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For the Soviet developmental psychologist, see Alexander Zaporozhets.

ZAZ Zaporozhets (Ukrainian: Запоро́жець; Russian: Запоро́жец About this sound pronunciation ) was a series of rear wheel drive subcompact cars designed and built from 1958 at the ZAZ factory in Soviet Ukraine (Ukrainian: Запорізький автомобільний завод Zaporizkyi Avtomobilnyi Zavod, or Zaporizhian Automobile Factory). Different models of the Zaporozhets, all of which had an aircooled engine in the rear, were produced until 1994. Since the late 1980s, the final series, 968M, was replaced by the cardinally different ZAZ-1102 Tavria hatchback, which featured a front-wheel drive and a more powerful water-cooled engine.

The name Zaporozhets translates into a Cossack of the Zaporizhian Sich or а man from Zaporizhia or the Zaporizhia Oblast.

Zaporozhets is still well known in many former Soviet states. Like the Volkswagen Beetle or East Germany's Trabant, the Zaporozhets was destined to become a "people's car" of the Soviet Union, and as such it was the most affordable vehicle of its era. At the same time, it was rather sturdy and known for its superior crossing performance on poor roads in comparison to their larger Russian-made counterparts[1] at a time when foreign cars were very difficult to come by. Another important advantage of the Zaporozhets was its ease of repairs. The car's appearance gave birth to several nicknames that became well known across the Soviet Union: horbatyi ("hunchback", owing to ZAZ-965's insect-like form; although ZAZ factory workers never used this nickname[2]), malysh (English: Kiddy),[2] ushastyi ("big-eared", due to 966 and 968's round air intakes on each side of the car to cool the rear-mounted engine), mylnitsa ("soap-box", for ZAZ-968M, lacking "ears" and producing a more box-like appearance).[1]

Numerous special versions of the Zaporozhets were produced, equipped with additional sets of controls that allowed operating the car with a limited set of limbs, and were given for free or with considerable discounts to disabled people, especially war veterans, side-by-side with SMZ-series microcars. These special versions would at times consume up to 20% of ZAZ factory output.[1]

First generation (1960-1969)[edit]



The ZAZ 965 was a city car produced from 1960 to 1963. Design of a car accessible to the public, and one in part taking the place of the soon to be discontinued Moskvitch 401, began in 1956.[3] Following the growing trend of small cars (then accounting for between 25% and 40% of all European car sales), the minister in charge of Minavtroprom (the Soviet automotive ministry) selected the new Fiat 600 as the model to follow.[4] It had similar general composition, body, transmission, steering mechanism and rear suspension.[5]

The first prototype, the MZMA 444, appeared in October 1957; to save money, it used the same glass for front and rear windows.[6] And reflecting its Soviet design, its ground clearance, on 13 in (330 mm) wheels, was 200 mm (7.9 in).[6] It was powered by a flat twin-cylinder MD-65 engine provided by the Irbitskeyeo motorcycle plant, which was "totoally unsuited": it produced only 17.5 hp (13.0 kW; 17.7 PS) and lasted only 30,000 km (19,000 mi) between major overhauls.[6] As a result, a search for another engine was begun, and the success of the VW Type 1's boxer led to a preference for an aircooled engine, which NAMI (the National Automobile Institute) had on the drawing board.[6] Minavtroprom, however, preferred a 23 hp (17 kW; 23 PS) [7] rear-mounted 746 cc (45.5 cu in) V4,[5] the NAMI-G, which had the additional advantage of being developed for the LuAZ-967.[6] As a result, it had characteristics not common for automobile engines, including a magnesium alloy engine block.[8] (This engine, the MeMZ 965, would be built by the Melitopolski Motor Plant, MeMZ.[8]) It had the drawback of needing to have the rear of the car redesigned to fit, as well as needing a new rear suspension.[8] The influence of the LuAZ designers led to the introduction of independent suspension on all four wheels.[8] Its doors opened backwards, partly to make it more accessible to the disabled.[5]

One of the primary differences was that the engine, which featured a V4 layout in place of the Fiat's line-4, was air-cooled. The Zaporozhets also featured bigger wheels and front suspension on torsion bars. In 1958, the government ordered production of the car in the reformed ZAZ factory, under its final designation ZAZ-965.[5] All further production of the car was carried out there.

The new car was approved for production at the MeMZ factory 28 November 1958,[8] changing the name to ZAZ (Zaporizhia Automobile Building Plant) to reflect the new profile.[9] The Zaporizhia factory was supplemented with the Mikoyan Diesel-Building Factory in Melitopol, which was part of the Soyuzdiesel combinat.

The first car, dubbed the ZAZ-965 Zaporozhets, was delivered 12 June 1959,[7] was approved 25 July 1960, and entered production 25 October.[7][9] The Zaporozhets was priced at 1,800 rubles.[7]

The 965's styling was similar to the Fiat 600's, and the car was nicknamed Humpback Zaporozhets.


The 965A was an improvement on the 965 and was produced from November 1962 to May 1969. In total, 322,106 units of the 965 were produced.[5]

It was powered by a MeMZ-965 rear-mounted, aircooled OHV 887 cc V4 engine, partially of aluminium design, producing 27 PS (20 kW). From November 1966 some cars were fitted with the slightly more powerful 30 PS (22 kW) MeMZ-965A engine.[5] The 965's modest engine output has given ground to an urban joke that it was used as a starter motor in Soviet tanks.

