The Lada Story

n 1966 an agreement between Fiat and the Soviet Government was signed, so that a new car factory could be built some 600 miles South East of Moscow on the grassy plain beside the River Volga. This site is now the world’s third largest motor manufacturing complex, with 90 miles of assembly lines and a shop floor area of 22 million square feet. The factory was built in less than four years, by over 45,000 workers, at an estimated cost of some GBP820 million. The site included its own hotels, test track, and research and development department.

The old town close to the site of the factory was renamed Togliatti in honour of the then chairman of the Italian Communist Party. He had played a key role in negotiations which led to the agreement. A new city was built there to house the 650,000 people who would be working in, and around, and because of, the plant.

The Lada 1200 saloon was first seen in Britain at the 1973 Motor Show and, to quote the Haynes Manual ’caused quite a few raised eyebrows, not because of any startling design innovations, but because of the extremely low price.’

The seventies also saw the Lada 1300 and 1600 and the 4×4 Niva. The eighties brought the Lada Riva saloon and estate and the Samara front wheel drive system-Porsche engined hatch. The nineties, further Samara variations, Niva and its up-market Cossack version and the introduction of Samara and Niva Hussar/Cossack with multi and single point fuel injection respectively.

The rest is history.

For the DIY motorist, they are a pure pleasure to work on and with TLC will last far longer than Western kit of twice the same price.

It is unlikely that Eastern Bloc machinery will ever be loved or cherished by the typical classic car buff but perhaps this is a positive advantage, with prices starting from GBP100 for a rear-engined Skoda to GBP400 for a Trabant. The top end of the market does, obviously, exist with the best Tatras fetching over GBP25,000. What is the ultimate in Eastern Bloc wheels? This must be the MAZ 543 Scud missile launcher with twin petrol V8 engines and central tyre inflation.

But these pages are about the Lada in the UK, the Club, its members and activities with links to other Lada enthusiasts around the world.

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