Zaporozhets first came off the factory conveyer in 1960 in Ukraine’s southeastern industrial city of Zaporizhya. The cheapest Soviet car, it was booed for its awkward trunk design. Its various models were called hunchbacks, big-eared and soap boxes, but a low price made Zaporozhets a people’s car. Its sturdiness and relative ease of repairs was a part of the bargain.
The original version of Zaporozhets ZAZ-965 was basically a ripoff of the popular Italian Fiat 600, which was easy to mass produce. The price of the original Zaporozhets was 1,800 Soviet rubles, which is often compared to the price of 1,000 bottles of vodka. A regular engineer’s salary in those days was about 120 roubles.
Nearly 320,000 units of the first model of Zaporozhets were produced by 1969. About 3.5 million automobiles of all models were churned out over 34 years, before production ended in 1994.
Mykola Kazakov, a 31-year-old programmer and Zaporozhets enthusiast, bought his 1968 model of ZAZ-965A for $400 in 2002. He says now the car has become his friend.