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    Feb 2005

    Moskvitch Aleko (2141) 1986-2003

    The Moskvitch 2141, commonly referred to as simply Aleko (Russian: "АЛЕКО", derivative from factory name "Автомобильный завод имени Ленинского Комсомола", Aftomobilnyi zavod imeni Leninskogo Komsomola, meaning "Automotive Factory of Lenin's Komsomol"), is a Russian small class, third group hatchback car that was first announced in 1985 and sold in the Soviet Union and its successor states between 1986 and 2000 (gradually replaced in 2001 by its sedan body version, Moskvitch 2142, which never was produced in large quantities and which worldwide sales wasn't even started) by the now bankrupt Moskvitch Stock Company, based in Moscow, Russia.

    Aleko was a huge improvement over previous Moskvitch models, which were dependable but old-fashioned saloons and station wagons (estates) with rear-wheel drive and a solid rear axle. In fact, Aleko had no common parts with previous models apart from the engine and some other minor details and parts.

    For Moskvitch, Aleko was innovative, having front-wheel drive, a hatchback body style, McPherson strut front suspension and torsion-crank rear suspension. The wheelbase went up almost 20 centimetres (7.9 in), the body got 14 centimetres (5.5 in) wider, the wheel size went up one inch (14 inches). The car became more spacious, comfortable and safe. For the first time in the history of Russian car making, the car's profile was optimized for aerodynamics, with the help of Russian and French aircraft and space engineers. The officially reported by factory drag coefficient is 0.35.

    The car originated as a front-wheel drive "proof of concept", based on foreign models. In the late 1970s Moskvitch bought about two dozen compact cars built by different manufacturers, and thoroughly tested them. French and Swedish cars were favored for their utility and reliability. The final decision was made by the Minister of Automobile Industry, who surprisingly for the factory chose the French Simca 1307 as the best candidate for the Soviet market.

    Engineers modified an existing Moskvitch engine for front-wheel drive layout and fitted the drivetrain into the Simca. For this an Audi 100 as a model car was used. After the tests were successfully completed, it was decided by the rights to copy the Simca 1307 bodyshell almost entirely, starting from the A-pillar. While this decision helped to cut the development costs, it came as an insult to engineers and designers, who had their own mock-ups of future car ready. The morale of the staff had been damaged, and Aleko never became a beloved project among Moskvitch engineers.

    The existing engine was too long for transverse placement, so it was placed longitudinally, like on the Audi 80/100 series. Many ideas and design decisions were borrowed from Audi cars (which were bought into factory also), including torsion-crank rear suspension, McPherson strut front suspension, rack-and-pinion steering and a collapsible steering column. The spare tyre was located underneath the boot and was accessible from outside, in the tradition of French cars. As with Audis, zinc coating of doors and body floor was also planned, but it was actually done only for small quantity of the cars.

    Despite "second-hand" styling and design, the Aleko turned out to be quite a breakthrough for the Soviet automotive industry. Its body design was modern compared to the obsolete looking "angular" Lada Samara. It almost became the first production front-wheel drive car of the Soviet Union, but after development it took a further two years for Moskvitch to set up the manufacturing, and the Lada Samara arrived first. Despite the better and more comfortable design from Samara the very low assembling quality of Aleko (one particular car, for example, had horn switches in the steering wheel completely missing) resulted to a low reputation of this car in the markets. The positive features of this car were robustness of construction, handiness in repairing works. Aleko has high "off-road" driving capabilities also.

    Aleko was sold mostly on the domestic market, but in the late 1980s it was exported too. In some export markets, including France & Germany, the cars were advertised as the Lada Aleko, and diesel engines from Ford and Indenor could be delivered in addition to the standard petrol engines. The Aleko was also assembled in Bulgaria under licence for a brief period in the late 1980s.

    Some of the last Moskvitch models to be built were the somewhat upgraded Aleko which was renamed to Svjatogor (models M-214122, M-214100, M-214145) and the M-2142, Dolgorukij, (19972002), were also based on the design of M-2141.

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