The Russian Mercedes
The leaders of the Soviet Union, seeking for a solution to the heavy lack of cars and technological lagging, decided to build a new mass-producing car factory that could manufacture the products of a foreigner (mostly western) car factory in license, in large numbers, with a long standing technology. After running several thousands of kilometers’ tests, the soviet technicians chose Fiat 124 as the best candidate – Zhiguli was based on this model.
The first 2101 was delivered on August 18, 1970 near Novosibirsk. At the time, you had to pay between 4000 and 5000 rubles to afford it, and you also had to be a ‘worthy member’ of the party.
The official presentation of the 2101 abroad took place at the Brussels Motor Show in January 1971. In the West, it was named Lada 1200, in reference to the displacement of its engine. Fun fact: it was named after the Zhiguli Mountains by the Volga River.
It was sold in France in 1973, imported by the company Jacques Poch, which already marketed the Moskvitch and Skoda. The 2101, or rather 1200, was offered at a price of 11 800 F, 10% less than the 124. If you’re upset about the consumption, we assure you that the performance is up to the challenge, with a top speed of 140 km/h.
During these 18 years of marketing, the Lada has sold more than 2 million models. Nicknamed "Kopeika" in reference to its low price, the 2101 is now an icon in Russia, to the point of having been elected "Russian car of the century" in 1999.