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The VAZ-2103 is a deluxe compact sedan car (small class, passenger car, model 3 in Soviet classification), produced by AvtoVAZ and introduced in 1972. Better known as the Lada outside of its native Russia, it was a localized version of the Fiat 124 Special model 1968 tailored for the Soviet and Eastern European market. VAZ-2103 model differs from the VAZ-2101 exterior, with four headlights, moldings on the sides of the body and large rear lights. Its main difference - the more powerful engine 1.5L (75 hp). In addition, this model is distinguished by the presence of vacuum brake booster and automatic adjustment of the gap between the rear brake pads and drum, "sport" instrument panel with tachometer.

Known as the Zhiguli within the Soviet Union, the main differences between the VAZ-2103 and the Fiat 124 are the use of thicker gauge steel for the bodyshell, an overhead camshaft engine (in place of the original Fiat OHV unit), and the use of aluminium drum brakes on the rear wheels in place of disc brakes. Early versions of the car featured a starting handle for cranking the engine manually should the battery go flat in Siberian winter conditions, and an auxiliary fuel pump.

AvtoVAZ were forbidden from selling the car in competing markets alongside Fiat 124; however exports to Western European nations began in 1974 when the 124 was discontinued in favour of Fiat's newer 131 Mirafiori model. The VAZ-2103 was sold in export markets as the Lada 1500 from mid-1970s to early 1980. In the United Kingdom, it was sold as the from May 1976 until May 1979 and it was the second Lada car to be sold in this market.

Modifications

  • VAZ-2103 (1972-1984) — 4-door saloon was equipped with 1.5 liter engine. Compare to the Fiat 124 Special modifications were done to suspension, carburator and some other parts in order to satisfy to wide range of Russian climate conditions. All these models had an adapted to the local roads and still soft enough suspension, that provided very comfortable ride even on tough gravel roads. After extensive tests even the Western press recognized VAZ-2101 & VAZ-2103 as a better car than its originator (Fiat 124 & Fiat 124 Special). In the shortest time Lada became a real hit in Soviet Union. The "Zhiguli" cars opened a new epoch in Russian motorization. More expensive VAZ-2103 was considered a prestigious model, and was very popular among Soviet white-collar workers. Unfortunately the Togliatti plant where Lada were produced could not keep up with the consumer demand and people had to wait for years to get chances to buy a car.
  • VAZ-21033 (1977-1983) — similar to VAZ-2103, engine 1.3 liters (VAZ-21011), exported as the Lada 1300SL.
  • VAZ-21035 (1973-1981) — similar to VAZ-2103, engine 1.2 liters (VAZ-2101), exported as the Lada 1200DL.
  • VAZ-21023 (1977-1985) — the break version VAZ-2102 was equipped with engine VAZ-2103 (1.5 l) and panel also known as Lada 1500 Combi (1500 DL Estate). Lada 1500 Estate sale in the UK started in October 1977 and ended in October 1985 as the Lada 1500 DL Estate.
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