The turn of the 1970s and 1980s was challenging for Eastern European car manufacturers. They got into an endless spiral, where their cars conceptually quickly became obsolete and gradually lost to Western European competition. But at the same time, there were no finances for innovation, which gradually worsened. Manufacturers were earning even less as their sales in the West were falling, and so were their earnings. It was necessary to act.

Even in the Soviet Union, several projects were created to modernize the existing production portfolio, which were supposed to be more capable than the existing cars. The result was the Lada Samara or the Moskvich 2141 “Aleko”, cars with a modern front engine concept and front wheel drive.

But it was a long and often winding road leading to them, as evidenced by the creation of the aforementioned Moskvich 2141. It went on sale in 1986, but the first prototypes were already created in the mid-seventies.

Innovative prototype

At that time, the Moscow automobile company began work on a new, so-called C series. It followed the intended 3-5 series, which was supposed to replace the famous Moskvich 412. But its development reached a dead end when it proved to be outdated, and so the work was finished.

Photo: Moskvič

Distinctive paintwork, a sporty front and an unusual rear, this is what the new Moskvich could look like.

That’s why the C series was innovative to a great extent, betting on an unusual fastback body with a graceful rear and a compact hinged entry to the trunk. The chassis combined MacPherson struts at the front and independent suspension at the rear, inspired by the solution from the then BMW 5. The first prototype was built in February 1975.

Shapes were adjusted over time. This resulted in various derivatives with different faces and differently shaped rear parts. The third evolution from 1976 no longer seemed so sporty. Newly, it used richer side glazing, which helped the external appearance and airiness of the cabin.

Design change

In addition, the work continued after an unsuccessful search for a foreign partner. The Moscow automaker sought help from Citroën, Fiat and Porsche, but the intended license production of the Citroën BX or Fiat Tipo would be expensive, especially in the case of the necessary adaptation to Soviet conditions.

However, the effort to help in the West has shown one thing, and that is that automotive trends are going in a different direction than before. If the first prototypes of the upcoming car continued to use the classic concept, i.e. front engine and rear wheel drive, during the work the idea was dismissed as outdated. The constructors had to rework the car from the ground up, because according to the new specifications, the novelty had to use front-wheel drive, as the time dictated.

Photo: Moskvič

In addition to the external shapes, the design of the cabin also changed.

Other prototypes followed, which in appearance were heavily inspired by the Simco 1307, the European Car of 1976. Several pieces of this car were even brought to the factory so that the stylists and constructors could get to know it well. These prototypes were created in 1978. Nevertheless, the work continued and in the first half of the eighties, other prototypes were created, gradually changing their appearance, up to the pre-production form.

Better than Samara

The Moskvich 2141 “Aleko” finally went on sale only in 1986. It arrived on the market before the Škoda Favorit, but later than the Lada Samara, which promoted front-wheel drive on the Soviet market from the end of 1984.

However, Aleko received more positive reactions than Samara. Drivers praised the interior space with quick heating of the cabin as well as the robust construction. The offer gradually expanded, the 2141 was also derived from the 2335 utility pick-up or the 2901 van.

However, interest quickly declined after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the opening of the market to Western competition. The lack of output control, which led to degraded quality, didn’t help much either. Criticism was leveled at low-quality paint or insufficient anti-corrosion protection.

However, there were no funds for significant innovations, so the Moskvich 2141, with only a few improvements, finally lasted in production until 2002. The car ended together with the bankruptcy of the car company at the time. Part of the factory was later taken over by a joint venture of Moscow City Hall with Renault, where the Renault Logan for the Russian market was assembled. Today, the revived Moskvich sells rebranded models of the Chinese JAC.