Putin’s First Car: 1980 ZAZ-968A

The ZAZ-968A was part of the 2nd Generation of the ZAZ Zaporozhets, a generation that first saw the light of day in 1966. By the time our feature car was built in 1980, the car had been in production, in mildly updated form, for 14 years. This 968A is looking for a new home and is listed for sale here on Craigslist. It is located in Sammamish, Washington, and is being offered for sale with a clean title. The owner has set a sale price of $8,950 for the little Soviet classic. A big thank you must go out to Barn Finder Roger for spotting this truly unusual vehicle.

The owner states that Russian President, Vladimir Putin, was given a ZAZ-968A as his first car after his mother won it in a lottery. This fact is actually true, which I was able to confirm with a bit of research. The 968A looks to be in really good condition. The body and paint look good, and there are no signs of rust in the car. The owner says that the car is completely original, right down to the tires.

The interior of a 968A is not what you would term as luxurious, especially by western standards of the time. The 968A featured some significant safety upgrades over its predecessor. These included a collapsible steering column, better seats, and a padded dash. Overall, the interior looks to be in pretty good condition.

Speaking of the dash, here it is in all of its austere blackness. As you can see, there wasn’t much chance that the driver was going to be overwhelmed with information, but the dash is in good condition. The pad is also okay, with no obvious cracks. One of the few options available on a 968A was a radio, but the original owner of this one didn’t tick that box on the order sheet.

The engine for the 968A is the original 1,197cc air-cooled V4 engine, mounted in the rear, and feeding power through a 4-speed manual transmission. The engine produces 40hp, and in spite of appearances, was a bit of a technological marvel at the time. One of the designer considerations in the design of the ZAZ was the desire to keep the vehicle weight low. As a result, the engine in the 968A is built with a magnesium alloy engine block. This allows the whole car to weigh in at around 1,700lbs, which is quite impressive for a 4-seat family car. Unfortunately, the owner doesn’t reveal how well the car runs or drives.

The owner of the ZAZ-968A claims that it is the only one in the USA, and this is probably not true. I do know of one that sold in 2016, and it went for $10,000. Having said that, there can’t be many of these little cars in the US, so there is a certain air of exclusivity about it. Given that the supply of these cars will be drying up in Russia, especially given the fact that the 968A has now been out of production for 38 years, means that we are unlikely to see many more of these appearing. Bearing in mind the fact that the last one sold for $10,000, that makes this one seem like a pretty decent investment at the price.


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  1. Bill Member

    Looks suspiciously like a Renault Dalphine. Must be a commie plot.

    Like 5
    • RayT Member

      Actually, my first thought was “NSU Prinz 1000″….

      Like 11
      • That AMC Guy

        Mine was that it looks like a Corvair that got left out in the rain and shrunk.

        Like 9
      • Al

        I thought it ia more like a BMW, the bath-tub model of 1960’s to 1970’s.

        Like 7
  2. mark

    Russian junk. 1200 cc and 40 HP.

    Like 5
    • Al

      You have never been in a Zil?

      Like 4
      • Bill McCoskey


        I have been fortunate enough to been in a ZIL as well as the older ZIS, both the 110 and the armored 115 version. Also owned for a short time, a GAZ-13 Chaika 7-passenger.

        Comparing a ZIL to a ZAZ is like comparing a Packard to a Crosley.

        Like 6
      • Keith


        Like 1
      • Al

        All too often, anything Russian is deemed to be JUNK, simply because it’s Russian. I kind of liked the Marussia B2, even though I probably can’t get into one.
        I was driven through St. Petersburg in a Zil, while on tour. Nice car, but people around seemed to think I was an oligarch, of some sort. We were driven to the doors of some magnificent palaces. Others had to stand out in the rain to get in to palaces or museums, but we went directly in, with no waiting. However, if you want to go that route it costs money, US$, Rubles, Euros or whatever.

        Like 7
  3. Dolphin Member

    Excellent writeup, Adam.

    I have never heard of this one, maybe with good reason since there’s only 1 or maybe 2 in the country. For a collector of oddities this should be the ultimate oddity.

    Like 5
  4. John Holden

    I thought it looked like a Hillman Imp.

