyakov have made their dream come true.

The Moscow Museum of Vintage Cars and Carriages boasts one of the world's largest collection of rare Soviet autos. Many of its exhibits, like the first Russian-manufactured Yakovlev & Freze automobile (1896) reconstructed by the museum's own car-repair wizards, the gem of the collection, are absolutely unique. Surprisingly, all the vehicles on display in the museum are operational. The 1937 fire engine which Osaw actionO in a small provincial town until late 1976 remains in fighting trim. Relics of the Soviet era include the GAZ-13B and ZIS-IOV cabriolets; the once famous GAZ-M1, the Soviet "people's car" of the 1930s; the GAZ-M20 Pobeda; the beautiful Moskvitch 401-422, the only Russian all-wood automobile to survive to this day. Incidentally, such cars were common in the early post-WWII years when metal was short here.

The exposition is not restricted to Soviet car models: next to the celebrated Chayka and ZIS VIP limousines one can see a German Mercedes-Benz, an Austrian Steyer, and the famous Americans: a Studebecker, a Ford and a Jeep. Spoils of World War II and the best of the motor vehicles supplied under Lend-Lease figure prominently in the exposition.

Motor vehicles' predecessors, horse-drawn carriages, have not been neglected, either: over a dozen of them represent the remote 19th century. Means of transportation are not the museum's only exhibits. The atmosphere this or that car belongs to is

conveyed by stylish period pieces like automobile accessories, antique typewriters and sewing machines, clocks, telephones, radios, etc.

In a reconstructed old hangar one can not only see tools of various epochs but also, with luck, witness the process of an ancient car being born anew. The Moscow Museum of Vintage Cars and Carriages is not only an exhibition, but also a unique workshop where inspired craftsmen perform the miracle of resurrecting once beautiful creations of engineering genius, reduced to heaps of scrap metal by time and wear, to their original glory.

The museum is very popular with movie directors who often use its exhibits in their historical pictures.

A library of over 20,000 volumes of books about automobiles has been built up in the museum, not to mention technical drawings, test reports and photographs. Many automobile restorers apply to the museum for expert advice. The museum's archives are being continuously replenished. The collection of automobiles is growing. Quite a few visitors come over not only to enjoy the exposition but to contribute unique artifacts of automotive culture to it.

The museum organizes thematic exhibitions devoted to individual car makes, designers and highlights in the history of the world's automaking industry. On February 23, 2005, an exhibition on the subject of the 60th anniversary of the victory over the Nazis was held. A display of technical drawings featuring ultra-modern as well as vintage cars is coming soon.

Russia's most popular automobile journal, The Auto Review, a sponsor of the museum for over a decade now, is of inestimable assistance to it.

The Moscow Museum of Vintage Cars and Carriages is expanding its display space. As early as 2005, ground will be broken for a new building to house it. Before very long, the museum is to become one of Europe's largest of its kind, as befits Moscow - a "museum capital city" of the world.

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Oil of Russia, No. 1, 2005
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