Soviet Cars We’ve Never Seen

Soviet Cars We've Never Seen

How about the compilation of the rare Russian cars that even common Russian people that live in Russia had probably never seen before? Hand picked examples of Russian automobile industry are presented in this article for your viewing pleasure.

AZLK factory (now is closed) was indeed the factory of “might-have-been” Soviet auto-dreams. Judge by yourself:

Moskvich 408 Tourist (1964) with the top speed of 80 mph (130 km/h) could be a real cabriolet for the middle class, but at that time the country leaders decided that such an automobile would be too luxurious for a Soviet proletariat.

Moskvich 408 Tourist

Moskvich 408 Tourist

The idea of this Moskvich-cabriolet was carried out by AZLK only in producing pedal vehicles for kids.
Soviet Cars We've Never Seen
Click to read the full article about Soviet pedal vehicles for kids on Englishrussia.

AZLK 2139 Arbat (prototype of the 1987) had to be a revolutionary looking car of the Soviet (Russian) automobile industry of the 90s. But the Soviet country leaders with their dislike for the idea of the accessible luxurious cars for the middle class and the collapse of the Soviet Union by itself made this automobile just a part of the exhibition in AZLK museum in Moscow.

AZLK 2139 Arbat


The model of Moskvich 2141 KR (prototype of the 1988 for rally races) with the engine of 175 hp and the top speed of about 125 mph (200 km/h) could be a beginning of a short-run production of AZLK sports-cars, but the idea also wasn’t realized. The prototype now stands in Autoreview museum (Moscow).

Moskvich 2141 KR

Moskvich 2141 KR

Moskvich 2141 KR

While AZLK was making attempts to introduce some luxury into the Soviet automobile industry, two other car factories, Gorkovsky (GAZ) and Volzhsky (VAZ), were trying to start their own amphibian cars production:

VAZ 2122 Reka (River) Amphibian was developed in the late 70s / early 80s, by the request of the military department. This unique Soviet jeep was able to move on water at the speed of 5 mph (9 km/h). But after successfully passed the tests the project was closed for some unknown reason.

VAZ 2122 Reka

VAZ 2122 Reka

UAZ 3907 Jaguar of Gorkovksy car factory (GAZ) had shared the fate oh his VAZ amphibian brother. This car, developed in the late 70s, was able to move on water by means of two propeller screws, and could carry up to seven persons in full equipment. The vehicle showed wonderful rolling characteristics during various tests at extreme temperatures (from -116F (-47C) up to 113F (+45C)). The project was closed because of inflation caused by the collapse of the USSR.

UAZ 3907 Jaguar

UAZ 3907 Jaguar

UAZ 3907 Jaguar

UAZ 3907 Jaguar was not the only attempt of GAZ factory to produce non-typical off-road vehicle. In the middle 70-s was developed the experimental modification of Volga – GAZ-24-95.

Soviet Cars We've Never Seen
Click to read the full article about Volga Randrover on Englishrussia.

Volzhsky car factory (VAZ) also made attempts to produce it’s own sports car but with a help of it’s foreign partners. Here are some examples:

In 1978 in Vilnius (Lithuania) a firm called VFTS constructed modification of Lada called “Lada Samara Eva (Eve)”, based on the Lada 2108 model. This was a rear wheel drive sports car with the engine of 300 hp.

Lada Samara Eva

Another modification of Lada, Lada Samara T3, was actually none-Soviet sports car with the components of Porsche, subsidized by the French Lada exporter called Poch and constructed by Oreka company. It successfully participated in various European rally championships in 1990-1991, such as “Paris-Dakar” and “Tunisia”.

Lada Samara T3

Lada Samara T3

Lada Samara T3

And the story of the Soviet sports cars has started in the early 30s and it is closely related with ZIL (Lihachiov car factory), former ZIS (Stalin car factory). But the point is that during that time the Soviet leaders considered that the motoring should only serve to the country and the developments of ZIL were nothing more than prototypes used for testing various components designed for governmental automobiles. Most of them only looked as sports cars…

For example, ZIS 101A Sport (1939) was too heavy for its engine and could hardly gain speed of 100 mph (160 km/h), but its tires were not suitable for such high speeds. The beginning of the World War 2 has put an end to this project.

ZIS 101A Sport

ZIS 101A Sport

The most (and probably the only) successful sports car of Lihachiov factory was the legendary ZIL 112-S (1961) with the engine of 240 hp, an original transmission, a top speed of 170 mph (270 km/h) and an exterior that resembled in some way Italian Ferrari Testarossa of that time. During the construction of ZIL 112-S there were used elements of GAZ-21 Volga of Gorkovsky car factory.

ZIL 112-S

ZIL 112-S

USSR was the communist state, so there weren’t any private enterprises. All the factories were owned by the Government and collaboration between them was a customary practice, not only in case of ZIL 112-S.

As it has appeared, the first model of KAMAZ (Kamsky car factory) was also developed on ZIL factory in the late 70s (ZIL-175). One can see it on the picture below. It is necessary to notice, that the later KAMAZ models have become the winners of Paris-Dakar European race.


KAMAZ in action
Click to see KAMAZ trucks in action on Englishrussia.

