The name Zaporozhets means a Cossack of the Zaporizhian Sich. It can also mean а man from Zaporozhye oblast.
Zaporozhets is still warmly remembered in many ex-USSR countries. Like the Volkswagen Beetle or East Germany's Trabant, Soviet Zaporozhets was destined to become a "people's car". It was the cheapest Soviet car and so the most affordable to common people. At the same time, it was rather sturdy and well suitable to Russian roads. The very looks of this car gave birth to several nicknames that stuck with it forever: "Zapor" (short for "Zaporozhets", but also means "constipation" in Russian), "hunchback" (due to ZAZ-965 insect-like form; ZAZ factory workers never used this nickname, using "Malysh" (Russian: малыш; English: Kiddy) instead ), "big-eared" (the car had air intakes on its sides to cool down the engine in the rear of the vehicle).
All Zaporozhets cars featured rear wheel drive (with engine in the rear) and aircooled engines.
The ZAZ-965 model was made between 1960 and 1969. Despite speculations that the design was copied from the Fiat 600, ZAZ representatives say the car was an exclusively Soviet design, created by Soviet ZAZ engineers jointly with colleagues from Moscow's NAMI and Moskvitch car plant. First prototypes were designated as Moskvitch-444.
It was powered by a MeMZ-965, a rear-mounted, aircooled OHV 887cc V4 engine of partially aluminium design, giving 26hp (19.4kW) (27hp (20.1kW) in the ZAZ-965A). A common (and false) urban legend is that the Zaporozhets's engine was used as a starter motor in Soviet tanks.
The base model was manufactured between 1960 and 1963, and the ZAZ-965A, which had the air-intake "ears" removed, between 1962 and 1969.
Interestingly, the engine looks a bit like the VW aircooled boxer four, except that the two cylinder banks are at a 45 degree angle. As Soviet car owners were expected to do much of the servicing themselves, and auto workshops were in short supply anyway, this layout was more practical especially in harsh winter conditions.