Several years ago there was a short article eluding to the existence of
Wankel Rotaries made by Lada published
in Fast Fours and Rotaries magazine. Since reading this article I found
additional information on the Internet and have sourced a few pictures and tables of various
engines produced. See below.
AutoVaz (or often reduced to just Vaz) is the parent company of Lada, kind
of like GM with Chevrolet or Opel.
The first rotary car was made in 1978 - a single rotor powered Lada sedan based
on a licensed Fiat design.
I understand that at least 8 different models of Lada sedan have been
converted to rotary power and around 20 different variants of engine produced of
1, 2, 3 and reportedly 4 rotors.
I speculate that some of the engines are surprisingly similar to the Mazda 13B
family; with some of the 2 rotors engines being 1308cc and the same rotor
housing width as the 13B. Perhaps AutoVaz used Mazda parts as a template for
their own early experiments? (Note, this is only speculation. I have not seen
nor heard anything that would confirm this).
Fast Fours and Rotaries
Note - This article appeared in Fast Fours and Rotaries magazine,
sent to me by the author; see acknowledgements. I believe that it is based on a
letter sent to the magazine from a reader in the USSR. Text is unedited by me
Quick, think of all the car manufacturers in the world
that have produced rotary engined cars, bet most of you thought of Mazda.
Many of you would have thought of NSU/Audi, and the odd really keen enthusiast
may be aware of the Comotor/Citroen unit but almost no one would have thought
During the summer of 1980 the Volga auto works of Tagliatti
(called Auto-Vaz) sold about 250 rotary equipped Lada cars to customers
under the imaginative Vaz-21018 designation. In this case a single rotor
Vaz 311 rotary engine was installed in a basic Vaz-21011 body.
The power plants geometrical data will look surprisingly familiar to Mazda enthusiasts:
Engine type Vaz 311 (Single rotor)
RE = 102 mm (Craig comment - rotor eccentricity/trochoid dimension.)
ECC= 15 mm (Craig comment - Eccentric shaft/Rotor journal offset from centreline)
Rotor width = 80 mm
70 bhp @6000 rpm
95 Nm @3500-4000 rpm
Comp = 9.5:1
The compression is very high by Eastern bloc early 80s
standards considering the 'high octane' Russian petrol was only rated for
The vehicles electricís were considered sensational for the time. A black
box which analysed inputs from the load, speed & rotor position transducers
triggers a thyristor (Craig comment - electronic ignition), which fired the ignition coils.
The spark plug design featured twin side electrodes.
A most unusual feature of this car was itís cold starting device, an anti-freeze
injection system. This part of the world can be very cold & when trying
to start the thing at minus 25 Celsius some of the liquid anti-freeze needed
to be squirted in, hoping to stop the plug electrodes from icing. A manual
which came with the car suggested that this be tried only twice; three
times and you flood the system with anti-freeze.
A standard down draught carburettor was used but with altered jet sizes
and a two stage air cleaner was employed as well. The apex seals got their
share of oil through a lubricator, and the oil level in the sump was maintained
A belt driven fan was upgraded to an electric type for latter versions.
I personally had no experience in performing a 'low temperature
start'. In warm weather the rotary fired instantly & after warming
it a bit, settled to steady idle of about 950 rpm. This particular car
was fitted with a tacho by the owner (a racing driver) as none of these
21018 model cars received one at the factory (big mistake) .
Performance of the rotary seemed as good, or perhaps better
than any 1.3 lt. Lada, but keeping the revs up was a must and a tacho becomes
invaluable for better driving. What I instantly noticed, was the almost
insignificant engine braking available from this tiny power plant, so the
brake pedal got an extra work out as a result. The revs matched the accelerator
pedal inherently. No where near the inertia of a piston engine, you lift
the accelerator and the revs disappeared instantly.
Required driving style changes apart, it was a pleasant
experience, but according to the little statistics that became available,
many rotaries didnít last to the first 10000 km filter change. Maximum engine
life up to 20000 km was seemingly as per normal. In many cases the rotary
was thrown out and replaced with a conventional four cylinder 1.3 Lada/Fiat motor.
