ZAZ Zaporozhets (Russian: Запоро́жец pronunciation) was a series of rear-wheel-drive superminis (city cars in their first generation) designed and built from 1958 at the ZAZ factory in Soviet Ukraine. Different models of the Zaporozhets, all of which had an air-cooled engine in the rear, were produced until 1994. Since the late 1980s, the final series, ZAZ-968M, was replaced by the cardinally different ZAZ-1102 Tavria hatchback, which featured a front-wheel drive and a more powerful water-cooled engine.

ZAZ-968 and ZAZ-965 cars

The name Zaporozhets translates into a Cossack of the Zaporizhian Sich or а man from Zaporozhye (now Zaporizhzhia) or the Zaporozhye Oblast (now Zaporizhzhia Oblast).

Zaporozhets is still well known in many former Soviet states. Like the Volkswagen Beetle or East Germany's Trabant, the Zaporozhets was destined to become a "people's car" of the Soviet Union, and as such it was the most affordable vehicle of its era. At the same time, it was rather sturdy and known for its excellent performance on poor roads.[1] Another important advantage of the Zaporozhets was its ease of repair. The car's appearance gave birth to several nicknames that became well known across the Soviet Union: horbatyi ("hunchback", owing to ZAZ-965's insect-like form; although ZAZ factory workers never used this nickname[2]), malysh (English: Kiddy),[2] ushastyi ("big-eared", due to ZAZ-966 and ZAZ-968's round air intakes on each side of the car to cool the rear-mounted engine), zapor ("constipation"),[3] mylnitsa ("soap-box", for ZAZ-968M, lacking "ears" and producing a more box-like appearance).[1]

Numerous special versions of the Zaporozhets were produced, equipped with additional sets of controls that allowed operating the car with a limited set of limbs, and were given for free or with considerable discounts to disabled people, especially war veterans - similar to SMZ-series microcars. These mobility cars would at times take up to 25% of ZAZ factory output.[1]

First generation (1960–1969)

  • ZAZ-965 (1960–1963)
  • ZAZ-965A (1962–1969)
ManufacturerZaporizhzhia Automobile Factory (ZAZ)
Also calledZaporozhets
Body and chassis
ClassCity car (A-segment)
Body style2-door saloon
LayoutRR layout
Wheelbase2,160 mm (85.0 in)
Length3,330 mm (131.1 in)
Width1,395 mm (54.9 in)
Height1,450 mm (57.1 in)
Curb weight665 kg (1,466 lb)
SuccessorZAZ-966 Zaporozhets



The ZAZ-965 was a city car produced from 1960 to 1963. The design of a simple economy city car, and one in part taking the place of the soon to be discontinued Moskvitch 401, began in 1956.[4] Following the growing trend of city cars (then accounting for between 25% and 40% of all European car sales), the minister in charge of Minavtroprom (the Soviet automotive ministry) Nikolay Strokin selected the new Fiat 600 as the model to follow.[4] However, despite being visually similar to the Fiat, the ZAZ was in fact a completely different car.[5][6]

ZAZ-965 dashboard
ZAZ-965 Zaporozhets engine

The first prototype, the Moskvitch-444, was designed by MZMA in October 1957;[6] it used the same glass for front and rear windows.[7] Its ground clearance, on 13 in (330 mm) wheels, was 200 mm (7.9 in).[7] The prototype was first powered by a flat twin-cylinder MD-65 engine provided by the Irbitskiy Motorcycle Plant, which was "totally unsuited": it produced only 17.5 hp (13.0 kW; 17.7 PS) and lasted only 30,000 km (19,000 mi) between major overhauls.[7] As a result, a search for another engine was begun, and the success of the VW Type 1's boxer led to a preference for an air-cooled engine, which NAMI (the National Automobile Institute) had on the drawing board.[7] Minavtroprom, however, preferred a 23 hp (17 kW; 23 PS)[8] rear-mounted 746 cc (45.5 cu in) V4,[6] the NAMI-G, which had the additional advantage of being developed for the LuAZ-967.[7] As a result, it had characteristics not common for automobile engines, including a magnesium alloy engine block.[9] (This engine, the MeMZ-965, would be built by the Melitopolski Motor Plant, MeMZ.[9]) The V4 was a rather unusual engine configuration for an automobile, with its only other notable use in a similar era being in Ford vehicles like the Taunus and Transit van. It had the drawback of needing to have the rear of the car redesigned to fit, as well as needing a new rear suspension.[9] The influence of the LuAZ designers led to the introduction of independent suspension on all four wheels.[9] Its front doors open in a manner like suicide doors, partly to make it more accessible to the disabled.[6]

