The VAZ-2103 Zhiguli is a deluxe compact sedan car (small class, passenger car, model 3 in Soviet classification), produced by VAZ, introduced in 1972 and produced until 1984. Better known by its famous export name Lada 1500 outside of its native Soviet union and popularly nicknamed ?????? (Trojka, in English; The third one) in domestic market. It was externally based on Fiat 124 Special, built under license and tailored for the Soviet and Eastern European market. The 2103 externally differs from its predecessor, the VAZ-2101 firstly by its four, that is, double sets of headlights, different grille and direction pointers, moldings on the sides of the body and larger taillights. Its main difference - the more powerful 75 hp (56 kW; 76 PS) 1,452 cc (88.6 cu in) straight four petrol engine. In addition, this model is distinguished by the presence of vacuum brake booster as well as self-adjusting rear brakes and internally on new, Fiat 125 based, front panel along with its steering wheel and improved dashboard featuring wood imitation, tachometer, oil pressure gauge and front panel clock.
Known as the Zhiguli within the Soviet Union, the main differences between the VAZ-2103 and the Fiat 124 Special are the use of thicker-gauge steel for the bodyshell (so the 2103 weighed 1,030 kg (2,270 lb), the Fiat 105 kg (231 lb) less), 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. The car featured a starting handle for cranking the engine manually should the battery go flat in Siberian winter conditions, auxiliary fuel pump as well as improved soundproofing. It was later joined by the 1,198 cc (73.1 cu in)-powered 21035 and 1,294 cc (79.0 cu in) (VAZ 21011-engined) 21033.
VAZ were forbidden from selling the car in competing markets alongside the 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 from mid-1970s to early 1980. In the United Kingdom, it was sold from May 1976 until May 1979 and it was the second Lada car to be sold in this market. Although starting to be slowly replaced with its successor, the VAZ-2106 already from 1976, it was still produced as far as 1984 and was the first VAZ model to be discontinued, despite not being the oldest one. It was mainly due to complexivity of production and expense of its chrome lined elements which were severely reduced in VAZ-2106.
Reviewers from the French L'Auto-Journal called it ""an extremely serious working instrument, able to circulate in the worst conditions"" and ""a well-made car capable of being serviced anywhere, even by its owner"".
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