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Why 50-year-old Zhiguli “kopeck” are still popular: the secret of the Soviet car industry
Why 50-year-old Zhiguli “kopeck” are still popular: the secret of the Soviet car industry

Lada is not just a car. This is a separate historical phenomenon that opened up completely new facets of the Soviet automobile industry. The first model of a whole line of small cars was the VAZ 2101, popularly called "kopeck". A truly beloved car of hundreds of thousands of Soviet citizens, produced from 1970 to 1988 in the amount of five million copies of various modifications, it has forever remained a classic of the auto industry of the USSR. And according to the results of a poll by the magazine "Za Rulem" in 2000, "kopeck" was recognized as the first Russian car of the 20th century.

The first sedans VAZ and Fiat 124

Italian prototype

The history of the Zhiguli began 50 years ago. On April 19, 1970, the first six copies of the VAZ-2101 rolled off the factory assembly line. Sometimes you can hear that "kopeck" is an exact licensed copy of the European Fiat 124. This myth is not entirely true. Soviet engineers did indeed cooperate with Italian specialists who came to the USSR as consultants. Over the entire period of production tests, domestic designers have introduced at least 800 of their own developments into the initial model based on Fiat.

The fact is that the Italian samples, which entered the Union for testing back in 1966, "poured" in front of our eyes, wheeling along the local roads. The body cracked when driving over the cobblestones, the suspension failed. During winter operation, the brake pads did not withstand experimental tests, which wore out over 200 kilometers of operation. In general, it became obvious: an Italian car for use in the harsh Russian conditions needs serious constructive adaptation. After a number of improvements and innovations, a reinforced engine and body, reliable rear brakes, extended ground clearance and a host of other changes appeared in the Soviet serial VAZ-2101, which allowed the new car to withstand the tests of the harsh climate and imperfect roads of the country with honor.

Racing, police, export "pennies"

Police modification

"Kopeyka" was produced in several modifications. Especially for the police, the car plant developed the VAZ-2101-94. This car featured a more powerful 1.5-liter petrol engine. The body of the police version was painted orange with a blue stripe. The special car could reach speeds of up to 156 km per hour.

At the beginning of 1971, engineers offered a racing version of the VAZ-2101, which successfully participated in the international race "Tour of Europe - 71". The distance covered by the new car exceeded 14 thousand kilometers. The Soviet crew took silver in such a prestigious competition, letting the team go ahead in the Opel Kadett. Participation in the marathon became an excellent advertisement for the car, which could now be safely produced for export. The export VAZ-2101 was delivered primarily to the countries of the socialist camp.

Racing "penny"

Later, representatives of the capitalist world - Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Scandinavian countries - also wished to acquire the "kopeck". The buyers were attracted, first of all, by the modest cost of the car, the build quality of which was excellent. The export VAZ-21013 Lada externally differed slightly from the standard model (edging of headlights, radiator grill, head restraints on the seats).For the British market, a modification of the Lada 1300 ES with a right-hand drive was developed, the roof of which was painted in a different color, and decorative stripes were applied on the sides.

In 1976, VAZ engineers created the first electric car on the basis of the VAZ-2102 station wagon.

The prototype of the future car was tested not only at the test site, but also on public roads. In the 80s, the launch batch of electric vans with the serial number VAZ-2801 saw the light. These cars could cover distances of 130 kilometers on a single charge at a maximum speed of 87 km per hour - at that time these figures looked impressive.

Dozens of years in operation without overhaul

First off the assembly line

"Kopeyka" charmed car owners with ease of handling, economy and high level of comfort. And the 1st model VAZ was simply considered a beautiful car. But most of all the people's love "Zhiguli" deserved thanks to its "strong character". These cars required major repairs only after a dozen trips Moscow - Vladivostok. There were such copies of "kopecks" that did without serious interference for up to 20 years of regular operation. And this is against the background of the official factory service life of 7 years! Soviet car owners skillfully extended the life of their four-wheeled horses. When the car ordered to live for a long time, serious repairs were started, affecting almost all the "stuffing". By the way, the restoration was often carried out by the hands of the owner himself or with the involvement of fellow car enthusiasts.

The ordeal of the car owner

VAZ-electric car

A Soviet citizen who decided to become the happy owner of a “kopeck” had to pay 5 thousand 150 rubles. Needless to say, the amount was solid at that time. But money alone was not enough to fulfill the cherished dream. The path to purchasing a car lay through long patience and perseverance of intentions. The line had to be not only "defended", but, above all, to get into it. This process could take more than one year. One can only imagine how happy the moment of receiving a postcard with an invitation to a car shop turned out to be.

Actor A. Shirvindt recalled the vicissitudes in the acquisition of "Zhiguli" in his book. He told me how at night he went to a suburban point to check in the queue. Because one single absenteeism became a reason to be removed from the list of buyers. Then he and his comrades Gerdt and Mironov created a team, leaving for marks and shifts in turn.

"Zhiguli" by Pugacheva

As soon as a citizen became the owner of a brand new Zhiguli, a new problem immediately arose before him: where to keep the deficit acquisition? But the garage was also not easy to get and required no less ordeal.

The purchase of a used car was also considered a success: “somewhere outside the city, dad bought a car very inexpensively,” as Alla Pugacheva sang. By the way, the prima donna said that VAZ was her first personal car. True, not a “penny”, but a third model …

For the Soviet people, a car was not just a means of transportation, but also a sign of luxury. Most often, they saved up for a car for several years and stood in line for a long time. What else did the Soviet people save money for, find out from our review.

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