A Maluch in the petrol queue

Production of the Polish Fiat 126p began in the same year that the Western world was shaken by the first oil crisis, caused by the embargo imposed by Middle Eastern oil producers following the outbreak of the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Poland, which imported this raw material mainly from the USSR, was hardly affected by the first oil crisis. The situation was different during the second crisis in the late 1970s and early 1980s, triggered by the revolution in Iran. The indebted country was unable to import sufficient quantities of the expensive oil for foreign currency, supplies from ‘big brother’ were also dwindling, while the rapidly growing number of cars meant greater demand for fuel. For the best part of a decade, owners of the Maluch and other petrol-powered vehicles had to endure difficulties in buying petrol.

Photo 1.

Queue at a petrol station on the motorway at the Wrocław exit in July 1981.

Photo by Tadeusz Szwed (collections of the Ossolineum Library / Documents of Social Life Department)

Photo 2.

In the summer of 1981, the problems with the supply of petrol intensified.

‘Słowo Polskie’ of 4 August 1981, No. 150, p. 1 (collections of the Ossolineum Library / Periodicals Department)

Photo 3.

The unfortunate fuel situation was the subject of many jokes.

‘Słowo Polskie’ of 6–8 November 1981, No. 216, p. 8 (collections of the Ossolineum Library / Periodicals Department)

Photo 4.

Just before martial law, the Voivod of Wrocław introduced petrol rationing.

‘Słowo Polskie’ of 8 December 1981, No. 238, p. 4 (collections of the Ossolineum Library / Periodicals Department)

Photo 5, 6, 7.

As an April Fool’s joke in 1982, the editors of ‘Słowo Polskie’ wrote about a Maluch with a diesel engine supposedly built in Wrocław (unlike petrol, diesel was not subject to rationing). Interestingly, four years later a prototype Fiat 126p with a Japanese diesel engine was actually built at the FSM Research and Development Centre. ‘Słowo Polskie’ of 1 April 1982, No. 30, p. 1 (collections of the Ossolineum Library / Periodicals Department)