Initially, the car with the name "Moskvich-444" was supposed to roll off the assembly line in the capital. But the plant could not cope with the production of sedans anyway, so it was decided to transfer the production of minicars to Zaporozhye.
This is what Moskvich-444 looked like. Photo: YouTube.com
The first prototypes appeared in 1958. NAMI took an active part in the development of the new car: in particular, the famous designer Yuri Dolmatovsky.
There were many prototypes, of which one was finally selected for mass production. At the same time, work was underway to create a whole family based on the Zaporozhets, including even an export version.
It is hard to believe in this, but the “humpback” was sold abroad: not only to the countries of the socialist camp, but also to Switzerland, Finland. Pronouncing the word "Zaporozhets" for foreigners was comparable to a feat, so the export versions received other names: "Yalta" and "Eliet".
The export version was not very different from the base model. Photo: YouTube.com
And how did these cars differ from serial ones? A chrome molding was fixed on the sides, a mirror was installed on the wing, and an ashtray with a receiver in the cabin. In later versions, seat belts appeared. In technical terms, everything is the same as for cars intended for the domestic market. And nothing! Several thousand units of equipment were exported per year.
The letters "C" in the index means "communication": the car is designed to carry mail. This "Zaporozhets" differed from the serial one in the presence of a cargo compartment instead of the rear seat, as well as ... right-hand drive. This was necessary so that the postman-forwarder immediately went out onto the road: it was more convenient to remove bundles of correspondence.
Very few postal vans were produced. Photo: YouTube.com
The cargo compartment, designed for 150 kg, was deaf and reliably protected the newspapers from the effects of bad weather and the hot sun. In total, 600 copies left the assembly line, none of which has reached our days.
This version was not mass produced and was used for in-plant needs. For example, the delivery of components and assemblies to the conveyor, the removal of garbage, waste, etc. Pickup trucks were made from cars that had the rear part of the body rejected. She was simply cut out, a partition with a window was inserted behind the driver and front passenger. However, a few copies still "escaped" outside the factory area.
Today, you can only see a pickup truck based on the ZAZ-965 as a model. Photo: YouTube.com
Later, when the company switched to the production of the new Zaporozhets, ZAZ-966AP appeared. In fact, this is the same ZAZ-965P, only based on the serial "966". These cars were not supplied to free trade.
It began to be developed in the year of putting the “humpback” on the conveyor. The first prototype is not very similar to a production car: a complex front end, flat air intakes.
This is how one of the ZAZ-966 variants looked like. Photo: YouTube.com
But on the basis of the 966th, the designers proposed a lot of modifications. In 1961, a group of ZAZ employees began development.
Among themselves, engineers and workers for some reason called it "grindstone". Well, in our country they like to give locksmith nicknames to cars: remember the VAZ-2108 - “chisel”! The carrying capacity of the machine based on the "eared" "Zaporozhets" was "toy" - 350 kg.
In appearance, you can’t say that this is a “Zaporozhets”. Photo: YouTube.com
However, the German VW Transporter, successful at that time, loomed in the minds of the designers, which was successfully operated for several years and was the envy of auto engineers from other countries, including from the USSR.
Engines of 23, and then 27 "horses" were installed on Soviet trucks. The power unit was partially located under the bottom, so it cooled better than the serial ZAZ. The average fuel consumption was 7,5 liters per 100 km, the maximum speed did not exceed 75 km/h. The plant produced six variants of cars for the future model line. This is a van, designed for 350 kg, a pickup truck, which already took 400 kg on board, and even something incomprehensible for that time: a cargo-passenger micro-car. In the world, then such cars began to be called minivans. We can safely say that the Zaporozhye model with such a layout was one of the first in the world!
Why not a minivan? Photo: YouTube.com
The disadvantages include the "hump" of the motor, bulging into the cabin. Because of this, a pair of seats in the third row were separated, because between them there was a hatch for servicing the engine. But the ZAZ-970G truck, which appeared in the form of a prototype in 1962, was abandoned almost immediately. The fault was a large body height of half a meter: it was too inconvenient to load something on such a platform.
And yet, they tried to find a use for the truck (on tests). Photo: YouTube.com
Newspapers with might and main praised the new model line, predicting a great future for it. In 1966, it was planned to collect the first 50 copies. However, the management of the plant decided differently: insufficient allocation of funds, lack of free production capacity put an end to the promising model line. And why strain, creating new cars, when even the usual "Cossacks" do not have time to do: everything is in great demand.
Another version of ZAZ. Photo: YouTube.com
Soon, Polish "Zhuki", "Nisy" flashed across the expanses of the USSR, and Zaporozhye mini-trucks, vans and pickups were somehow gradually forgotten.
All-wheel drive version intended for the military. Although a civilian version with an extended base was also proposed. For the USSR Ministry of Defense they made a car with a smaller distance between the front and rear wheels. And there, and there - a body simplified to the extreme with a tent top and a lowered windshield.
The military ZAZ was distinguished by its simple design. Photo: YouTube.com
However, the model was not interested in the military leadership - the UAZ firmly held its positions in the army. Nevertheless, during the tests, soldiers and officers paid tribute to the simplicity of the design. There was even a joke that the ZAZ-971D can be disassembled, transported across the river, and quickly assembled on the other side.
However, the SUV was still released in Zaporozhye. The plant received the terms of reference in 1963, and the car saw the light of day in the next. The car was supposed to have wheel gears, coupled with a rear-wheel drive. The Zaporozhye plant, due to its workload, could not produce a new SUV and therefore transferred a prototype, documentation to Lutsk. There was a machine-building plant, which soon became an automobile plant.
So far, ZAZ-969V. Photo: YouTube.com
Therefore, most citizens know this all-terrain vehicle under the name LuAZ. An interesting curiosity is connected with it. At the initial stage, the plant had a weak technical base and could not produce some units for an all-wheel drive vehicle. As a result, the first samples were supplied with one drive axle. This allows us to consider LuAZ-969 the first Soviet front-wheel drive car, even if it happened by accident! Subsequently, the “error” was corrected, and the car received its 4x4 wheel formula. Moreover, it took several years - the first all-wheel drive LuAZ left the factory gates only in 1970.
All prototypes of the Zaporozhye plant, from which there was a speech, remained "to live out their days" on the territory of the enterprise. Gradually, parts were removed from them and the car, covered with rust, turned into trash, which was soon disposed of. The exception is the “happy” fate of the ZAZ-969V, which turned into a LuAZ, and “travel restricted” pickups used inside the plant.