And this (on the left) is the prototype model of M3MA 444 Moskvich of AZLK (1957) that later has become ZAZ-965 or Zaporozhets (on the right) of Zaporozhsky car factory (1960).

M3MA 444 Moskvich

If to say more about the prototypes and the experimental models, many of them looked quite different in comparison with the final models.

For example here is the prototype of the Soivet and Russian off-road car Lada Niva E2121 Crocodile and the original later serial model Lada Niva 2121 (1979).

Lada Niva Exp

Lada Niva 2121

And this is the prototype of ZAZ 966 (Zaporozhets) with the forward wheel drive and the hood that resembles Lada 2101 (VAZ) .This model has not been put on production. The final ZAZ 966 had the rear wheel drive and different design.

ZAZ 966 prototype

Soviet Cars We've Never Seen
Click to see ZAZ tuning on Englishrussia.

That was an attempt to present some really rare facts of Soviet Empire, to add for the multi-angle view on Russia that we try to compile on one English Russia website.

You know something too? Share with us through our our forum or feedback form.

Some sources that were used in this publication:,,,,,

29 thoughts on “Soviet Cars We’ve Never Seen”

  1. Looks like Russia would’ve been chalk-full of fun cars were it not for communism.

    Why aren’t things like these made today? They look like good fun!

    • UAZ 3907 Jaguar
      “The vehicle showed wonderful rolling characteristics..””

      Sweet! It Rolls!

      +Hopefully this isn’t double posting this message+

  2. UAZ 3907 Jaguar
    “The vehicle showed wonderful rolling characteristics during various tests at extreme temperatures (from -116F (-47C) up to 113F (+45C)).”

    Sweet, it rolls!

    • Well at -47 C I know quite a few cars that doesn’t roll for sure. At mid-80’s I had a Lada 1200 S witch was the only one at the parking lot to start at -38 c without block heater. Others couldn’t even push-start their cars, they were too stuck to roll.

  3. French Lada importer’s name is Poch, not Pok…
    He was quite successful in some time, especially with the Niva which is still a good car…

    • I had a Lada Niva when I was in my late teens. Wonderful little 4×4. Took all the punishment an 18 year old could hand out and begged for more. It’s life finally ended when I could no longer get replacement brake and ignition parts. I would have kept it for many more years otherwise.

  4. What could’ve been. Please start building them again. New designs…. partner with foreign investors and new factories…create new jobs, just do it.

  5. Not only have I been to Russia but I have some relatives there. They’ve always been car owners but they have never even seen anything like that before. It’s great, I think that if such cars were still issued nowadays, they would add much fun to our roads.

  6. Some cool cars there! Some really ugly ones too..
    I think that VAZ 2122 Reka (River) is worth developing, without even any design changes. It looks good and rough, they just have to update the technology and put it on the line.

  7. Lada Niva is not rubbish its a rather good and sturdy off roader and popular in Canada and still sell for 3k to 5k which is pretty good resale for item that was 12k brand new!!

    The Uaz 4×4 is very good.

    The Volga sedan is very good as well

    Mind you the Samara was junk as was the Zaz

  8. “Soviet Empire”
    Where in the world I could get just and simply NEUTRAL media and information??
    This website is anti-communist??
    I just want information,news and media without politics and ideology: just the truth,the way that it is.

  9. Now the Russians can buy any car,they can even import an car.
    BUT,they need what?
    Those Soviets cars could not be excelent,but anyone could have one.Now,just richs can buy any car.The medium class too,after several years of working,can buy one pretty car.

  10. The UAZ 3907 Jaguar or a very similer vehicle was used in the new Indiana Jones Movie through the jungle car chases scene.

  11. You are wrong. In the USSR it was very hard to buy a car, because they were very expensive and simple worker have to wait several years in long queue for jar with nuts and bolts. Only really rich people could freely buy a car in this time.

    But modern Lada are worse made then 70’th and 80’th models. So here you’ve seen only dreams, reality is something different πŸ˜‰

  12. Just wanted to say that the Lada 1200 is the best built car ever, if you take good care of it then it’s going to work 4ever.
    I have had many Lada’s, 3 Lada Niva (called Sport here in Iceland) Lada 1600 (big block) perfect for rally, Lada Lux 1500. I love the Lada, it’s simple and works.

    Best regards to you all

    Hello from Reykjavik

  13. If any one is looking for Lada parts, I could help. So many are still in use here and parts are easy to get.

    You can send me a line or two if you are looking for something to maintain your Lada.


    Have a nice day


  15. From all russian car – the best were azlk 214145 (Svyatogor with Renault engine 2i F3R (or F7R)), it can racing with golf gti where better, i have see it, throut golf was designed some yeare later

  16. I love the ZIS 101A sport of 1939.
    Real style and design.
    This could be re-made with a lighter weight aluminium body, a modern high compression engine, such as the lada rally cars, [ No 1930’s cars anywhere had the same high compression as modern engines, they all relied on more and bigger cylendars to increase power, but at the expense of extra weight and fuel use ], and modern tyres with better grip profile.
    With a modern high compression, lighter weight engine with better fuel / power / weight ratio, and this cool styling, they would be a great seller, both export and home market.
    A great post, thanks.

  17. Pingback: Jews In The USSR | Beta Testing

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