Moskvitch (Russian: Москвич) (sometimes also written as Moskvich or Moskwitch) was an automobile brand from Russia produced by AZLK from 1945 to 1991 and by OAO Moskvitch from 1991 to 2002. The current article incorporates information about both the brand and the joint-stock successor of AZLK for the sake of simplicity.
OAO Moskvitch was a privatized venture name given to the former factory in order to avoid legal issues after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. Since the factory had no assembly branches outside Russia after 1991, its name is largely used today to refer to the building located in Lower Eastern part of Moscow and abandoned since 2006.
The word moskvitch (Russian: москвич) itself translates as "(a) Muscovite" into English. It was used to point out the original location of the cars manufactured outside of Moscow.
In 1929 the construction of Moscow Automotive Plant began with initial production of 24,000 vehicles. In 1941 the plant was evacuated to Ural and the entire production converted for the manufacture of the military equipment at the dawn of World War II. After the war, the USSR brought an entire Opel manufacturing line from Brandenburg in Germany. A factory called MZMA (Moskovsky Zavod Malolitrazhnykh Avtomobiley, that is, Moscow Compact Car Factory) started in 1947 to manufacture an automobile called Moskvitch 400 based on the Opel Kadett. Further models were developed by Soviet engineers. In 1969, the factory changed name to AZLK (Avtomobilny Zavod imeni Leninskogo Komsomola, which means Youth Communist League Car Factory).
Moskvitch cars were never meant to be a fashion statement. They were sturdy, reliable on substandard roads and were offered at an affordable price. The 1960s and early 1970s were the glory days, when the cars were exported to many countries throughout the world. Demand always exceeded production, so people had to wait a long time for a new car. Until the 1980s all Moskvitch cars were compact rear-wheel drive saloons and estates with solid rear axles suspended by leaf springs.
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