Zaporozhets: Fix It Anywhere

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
zaporozhets fix it anywhere

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,

Join the conversation
2 of 36 comments
  • TooManyCars TooManyCars on Apr 29, 2011

    Ahh, Russian cars. Owned two of them, a Lada 2106 sedan, which, in a moment of masochism I traded for a Niva to drive across Canada in the winter. Can't get into too much trouble at 90 kph. The roadside repair photo brings back many memories. The points in my 2106 would last exactly 2 oil changes. Got so I could change oil, filter and points in 20 minutes flat. Sometimes even set the timing afterwards. The models sold in Canada actually encouraged diy repairs, as they came with two (2) tool kits. The first was a large roll-up affair that contained the usual lug wrench as well as an engine crank, a set of 3 flat tire irons, and a manual air pump. The 2nd kit was in a small plastic case and contained points and spark plug files/gapping tools as well as remarkably crappy screw drivers and a pair of sand cast pliers. Despite quite a few Ladas being sold here in the late 70's and early 80's, virtually none still exist. Read somewhere that boat loads of used sedans were shipped back for sale in Russia in the 90's as the export version was considered to be better quality. Could be an urban myth.

  • Inside Looking Out Inside Looking Out on Oct 22, 2013

    I had Lada 2108 two door hatchback. No power steering, no power anything except of brakes. Well every other trip to Moscow I had to stop (actually car stopped on its own will) somewhere on the highway or freeway (sometimes in the middle) and fix something, most of time the carburetor, some time the fuel pump. I had some spare parts in the trunk. Like timing and accessory belts e.g. or fuel pump repair kit. Motor oil was of unknown local origin, I suspect it might be not actually the motor oil. But I did not see a point of spending much more for an imported real motor oil for such a car. The good thing is that it was the only Russian car I ever owned.

  • Bill Wade Norm, while true I'll leave you with this. My 2023 RAM is running Android 8 released in 2017.My wife's navigation on her GM truck is a 2021 release, I believe the latest. Android Auto seems to update very week or two. Now, which would you rather have? Anybody with a car a couple of years old NEVER sees any updates. Heck, if your TV is a few years old it's dead on updates. At least cell phones are rapidly updated. If your old phone won't update, buy another $200 phone. If your GM vehicle doesn't update do what, buy another $50,000 GM vehicle?
  • Lou_BC Once again, Mustang is the last pony car standing. Camaro RIP, Challenger RIP.
  • FreedMike Next up should DEFINITELY be the Cadillac Eldorado. On the subject of Caddies, I saw a Lyriq in person for the first time a couple of days ago, and I'm changing my tune on its' styling. In person, it works quite well, and the interior is very nicely executed.
  • Probert Sorry to disappoint: any list. of articles with a 1 second google search. It's a tough world out there - but you can do it!!!!!!
  • ToolGuy "We're marking the anniversary of the time Robert Farago started the GM death watch and called for the company to die."• No, we aren't. Robert Farago wrote that in April 2005. It was reposted in 2009 on the eve of the actual bankruptcy filing.The byline dates are sometimes strange/off with the site revisions (and the 'this is a repost' note got lost), but the date string in the link is correct (...2005/04...). Posting about GM bankruptcy in 2005 was a slightly more difficult call than doing it in 2009.-- The Truth About Calendars