One of the primary differences was that the engine, which featured a V4 layout in place of the Fiat's inline-four, was air-cooled, like the flat-4 engine used by Volkswagen in vehicles like the Beetle and Type 2 microbus. The Zaporozhets also featured bigger wheels and front suspension on torsion bars. In 1958, the government ordered production of the car in the reformed ZAZ factory, under its final designation ZAZ-965.[6] All further production of the car was carried out there.

The new car was approved for production at the MeMZ factory on the 28th of November, 1958,[9] changing the name to ZAZ (Zaporizhzhia Automobile Building Plant) to reflect the new profile.[6] The Zaporizhzhia factory was supplemented with the Mikoyan Diesel-Building Factory in Melitopol, which was part of the Soyuzdiesel combinat.

The first car, dubbed the ZAZ-965 Zaporozhets, was delivered 12 June 1959,[8] was approved 25 July 1960, and entered production 25 October.[8][10] The Zaporozhets was priced at 1,800 redenominated roubles.[8]

There was also a car-derived van model for the Soviet post office, the ZAZ-965S, with right-hand drive and blanked-off windows.[11]



The ZAZ-965A was an improvement on the ZAZ-965 and was produced from November 1962 to May 1969. In total, 322,106 units of the ZAZ-965 were produced.[6] It was powered by a MeMZ-965 rear-mounted, air-cooled OHV 887 cc (54.1 cu in) V4 engine, partially of aluminium design, producing 27 PS (20 kW). From November 1966 some cars were fitted with the slightly more powerful 30 PS (22 kW) MeMZ-965A engine.[6] The ZAZ-965's modest engine output has given ground to an urban joke that it was used as a starter motor in Soviet tanks.

As Soviet drivers were expected to do much of the servicing themselves, and mechanics trained in the servicing of consumer automobiles were in short supply, the engine's 90° V4 layout proved more practical, especially in harsh winter conditions. The higher centre of gravity of the engine also provided superior traction on steep slopes, though this advantage, which was also continued in later models, came at the expense of the car's infamous lack of cornering stability.

The ZAZ-965A also had its versions for the disabled (ZAZ-965B, AB, AR), as well as a more luxurious export variant, the ZAZ-965AE Yalta.[6]

Despite the low prestige of those cars, they have shown an unbeaten accessibility and popularity among the people of the Soviet Union, becoming the "car for pensioners and intellectuals". They were the cheapest Soviet-made cars. Quite a large number of them were produced in variants for disabled people, with modified steering.[10]

Between November 1966 and May 1969 the ZAZ-965A and its successor, the ZAZ966, were produced concurrently.[12]

When production of the ZAZ-965 ended, 322,116 had been built.[12]

The ZAZ-965 also inspired the 1962 prototype NAMI 086, named Sputnik (Fellow Traveller), with a 15 PS (11 kW) 500 cc (31 cu in) vee-twin (half an MeMZ-965), electromagnetic clutch and four-speed transmission. Fitted with a four-wheel independent suspension and weighing just 520 kg (1,150 lb), and intended for use by the disabled, it was never built.[13]

The ZAZ KD of 1969 was also based on the ZAZ-965, fitted with a glassfibre body,[13] giving it a weight of only 500 kg and a top speed of 75 mph (121 km/h) using just 30 PS (22 kW).[14] It was never produced in quantity, either.[14]

Second generation (1966–1994)

  • ZAZ-966 (1966–1972)
  • ZAZ-968 (1971–1980)
  • ZAZ-968M (1979–1994)
Vladimir Putin with his 1972 ZAZ-968
ManufacturerZaporizhzhia Automobile Factory (ZAZ)
Also calledZaporozhets
Body and chassis
ClassSupermini (B)
Body style2-door notchback saloon
Engine1.2L MeMZ-968 V4
Transmission4-speed manual
Wheelbase2,160 mm (85.0 in)
Length3,730 mm (146.9 in)
Width1,540 mm (60.6 in)
Height1,370 mm (53.9 in)
Curb weight
  • 780 kg (1,720 lb)
  • (dimensions for ZAZ-968)
PredecessorZAZ-965A (Zaporozhets)
SuccessorZAZ-1102 Tavria