As Soviet drivers were expected to do much of the servicing themselves, and auto workshops were in short supply anyway, the engine's 90° angle V4 layout proved more practical, especially in harsh winter conditions. The higher centre of gravity of the engine also provided superior traction on steep slopes, though this advantage, which was also continued in later models, came at the expense of the car's infamous cornering stability.

The 965-A also had its versions for the disabled (ZAZ-965B, AB, AR), as well as a more luxurious export variant ZAZ-965AE Yalta.[5]

The redesigned 966 and 968 looked more like a NSU Prinz. Despite low reliability and prestige of those cars, they have shown an unbeaten accessibility and popularity among Soviets, becoming the "car for pensioners and intellectuals". They were the cheapest Soviet-made cars. Quite a big number was produced in variants for disabled people, with modified steering.[9] 3,422,444 Zaporozhets vehicles were manufactured and powered by air-cooled engines from the Melitopol factory from 1960 to 1994.[10]

Second generation (1966-1994)[edit]

  • ZAZ-966 (1966-1972)
  • ZAZ-968 (1971-1980)
  • ZAZ-968M (1979-1994)
Putin with his 1972 Zaporozhets.jpg
Vladimir Putin with his 1972 ZAZ-968
Manufacturer ZAZ (Zaporizhian Automobile Factory)
Also called Zaporozhets
Production 1966–1994
Body and chassis
Body style 2-door saloon
Engine 1.2L MeMZ-968 V4
Transmission 4-speed manual
Wheelbase 2,160 mm (85.0 in)
Length 3,730 mm (146.9 in)
Width 1,540 mm (60.6 in)
Height 1,370 mm (53.9 in)
Curb weight
  • 780 kg (1,720 lb)
  • (dimensions for ZAZ-968)
Predecessor ZAZ-965A (Zaporozhets)
Successor ZAZ-1102 Tavria


The second generation of the Zaporozhets was a series of subcompact cars introduced with the 966 in 1966, which was discontinued in 1972, although the prototype was ready as early as 1961.[9] It had a completely restyled bodywork, no longer resembling the Fiat 600, featuring a different body style and arguably resembling the Chevrolet Corvair or the German NSU Prinz.[9] While featuring a larger two-door saloon body, it still featured an air-cooled V4 engine and featured more prominent air intakes – the so-called "ears", although a decorative chrome grill was also present. The car's rear suspension was also replaced. The 966 started out as the simpler ZAZ-966V (ЗАЗ-966В in Ukrainian) with a 27 hp engine from the 965A, but for the primary 966 that was discarded in favor of an upgraded 41 hp (31 kW) MeMZ-968 1.2 l engine,[9] which was also featured on all later models of the Zaporozhets. Much like the 965A, the 966V was also produced in several special variants for the disabled (VR, VB, VB2 - until January 1973).[9]


The ZAZ-968 and its modifications were produced from 1971 to 1980.[1] It featured the same 41 hp engine as the 966, but the exterior design was slightly modernized. The most obvious alteration was replacing the fake chrome grille in the car's front with a horizontal chrome decoration.[9] Among other changes was the less austere dashboard and better front brakes. The 968 was discontinued in 1978,[1] having been produced simultaneously with the newer 968A since 1973, which was produced until 1980. It introduced new safety measures, including a safer driving wheel and a plastic dashboard instead of the earlier metal one.[1] The 968A also had its variants for the disabled, with the weaker 27 hp 0.9-litre engine (ZAZ-968R, B, B2, AB, AB2).[1]



The 968 series was replaced by the modernized 968M, which had the "ears" removed and replaced much of the chrome exterior with black plastic. Its interior design was also heavily upgraded, featuring a closed-space glovebox and a slightly more modern dashboard. It is the most contemporary Zaporozhets model and also spent the most time on production run, spanning a career from 1979 to 1994. Some of its special variants include the ZAZ-968MB2, for drivers who have only one foot, the ZAZ-968MB for drivers who have no feet, and the ZAZ-968MA which had the smaller 0.7-litre engine.

Export versions[edit]

Among the export variants produced by ZAZ were ZAZ-965E, ZAZ-965AE, ZAZ-966E, ZAZ-968E, and ZAZ-968AE, which had improved consumer qualities. Depending on target markets, commercial names Jalta or Eliette were used for these models.

See also[edit]

Similar aircooled and rear engined vehicles:


  1. ^ a b c d e f g ZAZ-968A, Avtolegendy SSSR Nr.4, DeAgostini 2008, ISBN 978-5-9774-0409-9, (Russian)
  2. ^ a b FIAT begins to produce Zaporozhets (Russian)
  3. ^ Thompson, Andy. Cars of the Soviet Union (Haynes Publishing, Somerset, UK, 2008), pp.88-89.
  4. ^ Thompson, pp.88-89.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g ZAZ-965/965A, Avtolegendy SSSR Nr.17, DeAgostini 2009, ISSN 2071-095X, (Russian)
  6. ^ a b c d e Thompson, p.89.
  7. ^ a b c d Thompson, p.92.
  8. ^ a b c d e Thompson, p.90.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h "ZAZ-965/965A" (in Russian). Avtolegendy SSSR, Nr. 17. DeAgostini 2009. ISSN 2071-095X.
  10. ^ "Company's history". Retrieved 15 October 2011.