GALLERY: Go Behind The Scenes On Our 1975 Vaz 2103 Film Shoot
An automobile that was produced in numbers well into the tens of millions doesn’t seem so unique, but what if one of those cars hadn’t been touched for more than forty years before its rediscovery? That’s the story behind this Soviet-era survivor that shows just under 150 kilometers on the clock, and it’s all original despite the Curtain coming down decades ago. It’s a time capsule from an altogether different history than most of the cars in our Made to Drive series, and though it’s not a sporting machine by any means, the VAZ-2103 “Zhiguli” is still one of the most significant cars ever built. This one was found by accident.
Cezar Botnari is the proud owner of this remarkably original VAZ-2103, and the first time he saw it, well, he could barely see it. Considering this was no concours queen, the almost nonexistent mileage meant it had been sitting for some serious time, and it had accumulated the layers of dust to show for it. He didn’t even clean it right away, afraid to erase the history of this particular specimen, and the dust stayed on for a time before he gave in and eventually wiped it clean. It shined up nicely as you can see, and after the bath and a change of fluids nothing else has been done to restore the car. It is the epitome of a time capsule.
It was produced during a time when people like Cezar’s grandparents would purchase a car more or less for life, and the VAZ-2103 was one of the top Soviet-produced for a time, the one to strive for even though it just meant a bit more power and a few extra pieces of chrome and imitation wood. Any VAZ would have been part of the family back in those times, rather than a leased appliance with a finite lifespan made shorter by neglect, and it offered a new level of mobility for the millions of people in the Union. As the story goes, the governing body in charge of putting millions of new cars on the road first approached the likes of Ford and Renault, but eventually landed on Fiat to purchase a license from. These cars—based heavily on the Fiat 124—which were to be badged as VAZ within the Soviet Union, would become known outside the Soviet Union as the more familiar Lada. The different trim levels of the Fiat 124 would correspond to different levels within the VAZ model hierarchy, and the 2103 was at the time the most luxurious car you could buy in the USSR—a far cry from a matte black Cayenne wouldn’t you say?
Built for a 13-year period between 1972 and 1984, and at a rate of a few thousand cars per day, that kind of pace was going to lead to a lot of steel on wheels, and by the end of production the total number of VAZ units surpassed 22 million. That said, this example is still one of a kind.