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1980 - VAZ 2101 (Lada 1200)
File:1980 - VAZ 2101.JPG
Manufacturer AutoVAZ
Also called Lada 1200/1200S
Lada 1300
Production 1970–1988
Assembly Togliatti, Soviet Union
Body and chassis
Class Compact car
Body style 4-door sedan
5-door estate
Layout FR layout
Related Fiat 124
SEAT 124
Tofaş Murat 124
Engine 1.2 & 1.3 liters, carburetor
Transmission 4-speed manual
Wheelbase 2,424 mm (95.4 in)
Length 4,073 mm (160.4 in)
Width 1,611 mm (63.4 in)
Height 1,382 mm (54.4 in)
Curb weight 955 kg (2,105 lb)
Successor VAZ-2103
Lada Riva

The VAZ-2101 commonly nicknamed "Zhiguli" and "Kopeyka" (for the smallest coin in the kopeyka) is a compact sedan car (small class, passenger car, model 1 in Soviet classification) produced by AvtoVAZ and introduced in 1970, the company's first product. The estate version was known as the VAZ-2102. The 2101 is a re-engineered version of the Fiat 124 tailored for the nations of the Eastern Bloc, but was widely exported to the West as a budget "no-frills" car. Although the facelifted VAZ-2105, 2104 & 2107 versions largely replaced it in the West in the early 1980s, it was still produced for the domestic market as late as 1988. Known as the Zhiguli (for the hills found near the plant[1]) within the Soviet Union, the main differences between the VAZ-2101 and the Fiat 124 are the use of thicker gauge steel for the bodyshell, drum brakes on the rear wheels in place of disc brakes, and a bespoke engine. Early versions of the car featured a starting handle for cranking the engine manually should the battery go flat in Siberian winter conditions, and an auxiliary fuel pump.

AvtoVAZ were forbidden from selling the car in competing markets alongside Fiat 124; however, exports to Western Europe began in 1974 when the 124 was discontinued in favour of Fiat's newer 131 Mirafiori. The 2101 was sold in export markets as the Lada 1200, Lada 1300 and Lada 1200S until 1989; it was sold in the United Kingdom from May 1974, until the arrival of the Riva in 1983. It was the first Lada to be sold in the United Kingdom.[2]

The first year, 22,000 were produced, and capacity reached 660,000 by 1973.[1] Sales reached one million on 21 December 1973, and one and a half million in 1974.[1] In May 1974, it went on sale in Britain, priced at 979.[3]

The 2101 was built, virtually unaltered, from 1970 until 1982.[4]



