Everyone involved in rallying in the USSR pronounced the word VFTS (which stood for the Vilnius Transportation Vehicle Factory – “Вильнюсская фабрика транспортных средств”) with a certain emotional attachment. Many dreamed of a VAZ-2105 VFTS, but the supercars of the Vilnius factory, except for a few rare cases, ended up only in the hands of the country’s rally team members. Some of the cars were even driven to the foreign races by VAZ factory drivers.
The heyday of VFTS was in the early 80’s. The factory, which took up an area of 1,500 square meters, had an experimental department, a construction bureau, and laboratories for engine testing and electronics. In a year, the collective, comprised of 50 employees, would create up to 200 race cars in varying stages of race prep. First, they built VAZ-21011 for Group A racing, with engine displacement of 1600cc.
With the introduction of Group B, a new model for was built for Group B specs. The VAZ-2105 VFTS became one of the more successful projects for the Vilnius factory. Driving it, the USSR rally team placed in the top three of the Socialist Nation Friendship Cup several times, including several outright wins.
The abilities of the VFTS were highly valued by foreign drivers as well – the cars sold well in Sweden, Norway, Germany and even Panama and Colombia. More often than not, the drivers of these cars were local VAZ importers. Many, however, bought the cars as rally practice vehicles as, among Group B cars with Group B levels of spec, the Soviet car, at $20,000 in those days, was one of the more affordable ones. In the museum of the VFTS boss and driver Stasis Brundza, there is a Porsche 911 which a Bulgarian rally team traded to VFTS for two VAZ-2105 VFTS.
Group B rules allowed changes to the car’s track and, thus, the racing 2105 was noticeably wider than the standard version. In addition, lots of fiberglass, aluminum and titanium was used in the car’s construction. Titanium was, for example, used in the rods, valve spring retainers and roll cage.
The horsepower of the built 1600cc engine, with two Weber carbs, reached 160hp. In addition, there was a special VFTS 5-speed rally gear box. The suspension design and rates were changed and massive brakes were installed on all four wheels.
An all-wheel-drive version was planned but VTFS ran out of time and the FIA outlawed Group B in 1989. A few years later, the USSR rally team was disbanded and VFTS became a private enterprise called EVA (Experimental Vilnius Automotive Plant – “Экспериментальный Вильнюсский Автозавод”). For a couple of more years, EVA built cars based on the 2108, but in independent Lithuania, no one really cared. Slowly, the racing factory was turned into a dealership holding group, servicing and selling imported cars.
VFTS/ВФТС. The abbreviaton is thrown around many forums in the automotive Internet world. Many have heard about it, some read about it on the Russian forum Картюнинг and a smaller group have actually seen pictures of the cars on Eastern European sites. This car, more than many others, is surrounded by mystique, guesses and myths. Some believe the chassis would never handle 160hp. Others spread rumors about rotary engines, etc.
The truth is much simpler. The car existed. The legendary Soviet rally driver Stasis Brundza founded the beginnings of VFTS on the terrirory of the Vilnius Auto Repair Factor in the 1970s. This later became the Vilnius Transportation Vehicle Factory – “Вильнюсская фабрика транспортных средств, where he and others began building competition cars.
Until 1981, they built a car that was listed in the foreign FIA rules as the Lada 1600, which was actually a 21011 chassis with the engine and transmission out of a Lada 2106. This was the car that would serve as the basis and training ground for the future Lada VFTS, which was homologated by the FIA for Group B in 1982 as a specially constructed vehicle.
Of course, with the wide parameters of Group B, which gave rise to such cars as the Lancia 037, the Lada wasn’t near the top of the field but that wasn’t the car’s goal. Instead, it proved to be a great training vehicle and held its own on the Socialist rallying trails, edging out the Skoda 130LRs and the FSO Polonez 2000C. Besides, Avtoexport (the USSR state-owned vehicle exporting arm) made the desireable car available for export. The Czechoslovakian team ended up building nearly identical cars, although listed in the FIA guidebook as the LADA MTX.