The History Of ZAZ 968
The Zaporozhets (Russian: Запоро́жец, zaporozhets (help·info); Ukrainian: Запорожець, Zaporozhets) was a series of subcompact cars designed and built from 1958 at the ZAZ factory in Soviet Ukraine ("Zaporozhsky Avtomobilny Zavod", or Zaporozhian Automobile Factory). Different types of Zaporozhets were produced until 1994. It had special features for disabled people such as ability to be fully controlled by hands and sometimes was given for free by the state to disabled people or war veterans.
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.
Model ZAZ-966 was made from 1967 to 1974. It had a restyled chassis, no longer resembling the Fiat 600, similar to the German NSU Prinz (it also looks like a Hillman Imp and Chevy Corvair). The engines were slightly updated as well, but the infamous "ears" were back.
The ZAZ-968 was produced from 1972 to 1980. It featured the newer MeMZ-968 engine, which increased the displacement to 1.2L and the power output to 42hp (31kW). The ZAZ-968M had the ears removed and was made from 1979 to 1994.
The 968 was replaced by the heavily updated ZAZ Tavria hatchback, which was quite different from the Zaporozhets, in featuring front wheel drive and a watercooled engine. It has been claimed that the Tavria was based on the Ford Fiesta Mark I, with changes that worsened the design.
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