  • VAZ-2101 (1970–1982) — first variant was equipped with a 1,198 cc (73.1 cu in) engine (a Fiat overhead valve design, never used in a Fiat)[5] producing 62 hp (46 kW; 63 PS),[5] offering 87 mph (140 km/h) top speed[5] and 0–100 km/h (0–62 mph) in about 23 seconds. Compared to the Fiat 124, 800 modifications were made in all,[5] including to rear brakes (discs to drums),[5] suspension (for higher ground clearance, carburettor, and some other parts in order to satisfy a wide range of Russian climate conditions, as well as thicker-gauge steel (so the 2101 weighed 945 kg (2,083 lb), the Fiat 90 kg (200 lb) less[5]). All these models had soft suspension adapted to the local roads that provided a very comfortable ride even on tough gravel roads. Early models included a crank, in case the battery went flat (an item later dropped) and an auxiliary fuel pump.[5] In a short time Lada became a real hit in Soviet Union. The 2101 (and its first modifications) opened a new era in Russian motoring. Unfortunately, the Togliatti plant could not supply the consumer demand and people had to wait for years to get a chance to buy the car. Exports began 21 February 1971, to Yugoslavia, with 32 cars sent to Finland, Holland, and Belgium on 30 July.[5] After a competition in the Soviet automotive magazine Za Rulem (At the Wheel[6]), which drew 1,812 entries, in September 1971 the name Lada (Russian for "harmony") was chosen,[7] and the export models would be called Lada 1200s.[8] Production was always behind demand, and price crept up, but by 1980, the wait for a new 2101 was down to a year.[8] The 2102 estate version started production 27 April 1972.[8] Sales to Cuba began in 1971 (and until 2006, Raul Castro drove to work in his own saloon) and Canada in 1978, but none were exported to the U.S.[9] Angola received its first one thousand Ladas in 1977, in time becoming a significant buyer.[9]
File:Lada VAZ 2101 in Hunedoara, Romania.JPG
Lada 1200 in Hunedoara, Romania
  • 21011 (1974–1981) — modified variant with a 67 hp (50 kW; 68 PS) 1,294 cc (79 cu in) engine.[9] Further changes included self-adjusting drum brakes on the rear axle, also fitted to the VAZ-2101. Flat front indicator lenses instead of the dome-shaped ones on the VAZ-2101. The "horns", or over-riders, on the bumpers were removed and replaced with a rubber strip running the whole length of the bumper. The rear lights were also smoothed in a similar manner to the indicator lenses and the passive reflector (previously a separate part underneath the main rear lights) was incorporated as a small, square-shaped part in the rear light cluster itself. The windshield pump was moved down and was operated by foot (rather than by rubber button on the dashboard VAZ 2101, which was operated with the push of a finger). The dashboard had a wood-effect plastic trim; the horn was placed on the steering wheel cover. The front and rear seats became more comfortable. Material and colouring of the instrument panel was changed from the original black on light grey to white on black, the instrument panel lighting was altered as well. On the rear pillars there were rectangular ventilation holes with grille, which were not present on the VAZ-2101. Four decorative horizontal oval holes appeared on the front panel just above the front bumper. The export series were designated the Lada 1300.
  • 21012--right hand drive saloon with the 1,198 cc (73.1 cu in) four, entered production 22 May 1973, for export to Japan, Australia, and Britain (which proved a very successful market).[9]
  • 21013 (1977–1988) — similar to VAZ-21011, 1,198 cc (73.1 cu in) engine, exported as the Lada 1200 with an upgraded version (incorporating the exterior and dashboard changes introduced with the VAZ-21011) called Lada 1200S.
  • 21014 estate, with the 1,198 cc (73.1 cu in) four, entered production 22 May 1973, for export to Japan, Australia, and Britain (which proved a very successful market).[9]
  • 21016 (1976–1981) — special modification, only available to Soviet police, 1,452 cc (89 cu in) engine (from VAZ-21011).[10]
  • 21018 (1978) — first series rotary engine modification for Soviet police & KGB with one-rotor 70 hp (52 kW; 71 PS) VAZ-311 Wankel engine with electronic ignition and twin-electrode sparking plugs.[11] It also featured a downdraft carburettor, with different jet sizes to the 2101, and two-stage aircleaner.[12] Presented to the public by 1982. Only 250 built.[12] Engine durability was an issue, wearing out at just 20,000 km (12,000 mi).[13]
  • 21019 Arkan (1983?) — second series rotary engine modification for Soviet police & KGB with two-rotor 120 hp (89 kW; 120 PS) VAZ-411 or VAZ-4132 Wankel engine.[14]


The estate version of the VAZ-2101 was known as the 2102 and was available from 1971. It was replaced by the 2104 (Lada Riva in some markets) in 1985. Over 660,000 were built by end of production in 1986.[15] In May 1974, it went on sale in Britain, priced at 979.[3]

  • VAZ-2102 (1971–1986) — also known as Lada 1200 Combi (1200 ES Estate).
  • VAZ-21021 (1974–1985) — equipped with 1,294 cc (79 cu in) engine. Also known as Lada 1300 Combi. Export models got a rear washer/wiper.[3]
  • VAZ-21023 (1973–1985) — equipped with 1,452 cc (89 cu in) engine. Also known as Lada 1500 Combi (1500 DL Estate). Export models got a rear washer/wiper.[3]


The 2103 (known in export markets as the Lada 1500) was very similar to the 2101 but can be identified by have four headlights and a squarer appearance to the front grill and a different interior. Some markets also received the VAZ-2106, or Lada 1600.



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Thompson, Andy. Cars of the Soviet Union (Haynes Publishing, Somerset, UK, 2008), p.106.
  2. Peter Rogers. "Lada Owners Club of GB UK Lada history". Retrieved 2010-10-15.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Thompson, p.116.
  4. Thompson, p.104 caption.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 5.7 Thompson, p.109.
  6. Thompson, p.16.
  7. Thompson, pp.109-110.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Thompson, p.110.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 Thompson, p.111.
  10. Thompson, p.115.
  11. Thompson, pp.115 and 235-236.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Thompson, p.235.
  13. Thompson, p.236.
  14. Thompson, pp.115 and 236.
  15. Thompson, p.115 caption.