The second generation of the Zaporozhets was a series of subcompact cars, starting with the ZAZ-966, which entered production in November 1966,[11] although the prototype was first demonstrated in 1961.[10] It had a completely restyled bodywork (done entirely by ZAZ[11]), no longer resembling the Fiat 600 and arguably similar to the Chevrolet Corvair, Hillman Imp or the NSU Prinz.[10] This was an effort to cure some of the ZAZ-965's issues, such as torsion bars that lost tension, suicide doors, and engines that overheated and made the cabin uncomfortably loud.[15] The engine was the 30 PS (22 kW) 887 cc (54.1 cu in) MeMZ-966A.[11] A radio was standard equipment.[12] The price had inched up, too, from 1,800 roubles at the ZAZ-965's debut to 2,200 by 1969.[11]

While featuring a larger two-door notchback saloon body, it still featured an air-cooled V4 engine and featured more prominent air intakes – the so-called "ears", although a decorative chrome grille was also present. The car's rear suspension was also replaced. The ZAZ-966 started out as the simpler ZAZ-966V (ЗАЗ-966В in Cyrillic) with the 30 PS engine from the ZAZ-965A,[10] which was also featured on all later models. Much like the ZAZ-965A, the ZAZ-966V was also produced in several special variants for the disabled (VR, VB, VB2 - until January 1973).[10] It was produced in tandem with the ZAZ-965 from November 1966 to May 1969.[12]

ZAZ launched an upgraded ZAZ-966B in 1968, powered by a new 40 PS (29 kW) 1,197 cc (73.0 cu in) MeMZ-968 V4, while the 30 PS ZAZ-966A-powered model became the ZAZ-966-1 which was only ever produced in small numbers.[12] The ZAZ-966B, weighing in at 780 kg (1,720 lb), was heavier than the earlier model, but faster, reaching 75 mph (121 km/h).[12]

The ZAZ-966 was discontinued in 1972, with the introduction of the ZAZ-968.[12]

Nicknamed "Zapo" in the Eastern Bloc, the ZAZ-966 also found some buyers in Western Europe, including Finland and France.[12] Some markets swapped the original engine for a 956 cc (58.3 cu in) Renault unit.[12]


ZAZ-968 rear view

The ZAZ-968 and its variants were produced from 1971 to 1980.[1] It featured the same 40 hp (30 kW; 41 PS) 1,197 cc (73.0 cu in) MeMZ-968 V4 as the ZAZ-966, but the exterior design was slightly modernized.[12] The most obvious alteration was replacing the fake chrome grille in the car's front with a horizontal chrome decoration.[10] Among other changes was a less austere dashboard and better front brakes. The ZAZ-968 was discontinued in 1978,[1] having been produced simultaneously with the newer 968A since 1973, which was produced until 1980. It introduced new safety measures, including a new steering wheel and a plastic dashboard instead of the earlier metal one.[1] The ZAZ-968A also had its variants for the disabled (the ZAZ-968R, B, B2, AB, and AB2) with the 30 hp (22 kW; 30 PS) 887 cc (54.1 cu in) engine.[1]

Toward the end of 1974, the up-market ZAZ-968A debuted, continuing in production until 1979.[13] Among its improvements was a padded dash, energy-absorbing (collapsing) steering column, and seats from the VAZ-2101.[13] The export ZAZ-968E (destined mostly for the Eastern Bloc) had headlights modified to meet international standards, a safety glass windscreen, and an anti-theft steering lock.[13]



In 1979, the ZAZ-968 series was replaced by the modernized ZAZ-968M.[13] Prototyped in 1977, it had the "ears" removed and replaced much of the chrome exterior with black plastic.[13] Its interior design was also upgraded, featuring an enclosed glove box and a slightly more modern dashboard. It was offered with either the MeMZ-968E (40 hp (30 kW; 41 PS), carbureted, low-compression for 76-octane fuel); ZAZ-968GE (40 hp (30 kW; 41 PS), dual carburettor); or the MeMZ-968BE (50 hp (37 kW; 51 PS), 8.4:1 compression, for 93-octane) engine.[13] Instead of the side-mounted "ears", the hood lid and rear quarter panels were louvered.[16]

