Leningrad – a self-built sportscar from the Soviet Union

An American tourist, John H. Schultz visited Europe back in 1958. He had a camera which used colour slides. On the streets of Leningrad he spotted an interesting car. Unbeknown to him, this was a self-built Soviet car, called aptly the Leningrad.
In West European countries there’s a tendency to look at the countries behind the Iron Curtain and lump them together. But the official line towards one-off cars was very different, say, in Hungary, Poland and Soviet Union. In Hungary officials effectively banned self-built cars (and the situation hasn’t improved much since then), while in Poland and especialy the Soviet Union this movement resulted in hundreds of interesting, sometimes bizarre creations.

The Leningrad is one of the earlier examples. Arunas Ra from Lithuania has a very nice website on Soviet self-built cars (among others), called allcarindex. He unearthed a video showing the car when it was built.

The Leningrad was built by Arkady Dimitrievich Babitsh in 1956. He was a Soviet automobile racer, who built his first car in 1952. He also assisted in the construction of racing cars, designed by others.

The Leningrad was powered by a 3.5-litre 90-hp engine from a GAZ-12 ZIM saloon, which enabled the two-seater to have a max speed of 120 km/h. A contemporary report noted that Babich completed the Simferopol-Leningrad journey in 20 hours!

From the 1960s the fate of the car is unknown. It was bought in a derelict state a few years ago. The current owner is trying to find more information and photos. To that end, Dmitriy Dashko, who contributed to ceautoclassic as well, found him a few interesting shots. We can show some of those.

Thanks to John H. Schultz and Dmitriy Dashko for their assistance on putting together this story

A rear view from 1956. Courtesy of Dmitry Dashko
As found in 2013

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