End of and era, you suppose? With model 311, yes, but not
with Autovazís aspiration within the Wankel league. Then came a long flirt
with 2 rotor models. In 1982 some where seen installed in rally cars and
those were as fast as 1.6 Ladas. Fed through 2 twin throat Webers DCOEís
meant at least 150 bhp was available from those developed for racing. A
long silence followed, but suddenly in 1988, several engines were put on
display at an exhibition in Moscow. A twin rotor Vaz 411-01 which had an
equivalent capacity of 2300 cc & the same 120 bhp on tap. The model
Vaz 413 with fractionally larger dimensions was rated 20 hp higher. No
torque figures were given but both had 9.4:1 compression and weighed in
at 130-140 kg per engine.
Some 411 engines were seen in Ladas, indexed as Vaz 21019.
The more powerful models became available for Latvian made RAF buses &
Ambulances. The KGB got some Volga sedans fitted with the larger rotary
as power was about 1.5 times the standard 2.5 lt engine. Also, a 3 rotor
Vaz 513 was released (equivalent to 3900 cc) and rated at 280 hp for itís
200 kg engine weight. Max power of all said engines was quoted between
So who in the USSR needed that sort of power? Good question.
The answer is people in uniforms, 280 hp from a 3 rotor and at least 350
from a 4 rotor engine (which did exist as well) in a light weight package
was a real day time dream for designers of lightly armoured fighting vehicles.
We can say that perhaps Vaz 21018, 21019 were spin offs of some military
program. There was never an intention to let Mr & Mrs average Russian
behind the wheel of a rotary engined car. The few hundred produced were
just a lucky break.
The Lada/Vaz range of cars
The AutoVaz company is parent to many divisions, including
Lada, UAZ, ZIL, GAZ, and Volga.
There is a research centre called the GENDR (Short for the full Russian
name). A subdivision of GENDR is the SKBRPD (Rotary Research Division) -
This name comes from SKB = Special Design Agency, RPD = Rotary Piston Engine.
The Russians usually refer to rotaries as "RPDs".
They seem to make about 100 rotary engined cars per year.
The VAZ-21108 Car (first made in 1978) was powered by a single
rotor VAZ-311 engine.
The VAZ-21109 Car was a minor update to this body shape but powered by
a two rotor VAZ-411 engine.
This car was licensed from Fiat (Fiat 124 sedan)
The base model 4 cylinder engine was the VAZ-21101 (picture 289x200)
The VAZ-21059 Car (first made in 1980) was powered by the two
rotor VAZ-411M engine, and also the two rotor VAZ-4132 engine
Transmission was a 4 speed manual and the car had an optional extra fuel
Again, this car was licensed from Fiat (based on the Fiat 131 sedan)
Price of car when new: Roubles 51,975 / $US 8316 / $AUS 13513
The VAZ-21079 Car (first made in 1982) was basically an
updated version of the VAZ-21059 except it used the two rotor VAZ-411-01 engine, and the two rotor VAZ-4132 engine
Transmission was a 5 speed manual and the car had an optional extra fuel
I believe the 4 Cylinder version of this model was made by Lada as a cheap
car until as late as 1997!
Price of car when new: Roubles 57,870 / $US 9259 / $AUS 15046
Weight of Car: 1430 kg
Top Speed: 180 km/h, 0-100 km/h time: 9 Seconds
Fuel consumption, at 90 km/h: 9.5 litres per 100 km, and at 100 km/h: 12.5 litres
per 100 km
The VAZ-2108-91 Car (first made in 1984) was powered by the
two rotor VAZ-415 engine.
Transmission was a 5 speed manual.
This was the first Russian designed model, and was sold in several western
markets as the Lada Samara.
The car in the photo seems to be some 1997 race champion.
Price of car when new: Roubles 56,300 / $US 9008 / $AUS 14638
Weight of Car: 1050 kg
Top Speed: 200 km/h, 0-100 km/h time: 8 Seconds
Fuel consumption, at 90 km/h: 7 litres per 100 km, and at 100 km/h: 10 litres per 100 km
The VAZ-2109-91 Car was an updated VAZ-2108-91 (same drive train)
The car in the photo was a normal police car (called the MUD, this is not
Price of car when new: Roubles 58,100 / $US 9296 / $AUS 15106
The VAZ-21099-91 Car was an updated VAZ-2108-91 (same drive train)
Price of car when new: Roubles 62,300 / $US 9968 / $AUS 16198
(no large picture available)
The GAZ-3102 Car (First made in 1981) also known as the "Volga".
by the two rotor VAZ-411-01 engine (as used in the
VAZ-21079 car above).
This car was also available with the 210hp 3 rotor VAZ-431 engine, supposedly
used by the KGB.
