Eastern Bloc cars made it to North America from time to time, even back when the Warsaw Pact existed. Canada had Lada and Skoda passenger cars, the former offered all the way into the mid-'90s, while the U.S. had, ahem, something that rhymes with Hugo. Out of these three brands, it was Lada that had the greatest amount of commercial success, offering budget-minded drivers in the frigid Canadian tundra something that was … a close relative of 1960s Fiats, at least until brands like Hyundai finally came to the rescue.
But there was also something much larger: For a number of years, big cities in the U.S. and Canada also saw Ikarus buses, made in Hungary — for decades the country's most significant contribution to the world of transport.
Ikarus' foothold in North America came about as a result of major shifts in the U.S. bus industry. The impetus for these shifts was the end of the production of GM and Flxible's New Look buses, seen in the 1996 movie "Speed," among many others. The vacuum created by the end of production of New Look models around 1978 meant that large cities with extensive bus fleets had to get creative. A number of smaller manufacturers tried to fill the void, and this included Crown Coach, which until the late 1970s had been producing school buses, whose level of technology rarely needed updates.
Unable to come up with a modern city bus on its own, Crown entered into a partnership with Hungary-based Ikarus, whose annual production figures at the time dwarfed the output of all the other North American bus manufacturers.