Sofia – Velizar Andreev’s self-built cars from Bulgaria

Bulgaria has never been renowned for its automotive industry. In addition to the short-lived Bulgarrenault and a few other assembly operations, the country’s only automotive product was a range of electric vehicles. Made under the brand, Balkancar it was the Soviet-era’s official electric vehicle. However all this did not stop people with a creative mind to come up with their own automotive ideas.

Back in the 1960s, 1970s custom car building was more or less supported by the state in the Soviet Union . There were clubs, meetings, magazine articles etc. Similar attempts were made in Czechoslovakia and Poland behind the Iron Curtain. However Bulgarian was not on the map with such creations. In a career spawning over two decades, Velizar Andreev made a lot of heroic efforts to change that.

Andreev built his first car in 1960. Not much is known about that, but it was said to follow typical American lines. He graduated from the local Technical University in 1962. His thesis was about cars, tractors and trucks. In 1979 he set up the “Sofia” National Club with the intention to discuss the possibility of building a Bulgarian sports car with fellow-minded enthusiasts. The first prototype was shown in 1981 at the TNTM section of the Plovdiv Fair, which was devoted to the “scientific and technical creativity of the youth”. It was based on a VAZ-2101 Zhiguli chassis with a fibreglass body. It had no doors and no roof, but a roll cage protected passengers.

In 1984 Andreev and his friends set up a company, called Avangard. Its main aim was to implement ideas and prepare production of certain things designed in the TNTM organisation. In late 1985 Avangard showed the first prototype of the “Sofia” sports car. In 1989, an updated version was shown painted in metallic gray which was built with support from Balkancar and the Ministry of Industry. It featured a more modern design with open headlights and a radically altered rear. In 1990 a Lada-based light Jeep was completed, which became the Sofia C. Around 60 such cars were completed in the 1990s by Andreev’s private company, Vilikar. Additionally around 12 Sofia B sportscars were built between 1985-2001 by Avangard and later Vilikar. Andreev’s last idea was a small Avia-based bus which was presented at the 1997 Plovdiv Fair.

Velizar Andreev died in 2001. Some of his creations are still around, some in derelict, others in much better shape.

Sources: Ivan Kolev, sofiology.com, bgcars.ovo.bg, priceofhistoys.com, lostbulgaria.com, BGCars on Facebook

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