The ZAZ-968M was the last Zaporozhets model and also spent the most time in production, with cars being made from 1979 to 1 June 1994. By that time, the Soviet Union had collapsed, Ukraine had become independent, and modern, front wheel drive economy cars from the West like the Volkswagen Polo and Ford Fiesta had become available in quantity, vehicles which the 1950s and 60s designed Zaporozhets had no hope of competing with.[13] Some of its special variants include the ZAZ-968MB2, for drivers who had only one foot, and the ZAZ-968MB for drivers who had no feet.

Planned ZAZ-968s with 1,300 cc (79 cu in) or 1,400 cc (85 cu in) engines would never enter production, likely a side effect of the stagnation of Russia in the 1970s and 80s and the subsequent reign of Gorbachev, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the breakup of the Soviet Union occupying more attention than a little Ukrainian-built economy car whose mechanicals dated back to 1959.[13]

Export versions


Among the export variants produced by ZAZ were ZAZ-965E, ZAZ-965AE, ZAZ-966E, ZAZ-968E, and ZAZ-968AE, which had improved features compared to vehicles made for the home market. Depending on target markets, the model names Jalta or Eliette were used for these cars.

In total, 3,422,444 Zaporozhets vehicles were manufactured in the Melitopol factory from 1960 to 1994, with all of them using the same family of air cooled V-4 engines mounted in the back.[17]


In the 1963 Soviet romantic comedy Three Plus Two, a ZAZ-965 with license plate number 18-15-лдг is featured in numerous scenes throughout the movie, and is even referred to directly in the script as "a tin can of the Zaporozhets system."[18]

In the 1995 James Bond film GoldenEye, Bond's CIA contact Jack Wade drove a 1963 ZAZ-965A.

In the 2011 animated feature film Cars 2, the Trunkovs (Vladimir, Petrov, Lubewig, and Tolga) are based on the ZAZ-968 Zaporozhets.

In the video game MudRunner, a car based on the ZAZ-968 is found in several maps named A-968M.

In Half-Life 2 the car is shown in dilapidated condition as a prop that clutters some roads.

It also appears as a prop in the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. games.

See also


Similar air-cooled and rear-engined vehicles:


  1. ^ a b c d e f g ZAZ-968A, Avtolegendy SSSR Nr.4, DeAgostini 2008, ISBN 978-5-9774-0409-9, (in Russian)
  2. ^ a b FIAT begins to produce Zaporozhets (in Russian)
  3. ^ Siegelbaum, Lewis H. (15 August 2011). Cars for Comrades: The Life of the Soviet Automobile. ISBN 978-0801461484.
  4. ^ a b Thompson, Andy (2008), Cars of the Soviet Union: The Definite History, Sparkford, Yeovil, Somerset: Haynes, pp. 88–89, ISBN 978-1-84425-483-5
  5. ^ Thompson 2008: "This was another example of how, in spite of its close visual similarity to the Fiat 600, the Soviet vehicle was in fact a completely different car..."
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i ZAZ-965/965A, Avtolegendy SSSR Nr.17, DeAgostini 2009, ISSN 2071-095X, (in Russian)
  7. ^ a b c d e Thompson 2008, p. 89
  8. ^ a b c d Thompson 2008, p. 92
  9. ^ a b c d e Thompson 2008, p. 90
  10. ^ a b c d e f g ZAZ-966 "Zaporozhets", Avtolegendy SSSR Nr.36, DeAgostini 2010, ISSN 2071-095X, (in Russian)
  11. ^ a b c d e Thompson 2008, p. 200
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Thompson 2008, p. 201
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Thompson 2008, p.203.
  14. ^ a b Thompson 2008, p. 205
  15. ^ Thompson 2008, p. 199
  16. ^ Thompson 2008, p.204 & 206.
  17. ^ "Company's history". Retrieved 15 October 2011.
  18. ^ "Ровно 60 лет назад в Запорожье начали выпускать ЗАЗ-965, прозванный в народе "Горбатым"". (in Russian). Retrieved 2021-12-22.