The Zaphorozhets (aka “The Soviet Corvair”) didn’t offer much in terms of performance, comfort, safety, or style, but it was the first real attempt by the post-Stalin USSR to offer a car for ordinary citizens. The idea was that the heroes of Soviet labor would enjoy some of the bourgeois luxuries of their capitalist counterparts, and this would lead to increased worker productivity, or something. The proletariat wasn’t going to get ’57 Ford Mainlines, however; the reality of Soviet roads and repair facilities was such that their cars would need to be easy to repair under primitive conditions.
So, when ZAZ engineers ripped off the design of the Volkswagen air-cooled engine for their new car, they bent the cylinders up in a vee instead of using a boxer design. Why? So that the valves, which we must assume went out of adjustment even more quickly than the VW’s (i.e. every 200 miles instead of every 2,000), could be more accessible when working in a mud-floored shack in Turkmenistan. This philosophy was carried through for the entire car. When one of the rear brakes fails on a Leningrad street, why, you just stop right where you are and fix it with whatever rusty tools you find rattling around on the floorboards. Isn’t that the reason everyone loved the Model T so much? I say the humble Zaphorozhets needs more recognition as the perfect car for its time and place!
Image sources: English Russia, Metkere.com
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