Top 10 Soviet experimental cars

GAZ-24-95 “Volga” experimental (1974)


In 1974 only five examples of all-wheel drive GAZ-24-95 were built. The experimental off-road versions of the Volga used parts and units from the real SUV – UAZ-469. An important feature of all-wheel drive GAZ-24-95 was the absence of a frame. One of five produced trucks was used by Leonid Brezhnev at his hunting estate Zavidovo. The rest of the cars were sent for testing to the military and police in Gorky and the region.

Serial production of this GAZ-24-95 never began. The design of the prototypes was too complicated and expensive. The plant was simply afraid of the lack of demand for the model. Until today no less than two “live” copies of this unique car have survived.


VAZ-2103 Universal (1976)

VAZ 2103 soviet car

In the mid-1970s, VAZ together with Fiat actively worked on a luxury modification of the 2101, which eventually got the name 2103. Already in 1974, when the pre-production “three” in the body of the sedan was ready, the Italians proposed a project of “luxury-universal” to VAZ. Initially the management of the Russian enterprise rejected the idea, but later the project of a five-door VAZ-2103 was returned to.

In 1976, at the direction of the company’s management three VAZ-2103 “Universal” cars rolled off the assembly line. The purpose of test cars was to check their compliance with European requirements (it was planned to supply models abroad). Of the three assembled cars one was sent to the “AvtoVAZtekhobsnabzheniya”, the second was given to Dmitrovsky test site, and the third sample was in the Center of style UGK VAZ. Mass production of this station wagon never started. The next after VAZ-2102 station wagon in 1984 was the “Four”.


AZLK Moskvich-408 Tourist (1964)

Two prototypes Moskvich-408 Tourist left the Moscow AZLK plant in 1964. It was a sort of attempt to create a modification of the Moskvich with an open top. This elegant convertible was based on the chassis and body parts of the production 408 sedan. One of the two examples built had a body with aluminum exterior body panels, the other had steel body panels.

Under the hood of one of the convertibles produced was an engine from a sedan, equipped with a CNITA fuel injection system with electronic control. The 1.4-liter gasoline engine developed 63 hp and was capable of accelerating the open-top car to a speed of 130 km/h. The prototype had a rigid removable roof. It was planned to produce the Tourist in small batches for export, but later the project was closed. No sample of this convertible has survived to this day.


GAZ-18 (1955)


In April 1955 a directive was sent from the Central Committee of the CPSU to the GAZ plant, indicating the need to design a compact car for the disabled. In order not to make a primitive sidecar, GAZ approached the design of the small car not less seriously than an ordinary one. After making a test model it was tested by disabled people with various disabilities. The GAZ-18 model had a closed body (it even resembled the Pobeda in some respects).

According to the requirements, the engine had to develop “about 10 hp”. GAZ specialists found nothing more suitable than to “cut” in half the 4-cylinder power unit from the Moskvich, obtaining a 2-cylinder motor. It was installed at the rear. Production of the new model required funding, and MZMA (as Moscow car plant was called from 1945 to 1968) and NAMI had already been designing Moskvich-444 (future ZAZ-965). In 1958, the GAZ-18 project was closed, and the story of the unusual Russian small car was over. Totally two working copies of the car were produced.


MZMA-403E-424E Coupe (1951)

On the chassis of the experimental model MZMA-403E-424E in 1951 were built two prototypes with a two-door coupe body. It is noteworthy that in the same year racing driver A. Ipatenko, driving one of these cars, took the second place in the USSR championship.

The coupe used either the prototype 403 engine for various events, or a boosted unit from the 400. The latter had an oil cooler and oversized intake valves. Its cylinder head and intake manifold were cast in aluminum, and the timing was altered. Both prototype cars participated in various competitions and set several all-Union records.


RAF-M1 Roxana (1990) and M2 Stills (1991)

RAF-M1 Roxana

In 1990, in Latvia began preparing a minibus, which according to the plan had to be “modern in the XXI century”. The bosses of Riga Bus Factory (RAF) were praising the prototype in every way and even looked for investors to implement the project. The prototype (factory index M1) was equipped with a ZMZ-406 injection engine. This unit was the most modern in the Soviet Union at that time. Five-speed gearbox was borrowed from UAZ models. The steering rack and power steering were taken from the Ford Transit.

In 1990, the minibus made its first trip down Duntes Street in Riga. A year later, the RAF produced another prototype of the modern M2 Stils minibus. But, unfortunately, both projects had to be frozen due to lack of funds.


ZAZ 970B and 970G (1962)

ZAZ 970B retro car

From 1962-1964 ZAZ was actively working on a new model with index 370, which had to have three body types – closed van, open-body truck and passenger (as we would say now) mini-van. In 1962, the first prototypes of the 970 were made. The car had a short hood and looked a bit like ZAZ-965. In the same year the plant produced the first prototypes 970B and 970G, which had no hood.

