On May 4, 1966, the USSR Ministry of Foreign Trade together with Italian car company Fiat signed a collaboration agreement to construct the Volzhsky automobile factory in Togliatti. Thus was born the famous VAZ-2101 model, known to all Russians as the "Kopeyka" or "Zhiguli", which strolled off the assembly line in huge numbers.
The Kopeyka was the Russian twin of the Fiat-124 model, named "Best Car of the Year" in 1965, but before it could be released onto Russian roads it needed to undergo some major changes. In particular, the body was strengthened with thicker steel, as it would otherwise have quickly lost its durability on Russia’s roads, which are notorious for being full of potholes. All together more than 800 changes were made, including an overhead camshaft engine.
Of course, not everyone could purchase the new VAZ. Back in the USSR you would need to have some good connections or wait in line for up to two years, as the supply was always low and demand was high. To own a car was considered very prestigious and everybody in your neighborhood and at your workplace would know if you had one.
VAZ-2101 changed the view of Russian drivers towards small passenger cars at the time. It was the first car to be mass produced and stood out as the most modern. "Kopeyka" distinguished itself with its spacious interior, a high level of comfort, excellent dynamic control, easy steering and economical efficiency. You can see many still driving the streets today and, in the hands of a careful owner, in very good condition.
Not only that, the Volzhsky factory turned over a new page in Russian automotive engineering, causing a major influence on the manufacturing industry of the USSR. Over 60 Research Institutes took part in the development of new materials, and over 190 businesses were engaged in manufacturing them, some of which have never been produced in USSR before, like plastics, oils, paint materials and many more.
This almost legendary car became the father of all later-released classics by the factory. It was produced, along with its modified versions, until the late 1980s. All together 4.8 million were released. In the export markets it is better known as the Lada.