Russo-Not-Tourist: How Fiat 124 Became Zhiguli

Critics of the domestic auto industry, who scold it for borrowing, often lack understanding of how difficult it is not only to create a car from scratch, but even to make a "local" version of a finished model provided by a partner. Everyone knows that the VAZ-2101 has Italian roots and is almost an exact copy of the Fiat 124. The key word here is "almost"! The refinement of a foreign car under the harsh Soviet conditions was by no means limited to replacing the nameplates, as one might think. Many years of work of testers and design engineers stood behind this word. A book could be written about the transformation of Fiat into a Zhiguli, and within the framework of the article we will give several interesting facts from this story.

In the USSRdozhigulevskayaera personal (as they said - private) car was more exotic than commonplace. It was not only a matter of price: the operation of the car was fraught with difficulties, and it itself was too heavy to appear in every Soviet courtyard.

In the mid-sixties, the country's top party leadership decided to implement its own projectpeople's car. , but not Soviet development, but licensed. And not because "there were no minds in the country of the atom and space": even competitivethey havethe machine, thanks to exports, could help the country of advice with the receipt of such necessary foreign exchange funds for the economy.

In other words, the project was conceived with an initial aim "abroad".

Russo-not-tourist: how Fiat 124 became Zhiguli

Fiat 124 (earlier modification)


As potential partners considered several options - primarily fromfriendlycountries.


A pennycould well become Renault 16, but. ..

did not agree.


Instead of France, they chose Italy, namely the FIAT concern, which offered the most favorable conditions. In addition, political considerations also influenced the final choice of a foreign partner: as one USSR secretary general aptly put it, "Italians are closer to us than the French."

On August 8, 1966, in Moscow, the Minister of the Automotive Industry of the USSR A. Tarasov and the President of FIAT V.

Valletta signed a cooperation agreement, which resulted in a giant plant for the production of passenger cars - licensed Fiat 124, which also became " Car of 1967 ". However, the preliminary agreement was signed earlier - in 1965, and it, in turn, was preceded by the arrival in the USSR of the owner of FIAT Giovanni Agnelli.

The new car was a pioneer in everything. After all, a plant was built for him, which became a city-forming enterprise, breathing new life into the former Stavropol-on-Volga. Since 1964, this city in the Samara region began to bear the name of the Italian communist leader Palmiro Togliatti.

And it was here that the construction of the Soviet auto giant began, which was explained by the geographical advantage of the location of the city on the banks of the Volga in terms of logistics.

In parallel with the beginning of the construction of the plant, new Fiats began to drive both in the tail and in the mane in different climatic zones of the USSR - from the warm Crimea to the cold regions of Vorkuta, and also checked the cars at the test site.


Russo-not-tourist: how Fiat 124 became Zhiguli


Already at the very beginning of the tests, it became clear that just like that literally disintegrating into the Russians "Autobahns" the Italian sissy on the Soviet conveyor will not get up - serious improvements are required. For example, after several trips on Soviet roads, a crack was discovered on the roof in the area of ​​the central pillar, which led to the separation of the pillar from the sidewall (!). The Italians hastily began to refine both the body and other components of the car, adapting it to new operating conditions.

The upgraded version was assigned the index "R" (Russia).

In the process of improvements, Soviet designers found out that a car with an index of 124 has seven or eight transmission modifications, differing in the characteristics of gear ratios and endurance. After a series of tests, it was decided to use the stronger synchronizers from the 124 S50ort transmission. This is probably why the box has always been one of the most reliable parts of the first Zhiguli.

Outside, distinguishing a true Fiat model 124 from a "penny" is easy and simple thanks to the door handles: they are protruding in the Italian car,under the natural gripwhile the Zhiguli have traumatic ones.

Such pens, by the way, appeared on the later modifications of the 124th. Another difference is the more massive bumper fangs, again quite Fiat, and in the literal sense (on parts of 1970-1971 cars, due to a lack of components, Italian-made parts from Fiats were installed).


Russo-not-tourist: how Fiat 124 became Zhiguli


As a name for the new Soviet small car, caring citizens offered almost 50,000 (!) Options ...

Novorozhets, Katyusha, Aurora, VIL-100 and even the Directive - what ideas were there! However, the final version was approvedgeographicthe name of the Zhiguli. Moreover, for export, it had to be replaced with a more euphonic oneLadabecause foreigners even read the wordLadait was tricky. Not to mention the fact that this ingenuous, seemingly Soviet toponym is consonant with the word Gigolo, which in many languages ​​of the world (including Russian) is used to denote, say, men of "easy virtue".


Russo-not-tourist: how Fiat 124 became Zhiguli

VAZ-2101 1970 with "Fiat" fangs


The most important differences between Zhiguli and Fiat were hidden inside. The main thing is thisheart.

