1985 ZAZ 968 M MeMZ-966A, air cooling, 0.887 litre, 30 horsepower from Ukraine
This cheap, undying, highly maintainable car still evokes fond memories
From the beginning, the rear crankshaft gasket had a "chronic" oil leak. Replacing the gasket didn't help. It wasn't until about 20000 km that a maintenance station found the real problem: a manufacturer's defect wherein a compensatory hole in the oil circulation system was obstructed by a casting protrusion, raising oil pressure, which squeezed oil through the gasket.
Around 17000 km, the gears stopped shifting. I could only switch into the 2nd. I managed to reach the nearest mechanic, who fixed the problem by adjusting the shaft.
The unit that broke most often was the standalone heater. It was needed because an integrated heating system is not feasible in an air-cooled engine. The heater was extremely unreliable.
Every 1000 km or so, I had to tighten the wheel bearings.
By the sheer meaning of the word, the ZAZ (Zaporozhets) was truly a Soviet Volkswagen -- a people's car. A car for the "regular" Soviet folks, who lived from payday to payday, didn't have connections and didn't take bribes. "The Car For The Honest" could have been the ad slogan if there had been such thing as advertising.
I can't by any means call this car reliable, but undying it sure was. While problems occurred on a weekly basis, the car was ALWAYS drivable.
Here's a story to demonstrate the above. Once an oily rug left in the engine compartment started a fire. The engine stopped pulling and smoke puffed from under the hood. I pulled over and attempted to use my powder fire extinguisher -- to no avail. The engine was on fire for several minutes until a car passing by stopped and the driver put out the fire with his foam extinguisher. What car would have run after this? The ZAZ ran, after separating the melted-together distributor wires...
Despite the laughable 30 horsepower and an air-cooled engine that sounded like a revved-up tractor, the car was fun to drive: it was lively and, when downshifted to the 3rd gear and with proper skills on the driver's part, could even overtake the likes of Ladas and Volgas.
It was also the most maintainable car I've ever driven. Any blacksmith or tractor driver on any collective farm could easily fix the car unless manufacturer's parts were indispensable.
Thanks to the high clearance, the cross-country ability of the ZAZ was remarkable. During mushroom-picking trips, as I deepened into the thick of the forest on a dirt road, other models of autos would become further and further between. The Ladas would fade away first, followed by the Moskvichs. In the end, only the occasional Zaporozhets would be seen in the bushes, demonstrating the truth of the above statement.
The car had a sizable trunk IN THE FRONT (the engine was in the rear like in the VW Bug). I believe that only Volgas had more cubic feet under the trunk lid.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? No
Review Date: 23rd January, 2005
For a picture, see http://www.home.no/migreg/Bilder/Zaz-968m.jpg
It is the exact same body I had AND THE EXACT SAME color!
If you are truly curious, do a Google image search for "ZAZ". The relevancy of this search will be quite high. :-) The "lop-eared" model is ZAZ-966 and the buggy one is ZAZ-965.