You have reason. What means the sequence of photos above, a car - naturally russian and rusted, a threatening machine-gun and an old russian soldier? The answer is that these three subject have something in common: they have been "produced" (also the soldier...) by the same factory. The Izh ("Izhevsky mekhanichesky Zavod", that means "Mechanical Factory of Izhevsk"), has been founded in 1807 as factory of weapons; today, it produces, beyond the cars, also motorcycles, industrial machines, tools, and, like in the past, weapons. From the knives to the bazookas. And the old russian soldier? This old man is Mikhail Kalashnikov, the creator of the terrible machine-guns which has his name. And the Izh is the factory that produces it. Only a data: the Izh, during the second world war, produced 11 millions of weapons; in the same period, the TOTAL production of the Nazist Germany was of 10 millions !!!! It's logic to suppose that, with these monstrous numbers for the weapons production, the Izh is not very interested to the other types of production (unfortunately, the weapons doesn't know crisis)...

The beginnings

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Shortly, this is the automotive production of the factory. Initially, the intention was to produce a multi-purpose vehicle for the rural zones: in the two pics above (the first shows an official drawing, and the second the prototype), the experimental Izh "Ogonyok", realized in the 1958, also called "NAMI-048" (the NAMI was the Russian research institute that enginereed it). Designed by B.Fitterman, V.Mironov and Y.Dolmatovsky, it was based on a 750 cc. flat-twin engine derived from the Ural "M-72" motorcycles (22 hp, 75 km/h). The transmission was of 4x4 type. This was a very simple vehicle, hypothetically quite good for the Russian conditions, because of the extreme simplicity and of the off-road layout. But the "Ogonyok" was abandoned, and it never entered in production. 

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 The definitive production of the Izh cars starts up in the 1966, with models that are substantially the Moskvitch of that period, therefore these cars were equipped initially with a 1360 cc. engine, with SOHC timing driven by gears, 50 hp; the following versions have a 1478 cc. with a traditional chain for the timing, 75 hp (in the first pic above, the Izh "412"; in the second, third and fourth pics, the "2125" station wagon, different from the Moskvitch version). In the fifth pic, there is an image of the 1980 that shows an Izh "412" for the racing competitions, with 120 hp.

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Between the late years '60s and the early '70s, on the base of the "412" model, also some prototype was realized: in the first pic above, the Izh "TE" (1967), an hybrid between a station-wagon and a coupè, designed by the "VNIITE", a Russian design institute; in the second pic, a sporty sedan (probably called Izh-19); and, in the third pic, the Izh-14, realized in the 1974 and conceptually similar to the Lada "Niva". Unfortunately, these cars, always with the 1500 cc. engine of the sedan version, never entered in production; the Izh-14 was rejected and the Soviet government choosen the Lada's project (the "Niva") for the assignation of the funds for the production. 

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The production grows quickly, and in 1977 the million units produced was celebrated; anyway, the Izh, with 100,000 cars produced per year, was not one of the biggest Soviet automotive factories: the most important sector was always the weapon's production.  Above, three images of the truck version (Izh "2715"). This car was very diffused in Russia and China until some years ago, as light delivery vehicle (produced until 1998). In the fourth and fifth pics, instead, two images of the factory.


Years '80s and recent models

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At the end of '70s, the Izh begins to project a new car. Several prototypes of a new hatchback were realized between the 1978 and 1982 (first and second pics, above). The aerodynamic was realized with the collaboration of the Moscow University and also with Renault engineers. But the definitive prototypes appears in the 1984-85 (third pic, above). In the 1987 (ten years after!), the new car was launched, and called "2126-Orbita" (fourth and fifth pics; in the fifth pic, the car is observed by elegant horsemen, almost like a Jaguar!). The name, like others realizations of the brand (the "Planeta" and "Jupiter" motorcycles) is inspired to the success of the Soviet aerospace industry. The car was enough modern at the time, although the project was of ten years before (the long times of the Russian factories...). 

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 The Cx was 0,36: several components are in common with other Russian cars (for example, the front headlights are the same of the Lada "Samara"). Unfortunately, engine and transmission of the "Orbita" were the sames of the previous Moskvitch models, with the old 1.5 UZAM engine (inspired to the 1961's BMW "1500" engine) and the rear wheel drive. The front suspensions were of new type, McPherson. However, the definitive production of this car starts up only in the 1991 (!!!), and the car was already outdated. The "Orbit" is still in production, but now it's called "Oda". Also others version were realized: above, the station-wagon, the sedan, the truck, and the new 4x4 pick-up version; however, the sedan is remained as prototype. Now, the engines of all the "Orbit/Oda" are the UZAM engine (increased to 1800 cc, 99 hp, injection) and the Lada VAZ 1.6 (the same of the "Niva"). Probably, also a 3-door version and a cabrio were realized, but they never entered in production. 

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 However, this car was realized also in some special version...the car in the first and second pics above was realized even for the races on ice (!!), and the exemplar in the third, fourth and fifth pics, instead, was realized for the racing competitions. This last version has an engine derived from the Lada "112", but placed longitudinally, with gearbox placed on the rear axle (like the Alfa Romeo "75", for example), Hewland clutch (British made), 16 valves, 1600 cc, 205 hp!

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In the first, second, third and fourth pics above, a car that can be enough interesting as multi-purpose vehicle. It's the "Oda 4x4" (technically very similar to the pick-up 4x4), with several components from the Lada "Niva": gearbox, transfer box, front suspensions, etc. In the fifth pic, an interesting double-cab pick-up prototype, and, in the sixth pic, an "Oda" on the assembling line.

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Although it's not properly a real car, the vehicle in the first pic above, needs to be mentioned. It's the Izh "SBH-4", realized for the artic zones. Powered by the same engine of the Izh "Jupiter" motorcycle (parallel twin, two stroke, liquid cooled), it's equipped with enormous tires for the specific use on the snow. If you hate the luxury cars, this is the best vehicle! i hope only that this strange vehicle has, at least, the heating system...it could be very useful in Siberia (brrrr!). In the second, third and fourth pics above, the last version of the "Oda", called "Nika", with a better equipment (note the spoiler and the violet paint!).

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The "Oda" seems destined to be produced also during the next years. In the first pic above, an official drawing of some time ago, showing an hypotetic new sedan car (called "Oda-2"). In the second and third pics, instead, two drawings realized with the CAD in the 2002, showing the future station-wagon version. This car has a very modern look: it seems incredible, considering that many components (windows, doors, windscreen etc.) will be the sames of the old version, designed over 20 years ago! Indeed, i don't know why this brand needs a so very long time to project a new car...unfortunately, the list of the weapons produced by this brand is surely bigger than the list of cars and motorcycles...

...but this "weapon" (above) is better than a gun! 

Some pic taken from SOVAUTO WEBSITE ( http://sovavto.cjb.net ), FAQ-IZH 2126  (http://leonid-pr.chat.ru/), OLDTIMER GALLERY (http://www.autogallery.org.ru)