Frankenstein cars a spectacle of Russian village

The village of Tatar Saiman in central Russia used to be a collective farm in the Soviet days. Since the breakup, however, all the old equipment was stripped down and residents have used it to make their own cars.

As the USSR broke up, new equipment was hard to come by, while the old was pensioned off. So people took their old unused tractors and harvesters apart.

This distorted understanding of collective ownership has created a whole park of customized vehicles and a local culture – “top-top” making. The word comes from the sound old two-stroke engines make. The cars are mostly used to carry wood and hay, or building materials.

As none of the trucks were registered, in the past traffic inspectors were a hassle. But today the top-tops have come out of the shadow – although their owners are reluctant to drive beyond the village borders.

“I pay my taxes, this engine is eight horsepower, so the tax is 10 cents a year,” says local Akhmed.

While many joke about the reliability of Russian-made cars, all the trucks RT saw in the village started with no problem whatsoever.

As everywhere, it’s the best ride that turns heads. In Tatar Saiman everyone knows Ravil and his truck, and both generate genuine respect from the fellow villagers.

“It took me around five months to make this car. I took the cabin and engine from a Ukrainian Zaporozhets, and chassis and back from a UAZ-53 truck,” says Ravil, visibly proud of his one-of-a-kind machine.

Ravil has a decent job outside the village, but he still resides there because, as Julius Caesar said, better the first in a village than second in Rome.