. The VAZ-2101 engine was different fromdonora different center-to-center distance of the cylinders and the upper location of the camshaft instead of the lower one. The Soviet delegation "spied" this decision on test benches in Italy, although the Italians themselves insisted on an outdated scheme. However, the Soviet side categorically rejected the "bottom shaft". And as world practice shows for the next forty years, she did it right.

Indeed, in the future, the camshaft migrated to the cylinder head on absolutely all similar cars.

In fairness, it is worth noting that the progressive innovation for the first ten years cost a lot of effort, tears, rubles and nerves to the ownerskopecks- the problem of quickly wearing camshafts was technically solved only by 1982, and only psychologically. .. To better understand the scale of the disaster: in the seventies Zhiguli in the parking lot could be opened in order to steal a camshaft.


Russo-not-tourist: how Fiat 124 became Zhiguli

VAZ-2101 engine with an overhead camshaft


In addition to radical changes in the motor,Russian Fiatalso received an increased diameter of clutch pads to 200 mm, a modified gearbox, a reinforced front and an upgraded five-rod rear wheel suspension. The main difference ispennyfrom Fiat at the rear it was hidden under the rims - insteadbrake discs that are easily splashed with liquid mud(from the report of the test committee) used the time-tested (and then damned by thousands of owners) archaic drum brakes.



The body required reinforcement in many places, and also acquired the indispensable attributes of any Soviet car - a hole forcurve starterand towing eyes. As a result, the total number of modifications and modernizations of the "Russian Fiat" reached 800! based on Italian recipes. After all, the Italian "sissy" could not be content with M8 oil, brake fluid based on castor oil and tap water as a coolant.

So "Russian Fiat" became a kind of locomotive for the development of the chemical industry of the USSR - at least, that of its industry, which was responsible for automotive products.


The upgraded "penny" is easy to distinguish by the "leaky" front panel and the absence of fangs on the bumpers


Interesting detail: in the process of being tested according to Fiat's Sto120 method. am127; Go with multiple starts and driving on a semi-heated engine in the low temperature range (up to -32.34 Celsius in January-February 1969 in the vicinity of Moscow!) It was found that the oil level in the crankcase rises by 1 5-2 cm due to gasoline entering it from the re-enriched air-fuel mixture. In addition, this led to the washing off of oil from the cylinder walls, which, in turn, greatly accelerated the wear of the cylinder-piston group.

In the process of joint development of lubricants for the engine, it turned out that ... experimental Soviet samples turned out to be better than foreign oil! At first, the Italians did not even believe it and, according to legend, secretly from the Russians, they sent the miracle lubricant by plane to Turin. From there they confirmed: "Zhiguli" oil really withstood the stringent tests of Sto138 better.

am145; Go. In addition, frost tests showed that the covers of the ball joints and steering rods, which lost their elasticity and were simply torn, also needed improvements.


Late Fiat 124 S154ecial in many aspects resembles modification 21011


Despite noticeable changes compared to the original, the first VAZ-2101 was assembled with a large use of imported parts, of course, made in Italy. Subsequently, more and more productionlocalizedand by 1974 the presence of Italians in Togliatti became completely imperceptible.


Russo-not-tourist: how Fiat 124 became Zhiguli


By the way, it was then that VAZ began to produce their ownfaceliftVAZ-2101 - a version with the index 21011.

It differed both in a more powerful 1.3-liter engine and in some cosmetic changes in the exterior and interior. Moreover, it was in this form that the modification 21013 with a 2101 engine with a volume of 1.2 l (yes, by the same token that it got on the conveyor in 1970!) Was produced at VAZ right up to 1988.


Russo-not-tourist: how Fiat 124 became Zhiguli


However, the ancestor of the 124th was later produced not only in the USSR or Russia: under different names and in various parts of the world, the former Fiat 124 was produced for a long time, only a littlenot kindup to a half-century anniversary as a new car.

All in all, in the vastness of the former USSR, various factories produced about 15 million (!) Rear-wheel drive cars, leading their ancestry from the Italian small car of the mid-sixties.


It is thanks to the "Soviet registration" that the four-wheeled world citizen of the 124th model, along with the Ford T and Volkswagen Kafer, has become one of the most massive cars in the entire world history.


VAZ-2101 produced before 1974 can be easily distinguished by a round mirror located on the wing

Russo-not-tourist: how Fiat 124 became Zhiguli

Spanish "two" - Seat 124 Familiare

Russo-not-tourist: how Fiat 124 became Zhiguli

Premier - "penny" in Indian

"Six" and "Seven" are the most massive models based on Fiat 124.

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