In those days, the car from abroad was not just a means of transportation from point "A" to point "B". No, a foreign car personified the luxury, success and status of its owner. After all, not every man could acquire an imported “steel horse”.
On the roads of the Union, a foreign car was as rarely seen as any conventional “Jaguar” now outside the Tomsk region. The fact that, according to the Moscow traffic police, Vladimir Vysotsky at that time was the only owner of a Mercedes in the gold-headed, already says a lot.
Only the "chosen ones" could afford the purchase of such a rare beast as a foreign car. Namely: diplomats, officials, military (especially sailors and pilots), athletes and, of course, artists. Only with the arrival in the country of the “movement” called perestroika, the situation began to change. It was enough to have the necessary amount of money to become the owner of a foreign car. But at that time, foreign cars were most often acquired illegally.
An interesting fact: one of the first Councils of users of foreign cars in the country is ... the leader of the world proletariat. Vladimir Lenin took for his personal use one of the Rolls-Royces, which used to belong to Nicholas II. If you dig deeper into the story, you can find out that Vladimir Mayakovsky was the first to drive a foreign car to the country. At the end of the 20s of the last century, he drove the Renault from Paris.
Until 1959, the brainchild of foreign concerns were extremely rare. But then the situation began to change. A kind of "revolution" produced "American National Exhibition", which unfolded in Sokolniki. There, residents and guests of the capital were able to personally see the creations of the “star-striped” car industry. And, interestingly, none of the exhibition cars returned home. They were bought by foreign diplomats, and then moved to the richest and most influential residents of the Union.
How did they buy them?
Foreign cars “leaked” through the “iron curtain” in different ways: as trophies, under lend-lease, as a gift or purchase.
Marshall Zhukov and the composer Bogoslovsky had trophy cars. And Nikita Vladimirovich was allowed to buy a Steyr cabriolet only after the personal permission of Molotov. But this is still isolated cases. But foreign diplomats were sort of guides of the foreign car industry in the country. After all, when an official left the USSR, he handed over the car to a special store, where others could already buy it. Thanks to such a “commission”, actor Andrei Mironov and cosmonaut Alexey Grechko acquired foreign cars.
He was interested in foreign cars and Yuri Gagarin, only he could not afford such a luxury. And then the head of the French concern "fitted" the sports car Matra Bonnet. A Soviet ballerina Galina Ulanova Citroen DS personally gave Pierre Cardin.
"Rolls Royce" Lenin
Tried on the "good of the motherland" and the sailors. Despite the fact that it was possible to bring only one car for one flight, they took risks and sometimes delivered in whole batches. Therefore, in the port of Riga, Murmansk, Odessa and other cities, foreign cars were not considered something out of the ordinary.
When in the late 1970s, duties on cars were reduced, then foreign cars became more widespread. Basically, thanks to the artists and athletes who purchased cars “there” and returned home.
“Lost in Translation”
Although a foreign car was considered something “cosmic”, the owners of these cars experienced not only happiness and pride. Failure has not been canceled. After all, even then the knots of gentle "French" or "Germans" quickly broke down on the harsh domestic roads. But with spare parts and craftsmen was a real tension. And many owners, once faced with this problem, then tried to get rid of the “horse” as quickly as possible.
Foreign cars were sold at a specialized "festival" (the car market was called this way), which was located in the Moscow "South Port". As for the cost, most often the owner of the “bourgeois mobile” managed to get even more than he once paid. "Elite" did not spare the money to raise their own status.
By the mid-80s, the “South Port” acquired a criminal coat. There also appeared its own, local "power" - the South Pharmacy Organized Crime Group, which was headed by immigrants from the Caucasian republics. The leader of the group, Nikolai Suleimanov, personally controlled the section in which foreign cars were displayed. It is clear that they did not shun the "masters" and robbery. There have been cases when they forced the owner to simply “donate” this or that model.
The main connoisseur of foreign cars can be called Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev. In his collection were: Rolls-Royce, Lincoln Continental, as well as several Cadillac. But the real treasure of his garage was the Maserati Quattroporte sports sedan. In 1968, the head of the Italian Communist Party personally presented him to the USSR Secretary General.
The famous director Ivan Dykhovichny possessed a pair of very "clever" sports coupe. It is white Alfa Romeo 1750 GTV, and then - Fiat Dino with the power unit from Ferrari with a capacity of 180 "horses". Assistance in the acquisition of the "beast" Dykhovichnyu rendered familiar mechanic serving cars in the Italian embassy.
Full scale attack
Since the 80s, representatives of foreign companies have increasingly begun to demonstrate their products on the Soviet market. Then the “foreign trade exhibitions” began to have almost annual character.
It is interesting that at first in such “bazaars” the main role was assigned to European cars (mostly German), but gradually the Japanese began to seize popularity. Every year there were more and more people who wanted to buy a foreign car, but it was still difficult to do it legally. And so the notorious black market came to the rescue, which by the mid-80s had turned into a real infection. And as a result, “Andropov's purges” followed. For the illegal trade were punished several dozen people. Among them was the former Interior Minister Nikolai Shchelokov.
Then the restructuring began, and the law enforcement agencies were not up to the "gray" cars and dealers. Smart people realized that their time had come and quickly established a channel for the supply of cars from Japan on cargo ships (mainly Toyota and Nissan).
In 1988, the government passed a law that, in fact, opened the doors to anyone who wanted to buy a foreign car for personal use. And, of course, their number began to increase dramatically. And if by the 90th year about 35 thousand "steel horses" were brought to the USSR, then already by the 91st - over 56 thousand. By the way, the same year began the official delivery of cars to the Soviet Union.