ZAZ Tavria

Un­ex­pect­edly, Ed’s ZAZ Tavria be­comes quite good

Practical Classics (UK) - - CONTENTS -

You’ve al­ready read how I came by my Tavria and learned a lit­tle about its his­tory and de­sign. Now for an up­date. How did my lack­lus­tre rar­ity re­deem it­self? The an­swer is that it did so in many small stages – un­til it was sud­denly a no­tice­ably good drive. Quite star­tlingly so.

Process of at­tri­tion

Ini­tial im­pres­sions of it were orig­i­nally char­ac­terised by an un­der­pow­ered en­gine, ter­ri­fy­ingly ram­pant un­der­steer and a ten­dency to stop dead with­out warn­ing and re­quire the fuel pipe blow­ing out to re­store progress. I used to leave the hose loose so that I could give it emer­gency mouth-to-mouth if it was block­ing a sin­gle-track lane. I re­placed its bleached-out and shred­ded in­te­rior, re­gapped its clat­ter­ing valves and did a num­ber of other jobs. One job was to stop it let­ting in huge quan­ti­ties of rain when it rained. Most of this came from a spot-welded flange un­der the rear bumper. Since no-one had both­ered to seam-seal the flange, wa­ter was drawn into the boot by cap­il­lary ac­tion. It took a while to work this out, sus­pi­cion hav­ing fallen first on the tail­gate. A large rust hole was later found in the scut­tle to footwell kick panel end joint and this was also sorted, as were loose weather sheets in the doors. Even now an elu­sive trickle of wa­ter finds its way onto the in­side of the door seals. I just stuff cut-up tow­els be­tween the sill and the sound in­su­la­tion; a sat­is­fac­tory, if un­tidy, so­lu­tion to the prob­lem for now. Mean­while, the steer­ing was ti­died up by re­build­ing the rack and ad­just­ing the front wheel cam­ber.

The Tavria had just 3000km on the clock when res­cued (the speedo reads mph, but the odome­ter’s in km) and at 5000km its clutch fric­tion plate self-de­struc­ted. Its then-owner Ju­lian Now­ill had it re­placed but when I got the car back on the road at 8000km, it would pe­ri­od­i­cally jam. In­ves­ti­ga­tions at 10,000km re­vealed that the clutch cover was still full of de­bris from the old plate, which would oc­ca­sion­ally drop back into the works. It then de­stroyed this re­place­ment fric­tion clutch plate two hours after be­ing taxed in May 2016, at 16,000km. This was an­noy­ing, as it was due on the SALT (Soviet Auto Lux­ury Tours) a fort­night later. A clutch came via Ukraine’s splen­did parts busi­ness in record time. Fit­ting it was a hor­ri­ble ex­pe­ri­ence – much worse than when I’d had it apart be­fore. I think the dif­fer­ence was the loose sand-and-gravel floor this time around. Test-driv­ing with clutch num­ber three re­vealed a strange throt­tle ac­tion. It turned out that in the right-hand-drive con­ver­sion, the in­ner throt­tle ca­ble spent most of its time bent at a 90° an­gle as it ex­ited the outer sheath.

‘Thanks to the steer­ing work, it now cor­ners well’

It was now down to its last two strands. I gave up and went to the SALT rally in a Lada (and a huff) in­stead, Ladas be­ing mostly trou­ble-free de­vices.

Sulk­ing, I ig­nored the car for five months. Its sal­va­tion was a PC ar­ti­cle com­mis­sion on the re­pair of con­trol ca­bles. With the ar­ti­cle done, I then mod­i­fied the ar­range­ment at the throt­tle pedal so that the ca­ble could have a straight path from the rigidly-brack­eted outer sheath to the pedal. I de­cided, with that fixed, to drive it home from the barn af­ter­wards. I was sur­prised to find that the throt­tle now had a point of re­sis­tance, half-way down. This cor­re­sponded to the open­ing of the sec­ond choke throt­tle of the carb. I’m not con­vinced the old ca­ble had ever al­lowed this. It went like a pocket rocket after that. And thanks to the steer­ing work, it went round cor­ners, too. And, thanks to Mr Glover of this parish, it did so with a new, non-rusty petrol tank, so no break­downs. Sud­denly – a great drive!


And its mo­ment of glory? The SALT peo­ple had a stand at the NEC and in­vited the Tavria for dis­play. I had mis­giv­ings be­cause no­body ever no­tices it as it scut­tles past on the street. It’s too ‘nor­mal’. It made it to the NEC and back with­out mishap, re­turn­ing 57mpg. But more sur­pris­ing was the amount of at­ten­tion it got. Peo­ple re­ally did stop and look re­peat­edly at it from var­i­ous an­gles – and were gen­uinely pleased be­cause here was a car they’d gen­uinely never seen be­fore. The one per­son at the show who’d ac­tu­ally seen a RHD Tavria be­fore was a Mal­tese chap – who’d per­son­ally pushed two off a cliff into the sea (a stan­dard method of waste dis­posal, I imag­ine).

It turned out that a con­sign­ment of RHD Tavrias had turned up there in 1991. About the same time, tar­iffs were lifted on non-so­cial­ist Bloc cars, mak­ing a Tavria the same price as a Mit­subishi Colt. So most Tavrias re­mained un­sold and were can­ni­balised as spares for the few that found buy­ers. My car was reg­is­tered in April 1993 – but when we (me and a crowd of in­ter­ested par­ties from Malta, Be­larus and Poland) ex­am­ined the chas­sis num­ber, the age iden­ti­fier code showed 1991. Put that to­gether with the faded paint and bleached in­te­rior and I think we can sup­pose the car didn’t come di­rect from ZAZ to Lada UK, but was ac­quired from un­sold Mal­tese stock. So when the last Mal­tese ex­am­ple is shoved off a cliff, I may well be left with some­thing unique.

Work done New clutch fit­ted, re­vised throt­tle link­age

1991 ZAZ 1102 ‘Tavria’ En­gine 1091cc/4-cyl/ohc Power 53bhp@5500rpm Torque 60lb ft@3000rpm Gear­box 5-speed man­ual 0-60mph 16.0sec Top speed 90mph Fuel econ­omy 40mpg Ed Hughes CON­TRIB­U­TOR

ABOVE Clutch re­place­ment on a gravel floor was less-than-ideal. Good ex­fo­li­at­ing ef­fect though.

Spro­ing! 6000 miles and the clutch is on its riv­ets with a miss­ing spring. All from 50bhp.

Uk-sourced tim­ing belt had wrong tooth pro­file.

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