Ten years ago today the iconic FSO (Fabryka Samochodów Osobowych/ Factory of Passenger Cars) factory in Warsaw produced its last car.
The factory was established after World War II the goal being to restore the country’s car industry, the historic roots of which stretched back as far as 1918.
The project wasn’t just an economic necessity for a country the size of Poland but a concerted effort to rebuild the pride of a nation through their own ingenuity.
The factory that would go on to make legendary Polish motors such as the Warszawa, Syrena and Polonez, employed thousands of Poles across the six decades it existed and produced over 4 million cars.
About half of the cars it produced were exported, mainly to Europe but also as far as China, Egypt, Colombia and Iraq.
FSO cars have been driven in over 100 countries around the world and the project served as a flagship promoting Polish design and engineering talent.
The factory began to be built in 1948 and originally there was an agreement with Fiat to produce cars under license but when the construction of the factor was completed the Fiat license had been terminated.
A new car, the M-20, was licensed and the Warszawa M-20 was the first car produced there on November 6th 1951.
FSO produced 10 different varieties of the M-20 with more than 4,000 design changes implemented by FSO engineers, with the last model of the M-20 being produced March 30th 1973.
Over a quarter of a million of the M-20’s were produced and they could reach a top speed of 65 miles per hour. The cars would become popular for taxis and even John Paul II owned one before he became the Pope.
The Syrena was produced between 1952 and 1972, the original two door sedan evolved through several design changes and there were even coupé Syrena Sport and a hatchback prototypes made.
An agreement with Fiat was once again reached and production of a Fiat 125 known as ‘Polski Fiat’ began in 1967.
There were near 1.5 million Polski Fiat’s produced at the factory with about half a million being exported. The car was known on the UK market in the late 1970’s as the best value four door saloon being 15 percent cheaper than its nearest competitors.
The Polski Fiat 125p’s distinctive look has earned it fans around the world and many collectors and modifiers have bought up the cars with them becoming popular vehicles for racing in.
The hatchback, something of a revelation at the time and the folding back seats allowed for greater luggage storage than had been seen before.
The cars became popular with both the military and the police with over a million units being produced and were popular on the export markets as they were cheaper than rivals in the same category.
The factory was the first in the European Union to produce the Chevrolet Aveo cars but changing economic conditions and tariff free trade due to EU regulations meant that other sites become more financially viable with the last car rolling off the production line on February 23rd 2011.