|Body and chassis|
|Wheelbase||2,400 mm (94.5 in)|
|Length||4,090 mm (161.0 in)|
|Width||1,550 mm (61.0 in)|
The M-408, the first of the series, replaced the second generation Moskvitch 407 as the main production model; it had a longer wheelbase than the 407. Design work started in 1959, and the first prototype appeared in March 1961. The first production 408 was built 1 August 1964, and the 408 was given its official debut 21 October. First marketed body styles of the main version were a four-door saloon (base), five-door estate (the model M-426, an upgrade of second generation M-423 and 424), and a three-door sedan delivery (the M-433, an upgrade of the second generation 432 delivery pick-up). The rear end design of the pre-facelift models were copied from the rear end of the BMW 700, while the bonnet was hinged in front.
In 1976, alongside M-412, the series were succeeded by the third generation 2140 series.
There were two distinct series of the 408, which both used the same name. On 20 August 1966, Moskvitch produced its 100,000th 408.
The first series of cars were produced between 1964 and 1969 in Moscow. These cars had vertical rear lights, two or four round headlights, a front bench seat, and a 4-speed manual transmission with column mounted gear lever. The length of the standard model was 4,090 mm (161.0 in).
The second series was produced between 1969 and 1976 in Moscow. It had the same engine and transmission as its predecessor, but an updated body fitted with rectangular headlights and horizontal rear lights, with triangular turn signal markers mounted on tail fins. Also it had separated bucket seats and the transmission used a floor-mounted gear lever.
During 1966—67, the car was also produced by the IZh military factory in the city of Izhevsk, carrying the IZh-Moskvitch 408 name — though usually called simply "IZh". This car was a direct clone of the MZMA Moskvitch-408, except for the badges. It was replaced in production with the IZh-412, a copy of the M-412, starting 1967 and up to 1976.
The 433 debuted in mid-December 1966, early models having a dividing bulkhead with a small behind the driver; later, the height was reduced so the driver could reach the cargo box. The rear door was split in two halves, top and bottom, while the solid sides were corrugated, rather than smooth as was typical in Western deliveries.
The 426 appeared in March 1967; it, like the delivery, had stiffer rear springs.
In 1967, the 408 models were facelifted with a different grille and logo design, also featured on the co-produced Moskvitch 412 model. Both cars shared similar exterior design, with a slightly modified interior and new engine for the M-412. In 1969, after a complete revamp of the body design occurred, the company introduced new taillights, fins and somewhat thicker interior dashboards. Later on, the same model plus engine improvements would be known as the M-2138/40. Moskvitch designed a prototype fastback convertible in March 1964, the 408 Tourist, with aluminum body panels and vertical taillights (reminiscent of period Fords). Only two were built.
Appearance and interior
The car had quite modern features for 1964: squared-off body with flat roof panel and sharp tail fins, panoramic rear window and semi-panoramic windshield. Deluxe versions had then-fashionable quad headlights and (some series) two-tone paint.
The interior featured a stylish trapezoidal instrument cluster, column-mounted gear shift lever (until 1973), effective heater and had a then-common practical artificial leather (vinyl) upholstery (colour-coded).
The M-408 was a conventional rear-wheel drive economy car powered by a 1357 cc OHV straight-four, producing 50 hp (37 kW) at 4750 rpm (60.5 SAE hp)). After 1967, the assembly of the engines was done by UZAM in Ufa. One two-barrel down-draft carburettor was used. The car was initially equipped with self-adjusting manual drum brakes, then from 1969 - power brakes with a hydrovacuum servo and a split circuit braking system.
This Moskvitch was the first Soviet-built car to have deliberate safety equipment (since 1969): crumple zones, a safety steering wheel, soft interior parts, seat belts, a padded dashboard, and a split circuit braking system. This, however, was not sufficient to pass the European safety test as compared to Western market brands also sold in Europe in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The only third generation Moskvitch to ever pass the safety test was the M-412, first in 1971.
The car sold well in both USSR and other Eastern Bloc countries, despite being reproached an off-design look (corresponding to the late 1950s Western brands and thus considered somewhat "outdated") and many safety-related issues by European engineers. These issues were resolved upon the exporting of M-412 starting 1968. Inside USSR, M-408/412 was the second best selling Moskvitch for the whole 1970 decade, bested only by its successor, the 2140.
