Between 1940 and 1941, the Russians had independently made 500 units of the KIM 10-50, a loose copy of the similarly sized four-door Ford Prefect, but national priorities changed with the German invasion of Russia in Summer 1941, and the production of the Ford inspired car was not resumed after the war. It was Joseph Stalin who personally chose in June 1945 a four-door Kadett to become a first mass-produced popular Soviet car, so plans and tooling of a four-door version had to be reconstructed with help of German engineers, who worked upon them in a Soviet occupation zone.
Development began in 1944, following a prewar plan to produce a domestically built car able to be used and maintained by citizens living outside major cities. The KIM factory was selected to build the car, with the prewar KIM 10-52 (not built due to the Second World War) as a basis, with production approved in May 1945 and prototypes intended to be ready in December; by the end of May, however, these plans had faltered.
At war’s end, the Soviet Union deemed the plans and tooling for the 1939 Opel Kadett K38 as part of the war reparations package, since the tooling in the Rüsselsheim factory was largely intact; residents dismantling the Kadett production tooling and loaded fifty-six freight cars, bound for Moscow and the newly built "Stalin Factory" (ZIS). However, according to recent Russian sources, the Kadett plans and tooling were in fact not captured from the factory, because they did not survive there (and what survived was appropriate for producing a two-door model).
In any event, after KIM was renamed MZMA (Moscovskiy Zavod Malolitrazhnyh Avtomobiley, Moscow Factory for Making Small Cars) in August 1945, the new car was ready for production before the end of 1946 (somewhat behind the planned June deadline): the first 400-420 was built 9 December, "400" meant a type of engine, and "420" the (saloon) body style. With unitized construction, independent front suspension, three-speed manual transmission. and hydraulic brakes, it was powered by a 23 hp (17 kW; 23 PS) 1,074 cc (65.5 cu in) inline four (with acompression ratio of 5.6:1). Acceleration 0–50 mph (0–80 km/h) took 55 seconds, and achieved 9 L/100 km (31 mpg-imp; 26 mpg-US) (the best of any Soviet car at that time). With a wheelbase of 2,340 mm (92 in)) and ground clearance of 200 mm (7.9 in)), it measured 3,855 mm (151.8 in) long overall 1,400 mm (55 in) wide, 1,550 mm (61 in) tall. Approved for mass production by the Soviet government on 28 April 1947, 1,501 were built the first year, with 4,808 for 1948 and 19,906 in 1949, the same year a mesh oil filter was introduced. In 1951, synchromesh was introduced on the top two gears, and the gear lever relocated to the steering column.
In 1948, a prototype woodie wagon, the 400-422, with an 800 kg (1,800 lb) payload, was built, but never entered production. Neither did the similar 400-421 estate or pickoupe. The 400-420A cabriolet debuted in 1949.
Most of the Opel tooling removed to Russia was for the two-door Kadett model, and the Russians converted this into a 4-door configuration that visually was near identical to the original Kadett 4-door. Although Opel was U.S. property, GM did not recover control of the factory until 1948 and were therefore unable to contest the transfer.
The 400 went on sale in Belgium in October 1950, making it a very early Soviet automotive export product, priced at ₤349: below the Ford Prefect and Anglia, and well below the Morris Minor. Motor praised its engine’s quietness, the caliber of its finish, and the quality of the ride.
The 100,000th Moskvich was built in October 1952.
Several prototypes were also built. In 1949, proposal for an improved 26 hp (19 kW; 26 PS) 401E-424E and a 33 hp (25 kW; 33 PS) 403E-424E saw only six examples built. Following this, in 1951, the factory produced the 403-424A coupé with a 35 hp (26 kW; 35 PS) four. The "stunning" 404 Sport of 1954 used a new 58 hp (43 kW; 59 PS) overhead valve hemi engine.
My family’s first car when I was a kid was an Opel Kadet K38 – Ted
Text from wikipedia