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Hate mail from in front of the iron curtain
October 17, 2011 6:55 AM   Subscribe

During the cold war Wartburg and Skoda exported cars from the Eastern Bloc to the United States. An action that was . . . controversial. One dealership received both love and hate mail.
posted by Mitheral (20 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
I don't know if I'm heartened or depressed to see that idiots were as illiterate (or is that backwards?) back then as they are now.
posted by DU at 6:58 AM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


In the early 80s my parents, who were really struggling to make ends meet, briefly owned a much-used Wartburg 353, because it was the only car we could afford. I think it cost something like £50.

They used to park it on a slope with bricks wedged under the front tyres: the slope for getting it started, the bricks because the handbrake didn't work. The exhaust was held on by a metal coathanger that you had to be careful not to snag yourself on when climbing into the back. Couldn't really put anything in the boot as it tended to have an inch of water in it from the last time it had rained.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 7:15 AM on October 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


Well, reading those letters, I suspect quite strongly that both the "love" and the "hate" mail originated from the same not-particularly-balanced individual.
posted by Skeptic at 7:38 AM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I like how the helpful snake is holding up the flag in the Fight Communism stamp.
posted by arcticseal at 7:45 AM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


What? No Škoda pix?
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 7:47 AM on October 17, 2011


In the early 80s my parents, who were really struggling to make ends meet, briefly owned a much-used Wartburg 353, because it was the only car we could afford. I think it cost something like £50.

That reminds me of one of the many jokes about the Trabant, the Wartburg's even poorer East German relative:
"How do you double the value of a Trabant? Just fill up the tank!"
posted by Skeptic at 8:01 AM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


hah! I love the sarcastic ones the most.

in the 70s and 80s, my dad had a Moskvich, two Ladas (all made in Russia) and an FSO (made in Poland). there was never any anti-communist sentiment about that here in the UK, it was just basic derision about them being pretty awful & basic cars. in their defence though, they all had starting handles if the battery ever went flat.

the most severe ridicule was always kept for Skodas - even my Dad wouldn't have touched one.

"Q: what do you call a Skoda convertible?

A: a skip."


p.s. skip = dumpster

"Q: Why do Skodas have heated rear windows?

A: To keep your hands warm."

etc.
posted by alan2001 at 8:04 AM on October 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


alan2001 The Wartburg 353 Wikipedia entry is (possibly unintentionally) hilarious. Just a few samples:

Because of its forward center of gravity and front-wheel drive, the car had specific road handling, often displaying significant understeering, especially in wet conditions. "Specific" possibly being Thuringian for "life-threatening".

It is notable that even today the 353 is capable of, and is driven at, speeds of well over 195 km/h (120 mph) Downhill, I presume. And, as Radio Yerevan would put it, only once.
posted by Skeptic at 8:14 AM on October 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yup. nothing has changed, only the internet makes it easier to rage to a larger audience.
Fightin' teh Red Menace™ ----> Teh Tea Party™
Communism vs. Nazi Liberal Commies

Haters gotta hate. and folks in charge gotta keep churning up all this stuff to hate, otherwise the haters might hate the folks in charge.

Skoda make fine cars now (that they're owned by a huge German manufacturing conglomerate).
posted by Homemade Interossiter at 8:15 AM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Homemade Interossiter: "Yup. nothing has changed, only the internet makes it easier to rage to a larger audience.
Fightin' teh Red Menace™ ----> Teh Tea Party™
Communism vs. Nazi Liberal Commies
"

"Isn't the government doing all it to support the reds?"

Things really haven't changed.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 8:23 AM on October 17, 2011


Škoda made excellent tanks, some of the best in the world at the time, and the seizure of the Škoda Works in Czechoslovakia prior to WWII was a real boon to the German armoured forces. German tanks with a (t) in their name refer to "tschechisch" origin, i.e. Czech manufacture:

Panzer 35(t)
Panzer 38(t)

Some of your favourite WWII German AFVs were based on the 38(t) chassis: the Marder, the Hetzer, and many others.
posted by Meatbomb at 8:30 AM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


About ten years ago, I bought an old Skoda 120 for about $250 USD while I live living and working in the Czech Republic.

At the time, I was renting a room in a small village called Olomucany and commuting into Brno, about 30 km or so.

I remember how traffic would be backed up for miles behind me on the interstate on the way into work, and then on the way back home as the Skoda struggled to make it up the slight hill on the way to the village.

My friends nicknamed this car "Laz" (as in Lazarus) because it kept dying, only to be revived with help from my Czech friends and neighbors...once in the middle of nowhere when it was painfully cold out...a story for another day, and another time I had to take a hairdryer to the driver's door because the car was frozen into an impregnable block of ice, and any time it got cold I would bring the battery in at night in hopes of the car actually starting the next morning.

Despite all of the problems, the Czechs I knew took great pride in repairing and keeping their (and my) cars on the roads themselves. I used to joke that a raised Skoda hood was something like the bat signal for the retired men who lived in the village--anytime I had a problem they would come out with their tool boxes and happily chatted away at the "American" in the village (who couldn't understand a word they said at the time) while they provided an improvised, temporary solution to whatever problem the car was having at the time.

I paid them back by occasionally driving them home from the village pub at the bottom of the hill.

The car sadly died for good one morning, but not before I coasted into a parking space at work.

I miss that car sometimes...and the Czechs I meet now don't believe me when I tell them what car I used to drive...
posted by FunGus at 8:49 AM on October 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


Here is a pretty sweet mod of a Polski Fiat 126p, just as iconic as the Skoda.
posted by Wolfdog at 9:16 AM on October 17, 2011


alan2001, I would be pleased to hear more of those jokes.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:18 AM on October 17, 2011


There's a good reason why, whenever we'd see an old beater on the road in Central or Eastern Europe, we'd refer to it as a 1974 Škoda Aksident.
posted by yellowcandy at 9:19 AM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


When I was a youngster, here in the US we heard the jokes mentioned upthread as Yugo jokes (more here). Now I'm curious which brand came first and was the origin of all those jokes, which then got recycled for the other brands.
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:59 AM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


alan2001, I would be pleased to hear more of those jokes.
heh, why does the existence of this site not surprise me?

Skoda Jokes
posted by alan2001 at 11:02 AM on October 17, 2011


Skeptic: "alan2001 The Wartburg 353 Wikipedia entry is (possibly unintentionally) hilarious. Just a few samples:

Because of its forward center of gravity and front-wheel drive, the car had specific road handling, often displaying significant understeering, especially in wet conditions."


hah - you missed the funniest part at the end, which is where a Wartburg 353 owning Wikipedia mod has appended: "[citation needed]".
posted by alan2001 at 11:59 AM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


My favorite bit of Czech engineering - the Tatra.
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:34 PM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I remember during my second visit to Sarajevo, seeing out the window that 4 or 5 guys, small Bosnian guys, picking up a car, and putting it on the sidewalk! I asked my friend, 'That a Yugo?' 'da da!' we watched as the guys tried to fix the problem and things kept getting worse. Then it was time for us to cook dinner. The next day the broken Yugo was still out there.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 7:27 PM on October 17, 2011


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