Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin, the ruler of Soviet Union loved gifts. And after the Second World War he received plenty of gifts, including cars from the newly occupied nations.
Czechoslovakia was supervised by the Red Army. The locals “decided” to prove their devotion by sending gifts to prove their allegiance. Their procedure was followed by hundreds of other people and companies and so it happened that there were a couple of unique cars sent to Moscow.
One of those was a four-seater Aero, but not an ordinary one. Designed with general enthusiasm, it featured a new chrome grille, a more elegant bumper and a new instrument panel. There were rear-wheel guards added and a special steering wheel to fit into the hands of Stalin himself. The best tinsmiths, carpenters, upholsterers, mechanics and fitters participated in this production.
A one-way train with all the gifts was dispatched to Moscow; 528 of those arrived into Soviet territory, including the Aero Minor. The Jubilee Committee distributed all the presents and placed them in various museums without Stalin himself seeing them, let alone using them. The Aero was no exception – it ended up in the Polytechnic Museum in the automobile department, where it remained until the dictator’s death.
Later the special Aero Minor was on sale and disappeared in 1975. In the summer of 2013 however, it appeared again. The only unmistakable Minor was immediately recognizable. Its owner said that the car had once worked in Moscow maternity hospitals and was subsequently in the hands of private owners. From 1975 to 2013, Aero stood motionless in the garden shed unnoticed. Over the years, it rusted enough, but most of the original parts remained on the car.
It seemed to be the end of the story of the car but luckily it was saved and restored. A surprise for the restorers was a report in the closed cavity of the right front mudguard written by factory workers in Letov on a piece of paper and glued directly to the metal: „Soudruhu Jozifu Stalinovi k 70. výročí posílají pracující Čechoslováci z Prahy, 2. 12. 1949.“ But surely “Comrade Stalin” has never read it.
Andrej Belov, who was in charge of the restoration of the vehicle, said that the parts were surprisingly complete. Remodelling the wiring and electrical equipment to twelve volts was necessary but all the original components have been preserved. The bodywork was kept, which gave the opportunity to restore everything to its original form. Despite the fact that the body was attacked by rust and rot, it retained all the wooden elements that could be copied and replaced with new linings.
The restorers immediately began to work on it and thanks to good basic they could restore it so all the parts of Minor can shine again. The gift, which was made by the hands of Czech workers, then anchored in a museum and ended up impoverished in a soaked garden in personal hands, became a legacy of one era. Today it is back in the Polytechnic Museum again!