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VAZ is a Russian auto maker that began producing cars, in collaboration with Fiat, in the late 1960s. The Model 1111, commonly branded for export as a Lada Oka, was developed out of a need to replace the simple and cheap ZAZ Zaporozhets, the Russian “People’s Car”. It was to be the car that “every factory worker can afford”. The project began in 1983, using the Japanese Diahatsu Cuore as its design inspiration. To cut costs, VAZ simply “chopped in half” an existing four cylinder engine, creating a 649cc two-cylinder putting out almost 30hp.
Oka production ran from 1988 to 2008, with very few changes. Compared to the ZAZ, the Oka was surprisingly nimble and much quicker, endearing the car to its owners, who were keen to personalize their cars. Over 20 different variants were offered by VAZ, from the base car to a tuned Sport version, a fully electric car, a pickup truck, a snowmobile, an ambulance, and a specially designed version for Russians citizens who did not have the use of one or more of their limbs.
The Oka was popular due to its size and maneuverability as a city car, with enough room for 4 people, excellent fuel economy, and a low price. During the Russian financial crisis of 1998, the car became a favorite due to the depressed economy. With the re-valuation of the ruble in the early 2000s, subsequent higher emission standards adopted by the European Union, and the world-wide recession, the final nail in the Oka’s coffin came in 2008.
Manufacturer: Volszhkji Automobilnji Zavod, AutoVAZ, Togliatti
Country of Origin: U.S.S.R.
Drivetrain Configuration: Front engine, front-wheel drive
Engine: 2 cylinder, water-cooled, 649cc, 30 HP
Transmission: 4 speed manual
Top Speed: 65 MPH
Years of Production: 1987-2003