The model was equipped with 27 hp engine, which accelerates the car up to 70-75 km/h. The fuel consumption during the tests was 7,5 liters per 100 km. Prototypes with different body types were tested near Zaporizhzhya, but the experimental models remained in the factory yards. It is interesting, that many consider 6-seat ZAZ-970 as one of the first vehicles of the “minivan” class.


VAZ-E1101 (1971)

Experimental soviet cars

People began to think about the creation of the first Soviet micro-car in 1966. At the end of 1968 a small team of designers was given the task: it was necessary to develop a small car E1101 “Cheburashka” with front-wheel drive by using only local specialists.

In 1971 in the experimental shop of VAZ the first example of E1101 with an engine was assembled. It was the first VAZ model, developed without help of Italians, and the first front-wheel drive car. The trucks were equipped with a new 0.9 liter engine (50 hp) and 4 speed “mechanics”. In 1972 the company began testing. In 1973 the second series was presented – VAZ-2E1101, which was created taking into account the remarks of the test drivers. The third version VAZ-3E1101 was given to ZAZ, where it later turned into Tavria.

IZh-19 “Start-Combi” (1975)

Izh 19 start combi

IZh-19 “Start-Combi” hatchback was created by the young team as a “youth car”. Feature of the car was a fashionable “hump” on the hood, which implied a V-shaped “six”, located in the hood. Naturally, in this case the “hump” was more for beauty, as no V6 was installed on the prototype Izh.

The youth car was highly appreciated by young car enthusiasts, but it seemed too “revolutionary” to the conservative management of the company. After producing several prototypes, the 19 Start-Combi project was abandoned. Perhaps in vain it was abandoned. In the history of the Russian car industry there are not so many production cars with such a striking outstanding design.


AZLK-2139 “Arbat” (1990)

AZLK-2139 "Arbat" soviet car 1991

AZLK Arbat soviet cars

The first place of today’s rating is taken by the seven-seat… “Moskvich”! In 1990 the Moscow factory produced an experimental seven-seat mini-van with plastic panels attached to a steel frame. The car was built on the chassis of 2141 “Moskvich”. Work on the experimental model began in 1987, and the metal was embodied in 1991.

“The Arbat had a convertible interior with swiveling front seats, which in addition had adjustable cushion length. The prototype had a multifunction steering wheel and electronic dashboard. The plant had plans for serial production. There was even a place to assemble the mini-vans – town of Sukhinichi, Kaluga region. But at the end of 1991 the project was cancelled, and the model remained a prototype.

In addition to the prototypes included in the rating, there are enough other examples of interesting developments in the history of automotive engineering of the USSR. For example, VAZ-E2121 Crocodile, which is the “grandfather” of the well-known Niva SUV. In 1976, the German company Porsche introduced its version of the new model VAZ-2103. And in 1986, the “Seven” almost got a “face” in the style of the “Volga”. And how many interesting developments from GAZ … Experimental BM-1938 with a track design instead of rear wheels, high-speed SG2 Torpedo-GAZ, resembling rather an airplane, two-seat all-wheel drive concept M-73 (1955), several prototypes of “Chaika” … The list can go on for a long time. It is a pity that many promising projects of Soviet automakers were buried before they were born.


1938 ZIS-101A Sport 

Zis 101A soviet retro car

One specimen was produced.

The sports version of model 101 (name 101A Sport is conventional) was designed in the Experimental shop design bureau on its own initiative by a group of young engineers: Vladimir Kremenetsky, Nikolay Pulmanov and Anatoliy Pukhalin. Valentin Rostkov worked on the design. The prototype appeared due to the fact that the young engineers were able to enter the car in the list of “gifts to Motherland” for the 20th anniversary of Komsomol in 1938 In 1939, the director of the plant ZIS I.A.Likhachev showed the car at the Moscow party conference.

Young engineers increased the compression ratio and engine power, the suspension was equipped with stabilizers of transverse stability. According to calculations the car was supposed to reach 180 km/h, during tests ZIS-101A Sport showed 162,4 km/h.


Technical Specifications.


Dimensions, mm:

  • length x width x height 5750x1900x n.d.
  • base 2605


  • engine in front
  • rear drive wheels
  • Top speed, km/h: 162
  • Gasoline engine, carburetor, in-line:
  • number of cylinders 8
  • displacement 6060 cm3
  • number of valves 16
  • top layout
  • power, hp/kW 141/103,7 at 3300 rpm
  • Transmission: manual three-speed


  • front dependent, on longitudinal springs
  • rear dependent, on longitudinal leaf springs
  • Brakes: mechanical, with vacuum booster:
  • drum brakes in the front
  • drum rear

Electric equipment 6V

Tire size 7.50-17

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