    Like 8
  5. Metoo

    Looking at the instruments it is rated for 160 kph, which would be just under 100 mph. I find the idea of this car teaching that speed very hard to believe, short of Thelma & Louise driving it into a very deep canyon.

    Like 4
  6. Charles

    Air-cooled magnesium-alloy engine? That’s pushing physics a little too close to meltdown.

    Like 3
    • Mike

      same as the old air-cooled VW’s

      Like 4
  7. Andy

    I’ve visited Cuba several times and seen lots of Soviet vehicles, but I don’t remember ever seeing one of these. Considering how great Cubans are at keeping things running, that seems significant. Of course you’re always one minor engine fire away from having your crank lying on the ground as the block burns up…

    Like 1
  8. Nevis Beeman

    British classic car journalist, Sam Glover, Technical editor of “Practical Classics” [magazine] drove his just acquired Zaporozhets ZAZ (a ‘968 M’) from Moscow to the Beaulieu auto jumble in the UK, September 2017, with various adventures en rout. I recall seeing it there, complete with Russian number/ licence plates ! .

    Like 4
  9. Mike

    Looks like a Russian copy of a Simca

    Like 4
  10. exbenzo tech

    My father had an exact same car over 40 years ego. Same color too.
    As I remember it was a nasty thing. Still it was way better than the smaller Zaporozhez that he had prior to it. When he bought a 01 Zhiguli after it , we were
    driving in style. :)
    Then we moved across the world and things, car vise changed very drastically.

    Like 2
  11. John Holden

    Hillman Imp

    Like 3
  12. Derek

    Original tyres? Change them, they’re made from something akin to Bakelite. They’re quite amusingly poor-handling; mostly due to the tyres and the swing axle, I think. I had a go of a mate’s one once – on a wet day – and it spun if you sneezed too hard at it.

    Imps, on the other hand, are fine machines, as are Prinzs.

    I won my first motorsport prize in a Skoda, so have some affinity with rear-engined cars…

    Like 3
  13. Louis Q Chen

    This looks like a knock off of the German NSU Prinz.. Same set up, rear engine. But the German NSU was a better car. My brother had the NSU when he was stationed in Germany in 1969. A little history about NSU. It was the company that brought out the “revolutionary” Wankel engine. It was a compact, light, easy to work on but due to the rotor seal durability issue and a gas guzzler, the Germans decided to let Mazda continue producing and improving this engine. Also NSU was the original groups of companies that was the Auto Union which is the Audi.

    Like 3
  14. Howard A Member

    En Russia, car tells you where to go,,

    Like 5
  15. Kenneth Carney

    It’s made in Russia!! It’s obviuosly unsafe and inferior to anything we have
    on the roads here. Even the European
    imports, though inferior to American
    built cars, are safer and have more
    power than this thing has. Got a
    feeling this poor guy’s gonna be stuck with this one awhile.

    Like 1
    • M.C.S.

      No offense, but pretty much everything you just said there was incredibly arrogant and/or ignorant.

      Admittedly, the build quality of Soviet – era cars (at least the “affordable” ones) tended to be totally awful. However, from a design and/or engineering standpoint, a lot of them had at least a few good qualities and/or innovations.

      This being said, the Soviet government was nothing but hypocritical in its policies regarding its promises of equality for all (as Putin ‘ s regime is still today). (I just wanted to make it clear that I don’t have any nostalgia for the Soviet government, nor do I harbor any good feelings for its current leader, that unrepentant, former KGB agent.)

      As for your assertion that American cars as a whole are totally superior to any others (regardless of the relative era), this is just blatantly untrue. Like most developed countries, the United States has made many truly awesome automobiles, but a lot of downright laughably terrible ones, as well.

  16. Troy s

    KGB police interceptor?

    Like 2
  17. Del

    Putin had a Zil Limo when he was in the KGB.

    It had yellow stripes and could often be found parked illegally in front of the Lubyanka building.

    Like 3
  18. Doyler

    Wasn’t the engine actually a starter motor for a tank?

    Like 2
  19. Mitch Ross Member

    When I visited Hungary in 1984 I saw plenty of them. Coming from Israel where NSU Prinz was popular (sort of) I recognized the influence. After a Trabant these were the cheapest cars available. I like Eastern block cars, they are a disappearing artifact or their time and place.

    Like 1
  20. David Culver

    as my dad would say, “Overpriced at free.”

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