The VAZ-2101 is a compact ("1-st small class" in Soviet classification) car, sedan, produced by VAZ (English: Volga Automobile Works) and introduced in 1970. VAZ had been founded in the mid-1960s as a collaboration between Fiat and the Soviet government, and the 2101 was its first product. Better known as the Lada outside the former Soviet Union, the 2101 is a re-engineered version of the Fiat 124 tailored for the nations of the Eastern Bloc, but was widely exported to the West as a budget "no-frills" car. Although the facelifted VAZ-2105, 2104 & 2107 versions largely replaced it in the West in the early 1980s, it was still produced for the domestic market as late as 1988.
Known as the Zhiguli within the Soviet Union, the main differences between the VAZ-2101 and the Fiat 124 are the use of thicker gauge steel for the bodyshell, an overhead camshaft engine (in place of the original Fiat OHV unit), and the use of aluminium drum brakes on the rear wheels in place of disc brakes. Early versions of the car featured a starting handle for cranking the engine manually should the battery go flat in Siberian winter conditions, and an auxiliary fuel pump.
AvtoVAZ were forbidden from selling the car in competing markets alongside Fiat 124; however, exports to Western European nations began in 1974 when the 124 was discontinued in favour of Fiat's newer 131 Mirafiori model. The 2101 was sold in export markets as the Lada 1200, Lada 1300 and Lada 1200S until 1989; it was sold in the United Kingdom from May 1974, having been shown at the Motor Show the previous autumn, until the arrival of the Riva in 1983.
It was the first Lada to be sold in the United Kingdom.
VAZ-2101 (1970–1982) — first variant was equipped with 1.2 liter engine with 58 HP offers 132 km/h top speed and acceleration 0–100 km/h about 23 seconds. Compare to the Fiat 124 modifications were done to suspension, carburator and some other parts in order to satisfy to wide range of Russian climate conditions. All these models had an adapted to the local roads and still soft enough suspension, that provided very comfortable ride even on tough gravel roads. After extensive tests even the Western press recognized Vaz 2101 as a better car than its originator (Fiat 124). In the shortest time Lada became a real hit in Soviet Union. Virtually Vaz 2101 (and its first modifications) opened a new era in Russian motorization. Unfortunately the Togliatti plant where Lada were produced could not keep up with the consumer demand and people had to wait for years to get chances to buy a car.
VAZ-21011 (1974–1981) — modified variant was equipped with engine 1.3 l (63 HP) instead of 1.2 l with only 58 HP. Further changes included self-adjusting drum brakes on the rear axle, this setup was also fitted to the VAZ-2101. Flat forward turn light glasses instead of the roof-shaped ones on the VAZ-2101. The "horns" on the bumpers were removed and replaced with a rubber strip running the whole length of the bumper. The rear lights were also flattened in a similar manner like the turn indicator glasses and the passive reflector (previously a separate part underneath the main rear lights) was incorporated as a small, square-shaped part in the rear light glasses themselves. The windshield pump was moved down and was operated by the leg instead of rubber button on the dashboard (VAZ 2101, which was operated by pushing with finger). The dashboard had a wood plastic trim; the horn was placed on the steering wheel cover. The front and rear seats have become more comfortable. Material and coloring of the instrument panel was changed from the original black on light gray to white on black, the instrument panel lighting was altered as well. On the rear pillars there were a ventilation rectangular holes with grid, which Vaz 2101 did not have. And there 4 decorative horizontal oval holes appeared on the front panel just above the front bumper. The export series were designated the Lada 1300.
VAZ-21013 (1977–1988) — similar to VAZ-21011, engine 1.2 liters, exported as the Lada 1200 with an upgraded version (incorporating the exterior and dashboard changes introduced with the VAZ-21011) called Lada 1200S.
VAZ-21016 (1976–1981) — special modification for Soviet militia, engine 1.5 l (from VAZ-2103)
VAZ-21018 (1978) — first series rotary engine modification for Soviet militia & KGB with single-section Wankel engine VAZ-311 (80HP). Presented by public the 1982.
VAZ-21019 "Arkan" (1983?) — second series rotary engine modification for Soviet militia & KGB with two-section Wankel engine VAZ-411 (120HP).
VAZ-2102 (1971–1986) — the break version VAZ-2101 also known as Lada 1200 Combi (1200 ES Estate).
VAZ-21021 (1974–1985) — the break version VAZ-2102 was equipped with engine 1.3 l also known as Lada 1300 Combi.
VAZ-21023 (1973–1985) — the break version VAZ-2102 was equipped with engine 1.5 l also known as Lada 1500 Combi (1500 DL Estate).
Regretfully, due to lack of proper service care facilities, poor initial quality and poor service parts Lada brand has severely damaged their reputation. Abroad sales (in Canada, for example), were down drastically and by the end of the 1990s import of Lada cars was stopped.