Export models (408E) had quadruple headlights. The car was sold in France as the Moskvitch Elite 1300, as the Moskvitsh Elite in Finland and as the Moskvich Carat in Norway. It was powered by 1,357 cc (82.8 cu in) straight four petrol engine, producing 50 hp (37 kW). It had a top speed of 80 mph (130 km/h), which was faster than the contemporary Volga. "More worth than its price", was its slogan for export sales. It proved a good value in Britain, Finland, and Norway, for instance, and in 1968, 55% of production was for export.
It was also assembled by Scaldia-Volga SA in Brussels, Belgium. In Belgium the car was sold as the Scaldia 1300, although Scaldia also installed Perkins' 1.6 litre 4.99 engine in the Scaldia 1600 Diesel. This model offered 43 PS (32 kW) SAE but lacked the twin headlamps of the petrol-engined export 408.
The Moskvitch 408 was featured on the British motoring show Top Gear together with two other Soviet era vehicles in a segment exploring cars produced in the Eastern Bloc during the Cold War. Presenter James May drove it, and he remarked that the car was first presented to the UK at the Earl's Court Motor Show in London, and that it was the East's response to the Ford Cortina Mark I. He then said afterwards "the gearbox is sloppy, the suspension is bouncy, the steering is very heavy and very vague. Interestingly enough, this car was produced in the same factory where they made the AK-47. The difference is that this car is much more lethal." Clarkson and May then argued whether the Moskvitch or the Lada Riva was the worst car in the world.
Differences with M-412/Izh-412/Comby
The Moskvitch-412 was not the successor to the M-408 — the M-412 was based on M-408, but the cars were produced at the same time. The M-412 was a more upmarket version, powered by a 1500 cc, 75 hp (56 kW) OHC slant-four engine. Introduced in 1967, the original Moskvitch 412 of 1967–69 had a chassis identical to that of the 408 of 1964. M-412 also featured safety improvements which allowed the model to pass the European safety test, as obligated during export sales. Inside USSR, however, these features were not overlooked.
The 1969–76 M-408 and M-412 also had identical bodies, and the M-412 received the same changes as the M-408 did in 1969. Again, the only differences were the engines (1300 and 1500). This can make identification difficult since there are no external differences between the two cars.
Also, in 1967 the "IZH-Moskvitch-412" came into production. For 1967, this car was a twin of the Moskvitch-412, built (like the IZH-Moskvitch-408 corresponding model) by the IZH military factory in Izhevsk. The Izh-412 were produced there between 1967 and 1976. Starting 1971, a spin-off series called "Izh Comby" were developed in Izhevsk and independently exported to Moscow and the rest of USSR. They featured a 5-door hatchback and a windowed 3-door "trip car" (based on the panel van) that were not included in the original lineup.
- M-408: 4-door saloon (1964-1969)
- M-408B: 408 with hand controls
- M-408IE: upgraded 408 (1970-1975)
- M-408M: ambulance version of 408
- M-408P: similar to 408, but with right-hand drive
- M-408T: taxi version of 408
- M-426: 5-door estate (1966-1975)
- M-426P: similar to 426, but with right-hand drive
- M-433: 3-door van (1966-1975)
- M-433P: similar to 433, but with right-hand drive
- M-408 Tourist: experimental 2+2 2-door convertible (with removable hard top), 2 examples built in 1964; fitted with aluminium body and electronically controlled fuel injection system.
Exported cars (with an -E suffix, i.e. Moskvitch-408E) usually had high-compression engines, additional chromed trim and four round headlights instead of two (until the 1969 change to rectangular lights).
- Braunschweig, Robert et al., ed. (12 March 1970). "Automobil Revue '70" (in German/French) 65. Berne, Switzerland: Hallwag AG. p. 412.
- Thompson, Andy (2008), Cars of the Soviet Union: The Definite History, Sparkford, Yeovil, Somerset: Haynes, p. 137, ISBN 978 1 84425 483 5
- Thompson, p. 139.
- Thompson, p. 140.
- Thompson, pp. 144-145.
- Thompson, p. 141.
- Thompson, p. 144.
- Automobil Revue '70, p. 413.
- Top Gear, Season 12, Episode 6
- (Russian) Oldtimer gallery. Cars. Moskvich