Apart from its compactness, free-revving nature and modest number of parts, the Wankel engine is of course known for its smoothness. This is not the first trait that comes to mind when one thinks of Russia but, on the other hand, no Wankel engine has ever been averse to enjoying a drink.
Although Russia was a bit of a latecomer when it comes to the Wankel engine, it was, for a period of roughly twenty-five years, quite seriously involved with the concept, resulting in close to forty different rotary engines being developed within that timespan. Development of the rotary engine started in 1974 at VAZ, better known in the West as manufacturers of the Fiat 124-based Lada saloon and Niva 4WD off-roader. Unlike NSU, Citroën, General Motors and Mazda, the Russians’ reason for developing rotary engines was of a somewhat sinister nature: they were initially designed to Continue reading “Join the Wankel Party”
Investigating the overlooked and unexplored history of VAZ.
VAZ (in Russian: ВАЗ)(1) is well known in the automotive world. It was established in 1966 as a joint-venture between the Soviet Union and Fiat to mass-produce affordable, reliable, and technologically relevant family cars for the Soviet people(2). Its first product was the VAZ-2101 Zhiguli saloon(3), a more rugged version of the Fiat 124, adapted to cope with the adverse conditions of the USSR. The Zhiguli was so successful that VAZ/AvtoVAZ would become the country’s largest car manufacturer.
Much has already been written about both the Zhiguli, which was exported under the Lada (Russian: Лада) brand, and its maker. Here on DTW you can enjoy features on both the Zhiguli(4) and the factory in Tolyatti(5) where it was built, written by my fellow contributors Sean Patrick and Andrew Miles respectively. There are, however, unexplored and unreported details of the history of VAZ. This is precisely what we will attempt to bring to light in this three-part series, primarily by examining the US State Department’s historical archives. Specifically, we will examine the politics and the diplomacy behind the establishment of the Soviet automaker.
Like our old friend the Suzuki Jimny, this little fellow seems to be a very long lived and stable design.
To my eyes it looks like a vehicle derived in part from the basic architecture of the Fiat 127, launched in 1971. A bit of research reveals that its designers wanted to create something equivalent to a Renault 5 with four-wheel drive. Its inception is credited to a call from the USSR’s political leadership for a utility vehicle for rural areas. Readers may be surprised to Continue reading “The Desert Has No Summit”
Automotive News reported a bit of an improvement at AvtoVAZ’s sales. The firm makes Lada cars. How about we find out what they sell right now, this minute. You won’t read this at Car&Track.
“AvtoVAZ said it made a net profit of 609 million rubles ($9.70 million) in the first three months, reversing losses of 2.81 billion rubles for the same period last year,” reported ANE. Which is not all that interesting. More absorbing is the question of what you find if you Continue reading “Sunset and Evening Star And One Clear Call For Me!”
For many eyes, the car above is, irredeemably, depending on their country, a VAZ or a Lada or a Zhiguli, a vehicle that citizens of the former Soviet Bloc view with a frustrating mixture of contempt and affection. To me it is (and in this example, correctly) a Fiat 124, the first car that I had free, unaccompanied access to the open roads in, with all that allowed, so anything that follows might have to be filtered by the reader to allow for the rosy glow of nostalgia, although actually it’s a frustrating mixture of contempt and affection. Continue reading “The Fellow Traveller”
Whatever happened to Steve Mattin? After a spell at Mercedes and then producing some unhappy-looking Volvo’s he went to work for Autovaz in Russia.
Lada showed this car two years ago and launched it last year. Despite a downturn in the Russian economy, the car is selling well. The wheel arch treatment is there to disguise the height of the bodyside. The car is 4.4 metres long, has a 1.6 litre petrol 4 (and that’s it) and is based on Renault-Nissan bits (that firm now controls Autovaz). Renault are making a name for themselves as the new Fiat: providers of cheap and cheery transport in developing countries. Continue reading “And News From 2015”