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The Zaporozhets ( ; , ) was a series of subcompact cars designed and built from 1958 at the ZAZ factory in Soviet Ukraine ("Zaporizky Avtomobilny Zavod", or Zaporizhian Automobile Factory). Different types of Zaporozhets were produced until 1994.

The name Zaporozhets means a Cossack of the Zaporizhian Sich. It can also mean а man from Zaporizhia oblast.

Zaporozhets is still warmly remembered in many ex-USSRmarker countries. Like the Volkswagen Beetle or East Germanymarker's Trabant, Soviet Zaporozhets was destined to become a "people's car". It was the cheapest Soviet car and so the most affordable to common people. At the same time, it was rather sturdy and well suitable to Soviet roads. The very looks of this car gave birth to several nicknames that stuck with it forever: "Zapor" (short for "Zaporozhets", but also means "constipation" in Ukrainian), "hunchback" (due to ZAZ-965 insect-like form; ZAZ factory workers never used this nickname, using "Malysh" ( ; ) instead), "big-eared" (the car had air intakes on its sides to cool down the engine in the rear of the vehicle).

All Zaporozhets cars featured rear wheel drive (with engine in the rear) and aircooled engines.

Special versions of Zaporozhets were equipped with additional sets of controls that allowed operating the car with a limited set of limbs or completely by hands, and were given for free to the disabled people as an alternative to SZ-series microcars.


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The ZAZ-965 model was made between 1960 and 1969. Despite speculations that the design was copied from the Fiat 600, ZAZ representatives say the car was an exclusively Soviet design, created by Soviet ZAZ engineers jointly with colleagues from Moscow's NAMI and Moskvitch car plant. First prototypes were designated as Moskvitch-444[72539].

It was powered by a MeMZ-965, a rear-mounted, aircooled OHV 887 cc V4 engine of partially aluminium design, giving ( in the ZAZ-965A). A common (and false) urban legend is that the Zaporozhets's engine was used as a starter motor in Soviet tanks.

The base model was manufactured between 1960 and 1963, and the ZAZ-965A, which had the air-intake "ears" removed, between 1962 and 1969.

Interestingly, the engine looks a bit like the VW aircooled boxer four, except that the two cylinder banks are at a 45 degree angle. As Soviet car owners were expected to do much of the servicing themselves, and auto workshops were in short supply anyway, this layout was more practical especially in harsh winter conditions.


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Model ZAZ-966 was made from 1967 to 1974. It had a restyled bodywork, no longer resembling the Fiat 600, but now resembling the German NSU Prinz. The engines were slightly updated as well, but the infamous "ears" were back.

The ZAZ-968 was produced from 1972 to 1980. It featured the newer MeMZ-968 engine, which increased the displacement to 1.2L and the power output to . The ZAZ-968M had the ears removed and was made from 1979 to 1994. Some of the special models include the ZAZ-968B2, for drivers who have only one foot, the ZAZ-968B for drivers who have no feet, and the ZAZ-968A which had the smaller 0.7 Litre engine.

The 968 was replaced by the heavily updated ZAZ Tavria hatchback, which was radically different from the Zaporozhets, featuring front wheel drive and a watercooled engine.

Jokes about Zaporozhets

Because of the unusual motor placement, at the back of the car, minimal capacity, and low status of its make ZAZ became a very frequent object of many jokes and anecdotes. ZAZ-965 was so-called "ladybird" or "humpy" for a shape of a body, ZAZ-968— «eary» for a shape of air absorbers which are the part of a cooling system, ZAz-968M - a soap box, for loosing the "ears"

Jokes about the motor placement

The plant, which produced Zaporozhets started to produce TVs. The TVs are fine, work as usual ones, yet their screens are located at their backs. Which is an analogy of a screen to the tv, and motor to the car.

An American man comes to Russia to visit his friend. They go to a food store to buy some drinks & snacks and the American talks about how many thieves are there in America. "You, say, return from a shop and all four wheels of your car are stolen in this time!"The two friends then sit in their Zaporozhets, start the engine and begin their way home. Suddenly, the engine stops and fails to restart. The American goes to look under the hood to check the engine and is shocked: "Oh my god, it's far worse here! Somebody stole the engine while driving!"


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