What’s better than foraging in the nether regions of a newly-purchased vehicle, probing for hints of its past? Absolutely nothing. The longer said car’s been sitting, the better the archaeological dig, of course. And who doesn’t love discovering forgotten treasure, or as sane people call it, “old junk”? Here is an itemized list of what I was able to locate and identify inside of my recently acquired Soviet-come-East German classic:
Many years ago we purchased a Ford Escort from our church (we are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints aka LDS aka Mormons). It had been purchased new by the church and served as a missionary car for around five or six years before we purchased it. I need to point out that this car had no other owners except the church and us. After over ten years of our ownership the driver's side rear shock rusted out at its attached point. I emptied the trunk and pulled up the carpet to inspect how bad the damage was. To my surprise I found a nickle bag of really dry weed and a very rusted Smith and Wesson 38 semi-automatic pistol. No idea how those items got there.
Matthew, bless you for owning such an esoteric car. And below, Tom Meadows is correct; many parts in demand were removed from the car while parked so that theft would be difficult, unless one wanted the whole car. And eastern European tastes are different than ours, therefore no bubble gum or other weirdness under the seats. They have a different weirdness than we do. Thank you for interesting and humorous post Matthew, and your wife deserves an Academy Award.
My brother in law grew up in East Germany before he and his mother escaped via subway weeks before the Berlin wall was erected. He told me about the times when he watched the “Sandman” before going to bed. One time, the school teacher gave the class a a quiz on the previous evenings broadcast. The reason for this was that the East German version of the kids program differed from the West German version. The East German version was all about the Motherland and obedience to the State. the West German version was designed simply to entertain and calm the young children at bedtime.
‘The next day, the quizzes were graded and my brother in law was immediately in trouble. He had watched the West German version ( as they were near the border) and of course, all his quiz answers were incorrect! Later that day, East German officials showed up at his house and dismantled the rooftop TV antenna with the admonishment that if they were caught watching West German TV ever again, they would arrest his father and imprison him!
The rotor and cleverly designed rotor holder are easily explained if you live in Russia. Given the incredible shortage of auto parts during the cold war era in Russia, anything not nailed down on a car was fair game. Universally, Russian citizens would remove their windshield wipers and carry them off to work with them, to ensure that you have wipers upon returning from work.
What you are seeing on the dashboard is a genuine cold war era anti-theft system, sort of like keeping your dongle from a modern car in your pocket to keep it from being stolen.
First, place the rotor in its convenient holder and orange plastic cover which hides it from casual public view, lock up your car, and off to work you go secure in the knowledge that your car will most likely still be there when you return.
That was great! I am reminded of a story about a colleague of mine in Hamburg who ordered a different Russian vehicle (Lada) and waited ten years for it to be exported. Apparently, the bodies were stamped from old Fiat molds and were very "sporty" for Russia. The car arrived around 1978 and promptly proceeded to fail mechanically in the most profound ways. Junk in the driveway.
As to the photos: I sense it was the family celebrating the occasion of Grandpa's birthday, who was game enough to pose but would just as soon be out of the suit and back at backgammon.
Best thing I ever found in a car I bought: a 14k gold charm, under the back seat, with the inevitable petrified french fries. This was several years after I bought the car, and by then the Air Force seller had been transferred. Nearly 20 years later, I noticed his name in an AF publication, and called to see if it was the same guy. It was, so I told him about the charm. Seems his wife had received it as a bridesmaid gift--he was amazed I still had it. But who throws away 14k gold? I sent it back to him to be reunited with its original recipient.