Models 402 and 407 were both modern and obsolete

Moskvitch 402
Moskvitch 402

The first generation of Moskvich cars was based on the pre-war Opel Kadett, and in the early 1950s, it was no longer a modern design. The Moscow carmaker MZMA thus started working on a successor, a car of its own design. In April 1956, the first Moskvich of the second generation was launched, which was designated 402, and in Lecce it was an important turning point for the Soviet automobile industry.

The development of the new model began in the early 1950s, and from the beginning, it was clear that the angular shapes of the pre-war Opel would be replaced by the then-modern rounded lines. They were already given the first prototypes, which in many ways resembled Western cars of the time. Not by chance, because the engineers of the Soviet manufacturer researched, for example, Simca Aronde, Ford Consul or Fiat 1100 - in short, the best that the then market with cars of a similar size as the planned Moskvich offered.

Nevertheless, it was definitely not a copy or licensed production, inspired by the "best", but to some extent opened the carmaker MZMA (Moscow's plant for small or small cars), which sold its cars under the name Moskvich, to doors to export markets. The first Moskvič 402 was launched in April 1956, but under the timeless and modern shapes of the self-supporting body, there was rather a disappointment.

Although the technicians working on the new engine, it did not go into series production, and the 402 series had to be satisfied only with a slightly modified unit with side valves, the basis of which dates back to before the Second World War. Its volume increased to 1.2 liters compared to the original first post-war generation of Moskvich, while the power of 26 kW was transmitted by a three-speed transmission to the rear rigid axle. The redesigned front axle received an independent wheel suspension, 12V wiring was also used instead of the older 6V.

Despite the somewhat archaic engine, however, Moskvich 402 brought a number of innovations to the Soviet automotive industry. As Andy Thompson mentions in Cars of The Soviet Union: The Definitive History, a curved window appeared on the front and rear of the Soviet car for the first time, the door locks were incorporated into the handles, the outside luggage compartment could be locked, the chassis received telescopic shock absorbers and the cab a two-spoke steering wheel appeared. By the way, the gear lever was under him. And one more detail from the interior - the seats could be folded into a bed arrangement.

The 4055 mm long sedan with a wheelbase stretched to 2370 mm was complemented in 1957 by an equally large but more practical 423 station wagon with a larger trunk. It had five doors, the fifth opening to the left. Originally, the production of a van derived from a station wagon was also planned, but in the end, it did not take place. In addition, the Type 423 made up only a fraction of all Muscovites produced at the time, the vast majority falling on the sedan. It was already offered from the factory in a modification for paramedics, taxi services, and with manual control.

In addition to the station wagon in 1957, another special version added to the offer. Moskvich 410 was a terrain variant with a clear height of 220 mm. While the body corresponded to the standard 402 sedans, the chassis had a pair of rigid axles with leaf springs and a number of other modifications. All wheels were driven, but on the road, the performance traveled only to the rear wheels as standard. The engine and transmission came from a standard sedan, but a novelty was the two-stage reduction.

As early as mid-1958, Moskvich 407 replaced the 402 series. It should be noted that in Moscow they produced almost 88,000 402 sedans and slightly over 1,500 station wagons marked 423. All according to the data in the book SV Kanunnikova's domestic passenger cars, which focuses on the Soviet and the Russian automotive industry. Already 402, it was heading in relatively large numbers to export markets outside the Eastern bloc.

At first glance, the new Moskvich 407 did not bring many innovations. The front chrome grille and bumpers remained, as did the curved windows at the front and rear or the accentuated rear fenders. Nevertheless, the new type can be recognized by the inscription Moskvich in the Cyrillic alphabet on the front under the carmaker's logo or chrome trim on the side of the body - this first appeared on models with the two-tone body, but gradually got into cars with one-color paint.

However, the main changes took place under the hood, because in Moscow finally came up with a more modern engine with OHV distribution (valves in the cylinder head). The volume rose to 1.4 liters and the power to 33 kW, making the car faster, but also more economical. Nothing has changed on the driven rigid rear axle, as has the three-speed manual transmission.

Along with the sedan, its variants were also modernized, or the station wagon with the new name 423N. For the first time, the 430-derived van, which had only three doors, entered series production, although the rear pair was simply welded to the body and a solid bulkhead behind the front seats. However, only state-owned enterprises and organizations could buy it.

The off-road variant, newly designated 410N, was also modernized and a more powerful engine. In the offer, it was supplemented for the first time by the 411 off-road station wagon; Production of the all-wheel-drive version ended prematurely in 1961.

The 410 and 410N sedans produced less than 7,600 pieces, the 411 station wagon is much rarer with 1515 pieces made. Again, this is data available in SV Kanunnikov's book, Andy Thompson, for example lists a total of almost 12,000 all-wheel-drive Moskvichs produced, and Jan Tuček writes less than 11,000 in the book Eastern Bloc Cars. In any case, it is one of the rarest variants of the second generation of Moskvich cars, which in a way preceded crossover fashion by several decades.

And why did their production end prematurely at all? Because the carmaker did not manage to cover the demand for standard variants, which quickly became very popular in some Western European markets. In Belgium, for example, a local importer also mounted Perkins diesel engines under the hood, Moskvich was also popular in Norway and France. Those interested have heard of the pleasing appearance, robust construction, or solid spaciousness.

Moskvich 407 Mototechna was imported to Czechoslovakia, and the car was popular in Hungary, for example. The attractive two-color painting was intended especially for export variants. For some time, up to half of all production went outside the Soviet Union.

Between 1959 and 1960, the 407 series underwent several important changes. First, a four-speed transmission appeared, followed by a new radiator grille with a uniform grille. For example, the quality of corrosion protection has also improved. In the following years, minor modifications were made to the clutch or external design.

In the meantime, however, the MZMA car company was already working on a completely new and again modernly cut Moskvich 408. The first prototypes hit the road in 1961, but even then it was calculated that an intermediate type would be created between the old 407 and the new 408. It was called Moskvich 403 and went into production in December 1962. At that time, a few more months it was created alongside the 407 series.

He shared a body with it, which was only taken over with minor cosmetic changes, but under it, the 403 already carried some technical components prepared for the third generation of Moscow's compact family cars. The front-wheel suspension was modified, the pedals were re-attached, a hydraulic clutch was used and the engine, although it still offered the same 33 kW, had an extended service life. Overall, the 403 Series was also better protected from dust and other debris and received a redesigned interior with a new steering wheel.

Production of Moskvich 407 did not end until October 1963 - a total of almost 360,000 were created, with up to a third going for export outside the Soviet Union, says Thompson. It was the second generation of Moskvich models that really opened the door to Soviet cars not only to other markets in the Eastern bloc but also beyond its borders.

Along with the new intermediate type 403, the 424 station wagon and the 432 delivery from it also went into production. In Belgium, diesel engines were then mounted under the hood again. However, as it was only a temporary model, it did not undergo significant modifications during its lifetime.

Production of Moskvich 403 and derived types, and with them the entire second generation of cars from MZMA, ended in July 1965. Andy Thompson lists 133,523 produced pieces of the 403 series, of which almost 51,000 went to export markets.

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