Originally intended for mass production, the KIM-10 is an extreme rarity - of 500 built, only half a dozen survived.
It was the first Soviet economy class car, a distant cousin of the Volkswagen and Fiat Topolino. Its story is different from the German and Italian "people's cars": Dr. Porsche had a ready design for sale, Senator Agnelli was lucky enough to get Il Duce's support for his private brainchild, and the KIM came to life by a government decree - first the decree, then the concept.
On January 10, 1939, the Bolshevik Party Central Committee and People's Commissioners Council published their decision: to start small cars production at the KIM plant in Moscow. The plant was actually a subsidiary of Gorky Automotive Works, assembling GAZ-AA light trucks and other vehicles. Now it was chosen for an ambitious plan - in one year only, KIM should be capable of building 4000 cars per month. But what cars?
Instead of buying a license for building a foreign economy class car (and there were quite a lot) the Soviet executives decided to test some contemporary models and to model their future "people's vehicle" on the most successful one. In February 1939, four candidates were intensively tested:
Opel Kadett (by stenoja @ Flickr)
Austin Seven (by Austin7nut @ Flickr)
Ford Prefect (by robertknight16 @ Flickr)
Adler Trumpf Junior (by stkone @ Flickr)
The Prefect proved itself as the best of four and was adopted as a prototype. The KIM-10 was modeled on this British sedan without being an exact copy - it was significantly longer, a bit wider and taller and had much higher clearance, making it more fit for the Russian roads. Its powertrain, a 1171 cc 30hp 4-stroke 4-cylinder side-valve petrol engine coupled to a three-speed manual gearbox, was a close copy of the 1.17-liter Ford.
The first KIM-10 was scheduled to roll out of the assembly line in January 1940 but the managers, engineers and workers were unfashionably late - the car was ready for the ready only on April 25. The legend says that Comrade Stalin didn't like the design: he found it "old-fashioned" and sent the KIM team back to the drawing board. Believe it or not, the KIM was redesigned.
The production model (KIM-10-50) body design was executed by designer-engineer V. Brodsky from Gorky Automotive Works. Technical drawings of the body and stamps were made in the United States by Budd, according to Brodsky's model. There was also a convertible variant designated KIM-10-51.
KIM-10-50 and 10-51 were quite advanced for their time. They boasted a sound construction, reliable and fuel-efficient engine under an "alligator-type" bonnet, modern dashboard and V-shaped windshield (the first in the Land of Soviets). Nevertheless, the legend says that Comrade Stalin was unhappy with its two-door layout and ordered to design a larger car modeled on the Opel Olympia. Once again you can believe it or not. Now, take a look on a four-door prototype, built in Gorky, early 1941:
In the meanwhile, 500 two-door KIM-10s were assembled in Moscow. The plan remained the same - more than 4000 units monthly, 35 thousand sedans and 15 thousand convertibles a year. But soon after the production started the war broke out and KIM plant, still half-reformed, began to supply military equipment.
After the war, the same plant, renamed MZMA, started to build the Moskvich-400 - a clone of the German Opel Kadett K-38 (four-door version).