Well OK it is a Lada but this one is branded for the home market. Avtovaz originally called Volzhsky Avtomobliny Zavod or VAZ for short marketed its FIAT 124 derivatives under the Lada brand for export, around 60 % of production and under the Zhiguli brand inside Russia.
The cars they built were initially beefed up FIAT 124’s with thicker steel panels, smaller, more robust less powerful overhead cam engines not seen on any other FIAT vehicles, designed to run on low 93 octane fuel and fitted with aluminium rear drum brakes in place of discs. Perfect for harsh conditions from Siberia all the way down to deserts of Egypt.
A couple of batches of these vehicles were supplied to the militia with rotary wankel engines allegedly based heavily on Mazda technology. Many of these militia vehicles, all supplied without revolution counters did not make it as far as their first oil change, upon failure these the motors were swapped out for the more conventional 4 cylinder 1.2 / 73 cui and 1.3 litre / 79 cui units. Rotary Zhigulis are still to be found in the preowned car market of Moscow.
The overall body was little changed during production from 1970 to 1984 when the model was replaced by the Riva, itself a model once stripped of all the plastic and lights was pretty much the same as the 2103 series seen here.
I managed to decipher Жигули in cyrillic script on the badge with a little help from Alexey Rogachev on The Nostalgia Forum. Alexey informs me that the Zhiguli name is taken from the Zhiguli Mountains at the bottom of which is a town Tolyatti, named after an Italian communist, where these vehicles were built.
It is thought somewhere around 18 million Avtovaz FIAT 124 derived vehicles have been built since 1970, incredibly later Riva derivatives are still being assembled to this day in a Suzuki plant in Egypt.
Hope you have enjoyed this cyrillic edition of Gettin’ a lil’ psycho on tyres’, and that you’ll join me tomorrow Ferrari Friday. Don’t forget to come back now !