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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 watercooled 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]



ZAZ 965 was a city car produced from 1960 to 1963. Work on its design was started in 1956 in the AZLK car plant, and the first prototypes were designated as Moskvitch-444. The car was patterned on the Fiat 600, featuring a similar general composition, body, transmission, steering mechanism and rear suspension.[3] 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. Its doors opened backwards, partly to make it more accessible to the disabled.[3] In 1958, the government ordered production of the car in the reformed ZAZ factory, under its final designation ZAZ-965.[3] All further production of the car was carried out there.

The Zaporozhets' engine was designed in Moscow's NAMI institute and produced by the MeMZ factory. The initial 965 was powered by a rear-mounted, aircooled 746 cc V4 engine,[3] producing 26 PS (19 kW).


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.[3]

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.[3] 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.[3]

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.[4] 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.[4] 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,[4] 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).[4]


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.[4] 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. ^ a b c d e f g ZAZ-965/965A, Avtolegendy SSSR Nr.17, DeAgostini 2009, ISSN 2071-095X, (Russian)
  4. ^ a b c d e ZAZ-966 "Zaporozhets", Avtolegendy SSSR Nr.36, DeAgostini 2010, ISSN 2071-095X, (Russian)