In the 1980s, the USSR ended production of cars that had been produced for 7 decades. The last Soviet-Russian cars were produced in 1991.
To be precise, it was not the car manufacturing that ended in 1991, but the Soviet Union itself. The USSR and its government structures ceased to exist.
Only a small number of these cars are found on the entire planet, and they are unique for some of their features.
These cars are a bit like time capsules from the past, because they can show us what the Soviet automotive industry could have achieved if it were not for lack of funding in favor of military spending.
The USSR had several factories for producing cars at the time – ZAZ (Zaporozhye Automobile Factory), GAZ (Gorky Automobile Factory), and UAZ (Ulyanovsk Automobile Factory). Even though these plants had different tasks, they were closely connected to each other because all of them developed new models or produced engines. It is thanks to this that we can find some similarities between different Soviet-Russian models. For example, all three factories used front-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive with two doors as standard body styles (similar to what is offered by many other countries’ automakers today). On top of that, there were also hatchbacks which were largely based on sedans with two doors.
Some of the technologies used in these cars were truly outstanding. The biggest drawback was their high prices and production costs, which made them unattainable for most people.
But even today, people are still fascinated by these cars and often comment on them with nostalgic affection.
Now let’s introduce the cars that were produced in the USSR during the 1980s.
ZAZ-1102 “Pobeda” (Victory)
The ZAZ-1102 “Pobeda” (English: Victory) is a passenger car manufactured by ZAZ, a Ukrainian automobile factory. It was produced from 1955 to 1988. In total more than 2,000,000 “Pobedas” were made.
The ZAZ-1102 “Europa” (Europe)
The ZAZ-1102 “Europa” (English: Europe) is a passenger car manufactured by ZAZ, a Ukrainian automobile factory. It was produced from 1980 to 1991. In total more than 565,000 “Europas” were made in three generations of cars until 1991 when the model was discontinued.
GAZ Volga (VAZ-2101/Volga)
The GAZ Volga is an automobile that was produced in the Soviet Union and formerly by the Soviet automaker GAZ and currently by Russian automaker AvtoVAZ deriving its name from the country of origin and the river Volga where it was once manufactured. The first generation VAZ-2101 debuted in 1966 as a replacement for the Moskvitch 407 and remained in production until 1977 when it was succeeded by the VAZ-2107 Ford Cortina.
The GAZ-24 “Volga” is an automobile that was produced in the Soviet Union by GAZ from 1961 to 1967. It was made as a long-wheelbase version of the GAZ-21 for government officials. It was powered by a 1,8 litre (120 cu in) inline four engine that produced 66 kW (87 hp). The car weighed 1,000 kg (2,205 lb). It had a top speed of 152 km/h (95 mph) and could accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 19 seconds.
The GAZ “Oka” is an automobile that was manufactured in the Soviet Union by GAZ from 1960 to 1965. It was powered by a 1,5 litre (91 cu in) inline four engine that produced 55 kW (73 hp). The car weighed 740 kg (1675 lb). It had a top speed of 155 km/h (96 mph) and could accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 23 seconds.
The Lada Samara is an automobile produced by VAZ in Russia. It was originally imported into the United Kingdom as the Lada Riva, but was renamed when it was re-launched under the Lada marque. It was introduced at the 1985 Frankfurt Motor Show, and production began in 1986. The 1.6 version of the sedan was called “Samara”, while the hatchback version, called “Samara-Schuco” (named after the German company which did the final assembly of the car in Leningrad), was discontinued in 1994, although the basic model remained available until 1998.
Lada Samara is a front-engined, front wheel drive hatchback with a solid axle/coil spring suspension at the rear. The engine is a four-cylinder 1.6 liter unit with double overhead camshafts, 16 valves and electronic ignition. The gearbox is a 5-speed manual which sends power to the wheels through a single plate dry clutch.
The Samara was sold in Western Europe as the Lada Riva from 1985–1998, when it was replaced by a facelifted model that remained until 2000. The original car’s design dated back to 1973, and its replacement was not brought to production because it failed crash tests conducted by the European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP).
Lada 2106/2107 “Niva”
The Lada Niva is produced since 1973 by AvtoVAZ in Russia and since 1997 also by Kia Motors Czech Republic in Zlín. It has been one of the most successful off-road vehicles in the world, with over 2.2 million models sold worldwide as of 2009.
The Niva was originally intended as a replacement for the earlier GAZ-69 off-roader, and was based on the GAZ 13 Chaika sedan. The Niva was fitted with a four-wheel drive drivetrain developed from the one used in the earlier GAZ-24 Volga sedan. It was available with either inline four or inline six engines, the latter being less common and more expensive.
The Niva is still in production today, having undergone several facelifts and upgrades throughout its history. Later models are built at AvtoVAZ’s plant in Togliatti and Kia’s plant in Zlín, Czech Republic. In Slovenia it’s built by SsangYong since 2013 under a license agreement with AvtoVAZ to produce vehicles for Europe under the name SsangYong Rexton 4×4. These versions are equipped with SsangYong’s 2179 cc (132 cu in) Fuelie 4 cylinder engine producing 136 kW (185 hp).