During its bleak existence under the red flag regime, Ukraine’s main car maker ZAZ (Zaporiz’kyi Avtombilebudivnyi Zavod) produced the 1950s Fiat 600-inspired ZAZ Zaporozhets 965, a rear-engined horror sold throughout the former Eastern-bloc. There were a handful of exports in the 1960s such as the Yalta 850, with the car even assembled for a short time in Belgium by Scaldia, based near Brussels airport. The awful ZAZ 965 (as tolerated by Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond in the 1995 007 blockbuster Goldeneye) made way in 1966 for the barely-improved NSU Prinz facsimile; the V4-rear-engined ZAZ 966 and ‘improved’ 968 (also assembled in Belgium by Scaldia as the Yalta 1000, using a more acceptable Renault 8 engine).
Built beyond the dying days of the USSR, the ZAZ 968 continued in production until as late as 1994, the car still remains a common sight, (visible in the background in many a TV Ukraine war report); the model was eventually superseded by the more modern (but still dire) front-engined, front-wheel-drive ZAZ Tavria.
Theoretically, the ZAZ vehicle plant still exists today, rebranded as AutoZAZ, eventually being taken over post-Communist era by the now-failed South Korean Daewoo. It was used to produce that brand’s older cast-off models such as the Lanos, optimistically renamed as Chance for the saloon version and Vida for the more popular hatch. These were ultimately replaced by re-worked Daewoo models to create the ZAZ Forza and Sens.
After the Company’s financial collapse in 2015, ZAZ was ‘saved’ by the Chinese automotive giant Geely (also the owner of Volvo and Lotus Cars) to locally build Chinese Geely models under licence. A two-minute history of ZAZ Cars can be viewed here.
In addition to ZAZ, Ukraine’s only other vehicle maker was LuaZ, the producer of cheap but very crude and rustic small 4x4s, as a poor-man’s answer to the more capable (but still nasty) Russian UAZ and better Lada Niva.
Until the Russian invasion weeks ago, the only other Ukrainian car of any note was the charming Kiev-based Miracle One, a modern pastiche of a 1930s-style of two-seater competition roadster with electric power. I do hope the team behind this pleasing EV are all still alive and as well as can be expected in such intolerable circumstances. As for any Russian cars, they can keep them in the Kremlin because the world doesn’t want or need such inferior, out-dated machines.