I’m really over the moon to be finally able to share this one with you all. A slightly cryptic message from a good Instagram buddy of mine, Nick over at nms_collection_ got me onto this. He had just snagged a blue example and tipped me off to the seller. A few minutes later and a model that has sat rather high on my long (and ever growing!) wants list for some time was finally on the way. It’s now tucked amongst my other Soviet diecasts and memorabilia, and it’s time for it to make an appearance in the Lamley Daily spotlight. This is the Minsk Factory VAZ Zhiguli 2101.
The 2101 was the first in the iconic Zhiguli/Lada lineage, going into production in 1970. A license built version of Fiat’s 124, the 2101 remained in serial production for 12 years. The 2101 featured a raft of modifications from the 124 in order to cope with the brutal Russian winters and the often poor conditions of the Soviet road network. Ride height was raised, a crank handle (on early models – incase the bitter cold killed the battery) and manual auxiliary fuel pump were added.
The 2101 was the first car of the VAZ export brand Lada to be sold in the UK, going on sale in May 1974 priced at £979.
This 1/60 scale version was produced in the 1970s by a factory in the Belorussian capital Minsk. I’ve seen the brand listed as Lenin Factory, Minsk Factory and, on the Police and doctors versions (with non opening doors) as Belvar, who incidentally still exist in Minsk as a maker of measuring instruments. It cost 2 Rubles and 50 Kopeyka. Average monthly wage in the 1970s was about 120 Rubles.
It’s rather pleasantly heavy and well cast, with a screw on metal base. There’s a nice interior piece, small details on the slightly poorly seated grille and rear clip, sprung suspension and opening doors.
It’s easy to jump to conclusions about Soviet manufacturing standards, but ignore what you’ve been told; this is about as well put together as any Western equivalent of the era. Due to the age, metal fatigue can be a problem however. My example is has snapped bumpers and as I mentioned, a misaligned grille. My friend Nick’s blue version has some small bits of damage too. But that’s perhaps to be expected after such a long period has elapsed since manufacture.
Ultimately, It’s the rarity of this piece that makes me proud to have it. There really aren’t that many left and the prices can reflect that. Ebay can also go from having none listed for weeks at a time to having a handful available, so do look out for them. To have found one at an agreeable price and good condition was a real coup, and this is now one of the star pieces of my collection, and one I am happy to share with you all.
(Find the Minsk Factory VAZ on Ebay)