Champion VAZ 2103 1975

In the 2000s, there was a saying that classic Ladas (Zhiguli) were the fate of students, dacha owners, and losers. Perhaps it used to be so, but in the last five years, the image of the “classic” has radically changed. While desperate internet warriors argued about the shortcomings of the most affordable cars in Russia, some models have become true youngtimers!

It’s no secret that the first cars of the Zhiguli family were not an original design of the VAZ factory. To quickly start the production of passenger cars, a contract was signed with Fiat. It entailed the creation of two models at VAZ: one simpler and cheaper, the other more prestigious and providing more comfort. The Fiat 124 was slightly modified to become the VAZ 2101 – the simpler one. Fiat 125, on the other hand, became the basis for the VAZ 2103 – a model on the same platform as the 2101, but with a more intricate interior and exterior, plus the possibility of installing a more powerful engine.

Consider this: it’s 1972, and the new “troika” car gets numerous chrome details, moldings, a new interior with headrests (albeit quite small ones at the time) – and even two-tone upholstery! The fashionable four-eyed optics at the time immediately indicated to the consumer who was the Soviet business class. Yes, for the USSR, it really was a luxury for the ordinary person who couldn’t afford a Volga 24. At the same time, the car retained a certain Italian charm, which allowed it to be highly valued even 45 years later.

The new model marked the start of the most popular engine in the classic VAZ series – the 2103. We won’t dwell on the technical features, as there were relatively few changes compared to the 2101, except for the main one: the displacement. It was now 1.5 liters, allowing the new car to accelerate to 100km/h in about 16-17 seconds! Isn’t that a success?

Until the collapse of the USSR, the “classic” was highly valued in society, triumphantly competing with “Moskvitches”, but after the fall of the Iron Curtain, Soviet cars suddenly turned into junk in the eyes of consumers. This story is more sad than funny, and serves as a commentary on the domestic automotive industry. One thing remained constant always: domestic cars served as sports equipment both within the country and abroad.

HRR – the Highway-Ring Racing – was first and foremost meant to sell cars. Did you think large corporations participate in DTM and other world series just to stroke their egos? No, motorsport, especially in its state in the USSR, was an excellent base for testing various parts and aggregates, as well as outstanding advertising. For instance, the enterprise Avtoexport, which handled the sale of Soviet passenger cars abroad, therefore displayed cars in world rallies – it was PR, and at times quite successful.

Over the years, the classics on the starts of the country’s main championships were replaced by “chisels” – everything was in order, as it should have happened, since a new model required development and advertising. The classics began to fade into the background and appeared in fewer competitions. It can be said that from circuit racing, Ladas almost disappeared until the Moscow Classic Grand Prix appeared.

The MCGP event is an entire automotive festival that unites all lovers of classic automotive technology. It includes several races in various classes (Volgas, Ladas) and formats. There is a classic race format with a common start, where cars compete over 11 laps, determining the winner by their position at the finish. There’s also a time-attack format, where pilots don’t compete “nose to nose” but strive to set the best lap time. Today, we will talk about such a car.

It would seem that this 2103 competes in the class of standard cars – but it’s not that simple. The engine here is indeed the classic, eight-valve one – not the modern “sixteener” from the Priora and later creations of AVTOVAZ. However, the strict regulations allow for engineering creativity, so the main question is: yes, such a car can cost a million.

The engine is assembled by specialists with maximum precision, with all elements perfectly adjusted to each other in terms of weight and, where necessary, shape. Describing a million nuances that may require attention when assembling the most powerful engine within the regulations is tedious. Especially since the most powerful means about 112 horsepower last year. Yet, the car has been driving almost to a “dry” championship in its class for the second year! Fuel injection is prohibited, so this year the car will run on horizontal Weber carburetors.

The suspension, of course, is not factory – but everything is still mounted in the original places. It’s impossible to use something completely cosmic – external tanks are prohibited. Despite this, there are many nuances in terms of the suspension, the devil is always in the details.

Externally, the troika maximally resembles its factory state, even without a cage, as it is not mandatory! The car captivates with its classic Italian (yes, it retains much from its ancestor) design. The concept of the car does not imply destruction by ruthless motorsport, contacts, cutting out native arches for fenders – so it remains a model of exactly that, the highway-ring “classic.” Moreover, if the owner wants, the car may appear in historical rallies. And no, not only in Russia: for example, why not go to the Monte Carlo Rally?