70s Citroen Russian steel deal. Urban myth or true
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Thread: 70s Citroen Russian steel deal. Urban myth or true

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    Default 70s Citroen Russian steel deal. Urban myth or true

    I've been wondering if the well entrenched story that early 70s to 80s Citroen's and other European marques used inferior Russian steel in a push to reduce manufacturing supply costs. Anecdotally, and observationally this idea seems to hold water as 70s Euro cars faired much worse than their 60s model equivalents​. Any thoughts?

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    In 1982 I made one good GS out of a 1973 Club and a 1978 Pallas and recall that when I swapped some doors how much heavier and less corroded the 73 car was. The difference was quite remarkable, the 78 car had rust spots all over the place while the 73 car just had rust along the lower door edge. I remember thinking they must have changed the steel.

    My understanding is Citroen we're doing pretty well in the early 1970s, but after the oil crisis hit in 1973 all sorts of compromises would have been made. Can well imagine them changing steel supplier to cut costs.

    People forget the price of crude increased 4 fold in the 6 months following the OPEC oil embargo. The aftermath was a huge issue for industry and the public to deal with!
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    I'm not sure if manufacturers changed to inferior steel particularly but suspect it was more of a case of making panels thinner to reduce weight and increase mpg. In the 70's the fuel crisis struck and it was a big issue. 2CV people will tell you how so much thinner late cars are compared to earlier models, they're almost impossible to weld.

    The Russian factor is of course the deal with FIAT. They bought the FIAT 125 presses to make the new Lada 1200 but didn't have any foreign currency so paid in steel, which turned out to be sub standard. FIAT used it to make their new cars and were crucified when they started to rust over night. Tales of 70's FIATs rusting is the stuff of legends.
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    Quote Originally Posted by 2bxornot2bx View Post
    I've been wondering if the well entrenched story that early 70s to 80s Citroen's and other European marques used inferior Russian steel in a push to reduce manufacturing supply costs. Anecdotally, and observationally this idea seems to hold water as 70s Euro cars faired much worse than their 60s model equivalents​. Any thoughts?
    Not a myth but sorry I have no proof that it was Russian but go by the Lancia and Mercedes disappearing before our eyes. The fact that it affected so many marques points to a supply issue. Fiat left Australia because of it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Robins View Post
    I'm not sure if manufacturers changed to inferior steel particularly but suspect it was more of a case of making panels thinner to reduce weight and increase mpg. In the 70's the fuel crisis struck and it was a big issue. 2CV people will tell you how so much thinner late cars are compared to earlier models, they're almost impossible to weld.

    The Russian factor is of course the deal with FIAT. They bought the FIAT 125 presses to make the new Lada 1200 but didn't have any foreign currency so paid in steel, which turned out to be sub standard. FIAT used it to make their new cars and were crucified when they started to rust over night. Tales of 70's FIATs rusting is the stuff of legends.
    It didn't help when FIAT decided to build cars (Alfas) in the south of the country to provide employment. The Southerners had never built anything before, let alone cars, so the poor Southern Alfa product (Alfa Sud) had poor quality steel, lousy build quality, and clueless assemblers. What could go wrong?

    The Russians kept the good steel for themselves; they weren't silly.

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    The Alfa Sud was a good car it's a shame the steel used and the fact they filled the pillers with moister retaining foam which help rot out the frames around the windows (i've stripped and repaired a 74 rotten to the core and a 82 which is still on Auckland roads to date) My 2 x 1974 Fiats (124 coupe and 132 sedan) one surviving British road salt with new sills and jacking points and a NZ new with just the door rust both suffered around the window pillars but were not filled with foam like the Alfa Sud so the common factor being the quality of the steel in the 1970's hmmm the 70's great car designs and but crap steel...

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    I had a 1977 Lancia Beta coupe. Most of the car keep quite well (obviously well garaged) but where it rusted (footwells) it did so very efficiently. When I purchased it I flooded it with a Wurth yellow wax, which stood the test of time. The Wurth product somewhat better than the brown product used at Heidelberg used in my Renaults. You can still buy both products (not the Renaults!!)
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    It's true. A steel strike in France caused the manufacturers to source steel from Eastern Europe, hence the increase in the mid-late 1970's era.
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    I modified a set of Lada Niva rims nearly 20 years ago so that I could fit narrow 15" tractor implement tyres to it to use as a farm hack. The Niva has 16" rims. This was done by cutting the inner part of the centres out of the Lada rims, and a set of 403 rims, in a lathe and then welding the 403 rims onto the Lada centres. It was interesting to watch how the French and Russian steels responded to the cutting tool in the lathe. One came off smoothly in curly little spirals, as you'd expect, and the other in little random chunks.

    70s Citroen Russian steel deal. Urban myth or true-img_7062.jpg

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    Quote Originally Posted by 68 404 View Post
    The Russians kept the good steel for themselves; they weren't silly.

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    I'm not sure of the Russian connection, but I remember a crash repairer telling me years ago that most French cars used steel with a higher sulphur content because it was "kinder" to the press dies, being self-lubricating.
    He said that you could definitely smell the sulphur when welding French car bodies.
    The high sulphur content meant that if the paint surface was thin or compromised, any water present would form a dilute sulphuric acid solution with predictable results.
    Anybody else heard this?
    I must say that the steel in my 205s is excellent, no corrosion to speak of. :-)

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    There is an excellent account of the Fiat --> Lada differences and improvements (yes) at Totalcar Magazine - Classic and Beloved - Was the original Fiat better than the Lada?. The Russians had to beef up the suspension, which may account for the wheel alloy.
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    I also think that any panel repair had a big impact on the interior clumpy grain steel. Panel beat existing buckled panels and/or weld a new part to rubbish steel and your problems will ultimately be exponential.

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    Quote Originally Posted by seasink View Post
    There is an excellent account of the Fiat --> Lada differences and improvements (yes) at Totalcar Magazine - Classic and Beloved - Was the original Fiat better than the Lada?. The Russians had to beef up the suspension, which may account for the wheel alloy.
    The Niva is the little 4x4, not a sedan. Although it does use a copy of a Fiat 1600cc engine. Off-road performance like a baby Range Rover. A brilliant design, poorly executed, using substandard materials.

    70s Citroen Russian steel deal. Urban myth or true-img_7060.jpg

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    403 wheels would have been Australian steel.

    Quote Originally Posted by WLB View Post
    I modified a set of Lada Niva rims nearly 20 years ago so that I could fit narrow 15" tractor implement tyres to it to use as a farm hack. The Niva has 16" rims. This was done by cutting the inner part of the centres out of the Lada rims, and a set of 403 rims, in a lathe and then welding the 403 rims onto the Lada centres. It was interesting to watch how the French and Russian steels responded to the cutting tool in the lathe. One came off smoothly in curly little spirals, as you'd expect, and the other in little random chunks.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    The Fiat / Lada connection makes a lot of sense, as a lot of upgrades to the Fiats if that era used Lada suspension to beef it up. We also used suspension bushes tie rods and ball joints as they lasted longer. In the 80s the Lada were being modified with Fiat disc brakes so all makes sense now....the Russian steel would also be the reason a lot of Italian cars didn't last in the UK....great article

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    European cars generally rust out before they wear out, in Europe at least, because of the use of salt on roads in winter. It doesn't have much to do with the material the car is made out of, it's more to do with lousy and cheap rust protection, or lack of it. If the seal that protects the sheet-metal is broken, the metal will rust, regardless. Another more technical name for it is "oxidation".
    Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone............

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    Quote Originally Posted by GRAHAM WALLIS View Post
    403 wheels would have been Australian steel.
    Even better!

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