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Wanderer of the streets of socialist Hungary | Chromiez X Žiga

If you had to name a single car that would make you truly content, would you know what to say? This used to be more than obvious in the ‘70s and the ‘80s, and the answer was nothing but the much desired Lada. Accordingly, the first episode of our Chromiez series also focuses on a Lada, the legendary 1200. Cab, family car, draft horse and a valued member of the family. Now you can have one too, at least in a miniature version!

Many important events took place in the world in 1970. The Beatles broke up on April 10. One day later, on April 11, the seventh mission of the US lunar program was launched, also marking the third attempt to land on the Moon. In the very same year, the first section of metro line 2 (aka the red line) was handed over in Budapest, and the Soviets deployed the first robotic rover onto the surface of the Moon with the Luna-17 spacecraft. However, what’s even more important to car enthusiasts is the fact that in 1970, the first Lada 1200 model came off the assembly line in the city of Tolyatti, also known as the VAZ-2101, and completely transformed the streetscape of the Eastern Bloc – and with it our lives, too.

Most countries had to wait until 1971 to receive the first models, including Hungary, where the very first Lada was handed over to its owner in June 1971. The fact that the number of cars owned by the population quadrupled in the subsequent 4 years was partially owing to the appearance of the Lada 1200, or, as the Soviets called it, the Zhiguli, on the market, considered to be the most modern vehicle of its time. The model became so popular that there were still more than 295,000 Ladas in circulation in 2002, of course at the time there were other models on the road in addition to the 2101.

The first car of our Chromiez series is a Lada 1200, and not just any version of it, but the notable cab type. By the 1980s, it had become one of the most popular vehicles amongst cabdrivers, as it was much more reliable than the rest of the cars available. According to urban legend, and perhaps with a slight exaggeration to reassure Eastern Bloc residents, there were more cabs in Budapest than in New York, and the majority of them were Lada 1200 models. Of course the URH radio, the Argo type taximeter, the odometer and a bunch of ornaments like the small flag of the cab company hanging from the rear-view mirror or the metal wreath with a sign saying “1 million kilometers without accidents” were must-have accessories of every cab.

Reliability became the main goal of larger cab companies, and thus passengers were mainly carried by Lada vehicles at Főtaxi, Volántaxi and Budataxi, amongst others. The abundance of cab-Ladas was a prominent sight in Hungary at the time, but in addition to cabs, the Hungarian Police and the Hungarian Defense Forces also opted for the Lada.

In 1971, the estate version of the legendary VAZ-2101 entered production under the name VAZ-2102. Far less models were made of this type compared to the traditional one, but this is exactly what made it a curiosity. People had a harder time accepting this type, as it was perceived as a sort of “worker car” by many, but later everyone realized, including workers, that it was incredibly practical due to the large luggage area, which could even fit a Csepel fridge, for example. The estate version also served in many places: it was used by MALÉV, the Hungarian Police, the Fire Brigade and of course it was also used by cabdrivers.

Source: Fortepan

The old Zhigulis also played a central part in the world of cinema. We could see the model as a prominent “supporting actor” in Ferenc András’s legendary 1982 movie titled Dögkeselyű (The Vulture). The permanent “partner” of cabdriver József Simon played by György Cserhalmi was also a cab the kind, and of course the rest of the cabdrivers also used this type of vehicle.

Due to nostalgia, Lada 1200s are frequently converted into authentic cab versions to this day so that they can preserve a part of the spirit of the age – which is exactly what our Chromiez series wishes to achieve with this unique item.

The pieces of our limited CHROMIEZ collection are now available in HYPEANDHYPER’s online store. Look for the miniature cab and estate version of the Lada 1200 under the name Žiga express – The golden cab and Žiga – The family box in the shop! In addition to the wooden cars, retro car fans can also get special limited edition prints matching the automobiles!

Click on the product and head to HYPE store right away!


Product photos: Lilla Liszkay

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