The VAZ-2101 "Zhiguli" , commonly nicknamed "Kopeyka" (for the smallest Soviet coin, 1/100 of the Ruble), is a compact sedan car (small class, passenger car, model 1 in Soviet classification) produced by the Soviet manufacturer AvtoVAZ and introduced in 1970, the company's first product.
The car was a heavily modified and licence-built version of the Fiat 124 tailored for the Soviet Union and much of the Eastern Bloc. Subsequently, it was widely exported to the West under the Lada brand. The estate version was known as the VAZ-2102.
The lightweight Italian Fiat 124, which had won the 1967 European Car of the Year, was adapted in order to survive treacherous Russian driving conditions. Among many changes, aluminium brake drums were added to the rear, and the original Fiat engine was dropped in favour of a newer design made by NAMI. This new engine had a modern overhead camshaft design but was never used in Fiat cars. The suspension was raised to clear rough Russian roads and the bodyshell was made from thicker, heavier steel with reinforcement in key chassis areas after cracking was discovered during durability testing. The first Lada models were equipped with a starting handle in case the battery went flat in Siberian conditions, though this was later dropped. Another feature specifically intended to help out in cold conditions was a manual auxiliary fuel pump.
Some of the improvements developed by VAZ engineers were quietly applied by Fiat to the 124 in its final years of production - for example the chassis strengthening; internally within Fiat these updated models are denoted "124R", the "R" standing for 'Russian'.
Engines fitted to the original Lada 2101 start with the 1.2l. The drivetrain is a simple rear-wheel drive setup with a live rear axle. The engine is an inline four with two valves per cylinder and a single overhead camshaft.
VAZ-2101 (1970–1982) — first variant was equipped with a 1,198 cc (73.1 cu in) engine (an overhead camshaft design, never used in a Fiat) producing 60 PS (44 kW; 59 hp) and offering a 140 km/h (87 mph) top speed and 0–100 km/h (0–62 mph) in about 20 seconds. Compared to the Fiat 124, 800 modifications were made in all, including to rear brakes (discs to drums), suspension (for higher ground clearance), carburettor, and some other parts in order to satisfy a wide range of Russian climate conditions, as well as thicker-gauge steel (so the 2101 weighed 945 kg (2,083 lb), the Fiat 90 kg (200 lb) less)