Length 4960mm, Width 1800mm, Height 1422mm, Weight (4 Cyl version) 1850kg.
The 4 cylinder engines used were the ZMZ-406 (2.3l, 150hp, 170 km/h top
or the ZMZ-402 (2.445l, 100hp, 147 km/h top speed)
(Unconfirmed information about large sedans)
Regarding the GAZ-3102, it appears that this
may have been updated to the GAZ-3105
There was a new car in 1994 called the GAZ-2410 which also used the rotary
This may have had variants GAZ-31029
, GAZ-31022 , GAZ-31023.
Note, regarding the price of the cars, this is what the car cost in
Russia, in Roubles, when new. Despite the apparently cheap prices, no doubt
these would have been fairly expensive for the average Russian citizen.
I have no idea what the exchange rate was at the time. (The rates used
were correct in July 1998)
All rotary engine cars in Russia for private (non government)
use are sold through a company called "SPAR". I think they are
in the same town as the AutoVaz headquarters. (Toliyatti). As of November
1998 there are apparently two 'Unofficial' - whatever that means -
dealers in Moscow.
Main Dealer 445032, g.Toliyatti, str. Zastavnaya, 9 JC "SPAR",
tel. (8469) 37-17-27
Moscow#1 ph 485-18-54, 484-74-07
Moscow#2 ph 232-75-02 (Kraevskiy Alexander
Borisovich, apparently better than the first)
I can't quite figure out what the story is with private
citizens buying these cars. It seems that the normal man in the street
can only get front wheel drive cars but there seems to be a loophole that
you can buy a car but not register it with GAY, who I presume are some
kind of police authority.
I'm pretty sure that the early cars were for
official use only, but the later ones may have been publicly available (after
VAZ-2108-91 but I'm not sure)
The Lada/Vaz range of Engines & non-car
The VAZ-413 picture shows the engine on the right hand side. (I think
the engine on the left is a Volga 2.5 litre 4 cylinder that made less power).
The VAZ-415 two rotor engine, was a new design used from the mid 1980s.
As of 1998 this engine is apparently still in production and used in the
VAZ-2115-91 Car (see above).
In August 1998 the company produced
a fuel injected version with 206hp @ 7500 rpm and 180hp under 6000 rpm. (The
"Normal" version of this engine is 140hp)
I understand there is also a high performance version of 240hp (Reported by
Canadian enthusiast - see More facts of interest below)
The VAZ-426 engine was approved for aero use on March 30, 1998. The
cost is 120,000 Roubles - approx $US20,000 / $AUS 30,000.
There is a cut down 2 rotor variant of this motor called the VAZ-416
(I think, but am not sure, that by 2005 they plan to sell 2100 VAZ-426
engines and 900 two rotor VAZ-416)
This boat - called Volga - was powered by a two rotor VAZ
rotary, exact model unknown.
Note that while the boat is 'flying', this effect is limited
to just above the surface. This would have been an experiment in the 1970s
for a high speed low cost alternative to an aeroplane. (The Russians had
an enormous 6 jet engine transport craft built on the same principle. It could
fly just a few feet above the surface at nearly 500 km/h).
Engine used in this model
VAZ-21018 (above - car 1974-1978)
Variant of 311
VAZ-21019 (above - car around 1978)
Variant of 311
VAZ-21059 (above - car around 1980)
Variant of 311
VAZ-21079 (above - car around 1982)
GAZ-3102 (above - car)
Update of 411
GAZ-31028 (Unknown - perhaps an update of the GAZ-3102)
GAZ-24-10 (Earlier version of the Volga, a "5+2 seated caravan")
GAZ-3102 (above - car)
GAZ-14 (Limousine, probably based on the Volga)
2 x 654cc rotors
now I think)
3 x 654cc rotors
now I think)
Aeroplane & Helicopter Engine
(Experimental variants of this engine have made 300-350 hp)
*Note1: VAZ-1181 / VAZ-1812 / VAZ-1184 / VAZ-1187 all same hp and
VAZ-1187 definitely used in plane.
*Note2: The VAZ-543 may be a 4 rotor engine as the power output is consistent with being double
that of most of the 2 rotor engines and 4/3 that of the 3 rotor engines - however I have no hard
data to confirm this.
More detailed comparison of VAZ-4132 and VAZ-415 engines.
