VAZ-2103 "Zhiguli" is a Soviet rear-wheel drive car of the II group of small class with a sedan body. It was developed jointly with the Italian company Fiat on the basis of the model Fiat 124 and was serially produced at the Volga Automobile Plant from 1972 to 1984.
Fiat 124, which became the prototype of VAZ-2101 and VAZ-2103 was first presented to the public in 1964, mass production in Italy began in 1966. The next year, 1967, the company introduced a high-class car with a similar design - the Fiat 125.
At the signing of an agreement in 1966 between the USSR Minavtoprom and Fiat, it was stipulated that Fiat would provide the Soviet side with full technical documentation for two vehicle configurations - "normal" and "luxury". Presented ready-made solutions from Fiat were as follows: for "norm" - Fiat 124 (on the basis of which began production of VAZ-2101), and for "luxury" - Fiat 125 (on the basis of which began production of VAZ-2103).
VAZ-2103 is a joint development of Fiat and VAZ. Work on the design of the car performed by the Style Center Fiat, and the technical equipment for the Soviet operating conditions - in the design department of VAZ. The body core was used from the VAZ-2103.
The first 1500 cars VAZ-2103B (B - "temporary") were produced at the end of 1972 at the Volga Automobile Plant. This batch was completed with a saloon from VAZ-2101 because of disruptions in the early production of VAZ-2103 saloon parts.
All this, coupled with good build quality, made this car one of the most prestigious models of the Soviet car industry in the 1970s, and some connoisseurs of the brand consider it the most elegant and stylish VAZ model. In December 1974, this model was awarded the "Seal of Excellence".
The price of the VAZ-2103 was 7,500 rubles, while the VAZ-2101 cost 5,500 rubles. In Soviet times, VAZ-2103 was considered a luxury car, which was inferior in prestige only to GAZ-24 "Volga".
Despite the changed shape of the front apron in 1975 and the introduction in 1977 of more modern terminals and wiring connections, the car has not undergone any significant external changes throughout its production on the assembly line.
In 12 years, 1,304,899 cars of the "third" model were produced. A little more "prestigious" model VAZ-2106, which is in fact a modernization of the "three" was produced from 1976 to 2006.
VAZ-2103 met in many Soviet cinema films: it was driven by Hippolyte from the film "The Irony of Fate, or Parom light!", Catherine from the film "Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears" as well as the heroes of the film "The Incredible Adventures of Italians in Russia" and so on. Besides, Mikhail Zhvanetsky's first car was exactly VAZ-2103, which he described as "an absolutely trouble-free car".
Externally 2103 though resembled Fiat 125, but was completely redesigned: the front of the VAZ-2103 has a greater negative slope, and the lines of the front fenders at the junction with the radiator grille and hood were noticeably sharper.
A lot of chrome elements are used in design of the body: moldings on sides, sills and arches, grille, bumpers, window surrounds, hubcaps.
The rectangular radiator shell, which occupies the entire width of the front end, has twin four headlights, which provided more uniform illumination of the road than the two headlights on the VAZ-2101. When the high beam is on, all the headlights are lit, and when the low beam is on, only the outer headlights are lit. Due to the lack of technology in the Soviet industry to produce such headlights, their production was engaged in the plant FER in the GDR, later the headlights were supplied by the Czechoslovak company "Avtopal". At the rear there were large two-color lights.
On the ends of the front doors appeared red lights that light up when the door is opened (if the exterior lighting is on), warning drivers of other cars.
Interior VAZ-2103 had significant differences from the cabin VAZ-2101: combined upholstery of seats of cloth and leatherette (on the back sofa in the middle appeared folding armrest), door cards, steering wheel, new torpedo had false inserts in wood and clock in the center, and the new instrument panel appeared tachometer and counter daily mileage on the speedometer, the factory installed radio "Bylina A271".
In addition to the new stamped wheels appeared new radial tires IYA-170, which were slightly wider and softer than the diagonal tires I-151 from VAZ-2101.
As a result, VAZ-2103 was identical to VAZ-2101 by 80% - the differences consisted mainly in the hinged panels of the front and rear parts, as well as a different interior.
As a result, the design of the VAZ-2103 was very modern (at the beginning of the 1970s) and markedly different from other Soviet cars.
The small-series 21031 was equipped with a 1.6-liter engine rated at 80 horsepower. One more export version - 21035. This modification was equipped with a 1.2 liter engine from 2101 with an output of 64 hp.
The VAZ-2103 was equipped with 1.5 liters engine. (77 hp), which was a modernized version of the engine FIAT-124. The difference is that the Volga engine had another thickness of the cylinder block walls - 215.9 mm instead of 207.1 mm of the Italian unit. Accordingly, the working volume increased to 1.5 liters, and the crankshaft had an increased stroke.
The VAZ-2103 was equipped with a 4-speed manual transmission. The export models were equipped with 3-speed automatic transmission 3L30 (TH180) made by General Motors (assembled in Strasbourg, France).
VAZ-2103B (variant 23) - 1972 with circulation of ~1000 copies. It has index "B" - temporary series, with interior features (interior from 2101) and wiring.
VAZ-21031 - 1975, the predecessor of VAZ-2106 model, small series with VAZ-2106 engine (1.6 l; 80 hp).
VAZ-21032 - 1973-1981, for export to countries with left-hand traffic.
VAZ-2103 - 1977-1983 (export name - Lada 1500S Automatic), with automatic transmission. This model used a General Motors 3L30 (TH180) three-band automatic transmission (the gearbox was manufactured at the company's French plant in Strasbourg, from 1969 to 1998). The engine was equipped with an Italian Weber carburetor. The modifications were done by importers/dealers of Soviet cars in Western Europe.
VAZ-21033 - 1977-1983 (export name - Lada 1300s), with VAZ-21011 engine (1.3 liters; 69 hp).
VAZ-21035 - 1973-1981, export with VAZ-2101 engine (1.2 l; 64 hp).
Lada 1500S Automatic - export modification with automatic transmission and 1.3-liter engine from VAZ-2105 with 63 hp.
For the first time in Soviet motorsport VAZ-2103 made its debut in the RSFSR championship of circuit racing in 1973, at which Leningrad racer Eduard Pistunovich won the championship title. In 1974, already in the USSR championship on the rally Anatoly Kozyrchikov recorded the champion's title on the VAZ-2103.
In the same 1974 VAZ-2103 "Zhiguli" took part in the rally "1000 Lakes" (Finland). The crew of Lev Shuvalov and Leontiy Potapchik as members of the USSR team won the first place in class (A2-1600) on VAZ-2103. In 1975 on the same rally crew of Kozyrchikov and Kozyrchikova again won first place in their class on VAZ-2103.
In 1976 on the international rally "Acropolis" in Greece the crew of Stanis Brundz and Anatoly Brum on VAZ-2103 got up to the 6th place in overall classification and took the 2nd place in the class of cars with engine capacity up to 2000 cm3. After that event Zhiguli exports to Greece immediately doubled.
In addition to Soviet racers, VAZ-2103 was also used for motorsports in other countries. For example, at VAZ-2103 Greek racer Pavlos Mokutis took 10th place in the Rally of Greece (1975), taking the first point in the standings of WRC brands. And also the Norwegian Per Engset in the Rally of Sweden (1977), also taking 10th place.