The Moskvitch-408 (also referred to as the Moskvich-408, and M-408) series is a small family car produced by the Soviet car manufacturer MZMA/AZLK between 1964 and 1976.
M-408, the first of the series, replaced the second generation Moskvitch 407 as the main production model starting 1964. First marketed body styles of the main version were: 4-door saloon (base), 5-door estate (the model M-426, an upgrade of second generation M-423 and 424), and 3-door panel van (the M-433, an upgrade of the second generation 432 delivery pick-up). The rear lights of the pre-facelift models were influenced by the rear lights of the BMW 700.
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, fin and somewhat thicker interior dashboards. Later on, the same model plus engine improvements would be known as the M-2138/40.
The Izh-408 was a duplicate version of the car made by IZH in Izhevsk from 1966 to 1967. It was then replaced in production by M-412.
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 1.3 litre / 1358 cc straight-4 petrol engine, producing 50 hp (37 kW). "More worth than its price", was its slogan for export sales.
In 1976, alongside M-412, the series were succeeded by the third generation 2140 series.
There were two distinct series of the M-408, which both used the same name.
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 a new body — longer (at 4250 mm) and 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 M-412, starting 1967 and up to 1976.
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 1358 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 2-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.
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
- M-426: 5-door estate
- M-433: 3-door van
- 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).