(VAZ-4132 was an early 80's engine; VAZ-415 was the more mature 1990s 2 rotor
Number of rotors
Total engine size, cc
Engine power kW(hp) at RPM
Torque Nm (kgm) at RPM
Minimum idle speed, RPM
Engine weight, kg
Fuel Consumption, first unit unknown (grams/hp*hours)
Percentage oil-fuel mixture
Kilometres until first rebuild (?)
Car models this engine was used in
More facts of interest
November 1998 update from an enthusiast in Canada:
I've been dealing with the AutoVaz (Lada) rotary lab for
the past 3 months, trying to import a rotary engine for my Niva.
Here's some of the updated/corrected info for your section on the Lada
The UAZ model 415 is STILL in production, as of Oct.1998. It has been available,
as a special cost option, in the European Samara front wheel drives, for
the past 6 years. In standard trim, the current generation displaces the
same 1308cc's as the Mazda 13B engine, and is rated at 180 HP, running
on sequential port injection. A high performance model is also offered,
that has the port timing redone, and is rated to 240 HP, using sequential
port FI. Apparently they do not offer a turbo version for automotive use
at this time. As I intend to prep my Niva for weekend Rallying, they also
Hinted at a racing/aviation only motor that is (supposedly) capable of
300+ HP. From the way they phrased it, these engines are still experimental,
and may use a peripheral port design: they specifically stated that they
were 'unsuitable' for street use. My contact at the lab was Alex Shenayakin,
but e-mail service to the lab has apparently been cut off, so I can't get
you in touch with him. He did confirm the existence of both the three,
and four rotor Russian engines, and described them as being designed for
scout car/APC applications for the military. They have not been in production
for at least the past 6 years, and were only ever available in carburetted,
non-emissions forms. He additionally described a dual turbo, 4 rotor engine,
rated to 680 HP for use in a 5 tonne amphibious APC, that never went into
production. He didn't work on that project, but believed that it was set
up using mechanical injection. (Maybe a knockoff of the Bosch CIS system?)
That was circa 1984-85.
I haven't been able to find any shots of a rotary engine
in a Niva, but here are the shots (see below) of the rotary engined Tundra
buggy. They are manufactured by an aftermarket company, and use a completely
swapped driveline from (I believe) a Soviet military UAZ. (The Russian
military jeep). These things are designed for use in the Russian north,
over Muskeg, and as surface vehicles for the Russian research stations
in the Antarctic.
Note the above pictures and info were emailled to me. I have since found they
are called the Bronto 1922 Marsh Niva.
Bronto is the company that does the modifications and 1922 is the model number.
I have only been able to find references to them being powered by the 4
cylinder piston engine of normal Nivas (but maybe there is a rotary version? If
you know anything let me know.)
There are a few Russian sites with
information about these engines and cars. By far the most useful was the VAZ rotary
history page which someone on the RX7 mailing list pointed me to. Based
on the number of different models of cars and engine, it would seem that
these cars would have been made in reasonable volumes, so may not be especially
rare in their home country.
Please note that most of this page was created by me matching data from
multiple sources and should not be held as nessecarily correct. Where I have
made a guess or estimate this is noted.
Further reading and acknowledgements:
* Special thanks to David Morris, a writer for Fast Fours and Rotaries for
sending me the FF&R article.
* Special thanks to a Canadian enthusiast for data in the 'more facts' section.
He was trying to get a genuine factory rotary to fit to his Lada Niva. (firstname.lastname@example.org
* The AutoVaz website for many of the photos and raw information about models
* I have not seen any other information about these engines or cars in any
Other relevant reading at Craig's Rotary Page (Please go via the INDEX
* There is no other content at this site relevant to Lada/AutoVaz
Other relevant sites on the Internet (Please go via the LINKS
* AutoVaz website, especially the rotary history page(s)
* David Morris' web pages (a.k.a. DMRH - David Morris Rotary Historian; although
I do not know if he has any relevant content accessable on his site)
* Bronto website (Russian, translate with Altavista's Babelfish)
* SovAvto webring (bottom of this page)
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This page last updated 22/8/2002
22/8/2002 - Changed SovAvto webring style to match Mazda Rotary style
5/5/2002-Joined SovAuto webring
13/12/2001 - Minor tidy up, fixed a few broken pictures.
19/3/2001 - Major revision of this page; a lot of tidying up and bad links
fixed; no new content. Converted all text to new standard (Headings as
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2/12/1998 - Previous known update (May have been some before this)
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