A Beautiful Classic Car Proudly Made and Owned in the USSR
Photography by Valerie Melnikova
A love for classic cars isn’t limited to North America or Europe. This VAZ-2101, known to those outside ex-USSR countries as the Lada 1200, is owned by Sergey, who would definitely describe himself as a proud, and active, car enthusiast. At just twenty-two years old, he has already owned over ten cars and isn’t remotely done.
Sergey bought his first car when he was thirteen (!). It was an old Zaporozhets, a small rear-engine, rear-wheel-drive 2-door subcompact. It was quite cheap, but provided invaluable experience as Sergey learned how to fix and maintain everything himself. Hence, when he bought this Lada, he was ready to get busy and restore it as perfectly as he could. He found it on a street in a bedroom community and later discovered that the owner was a proverbial little old lady. She had inherited it from her long deceased husband and was willing to sell the Lada as she had no use for it.
Right now in Russia it’s a fairly common situation to find elderly people selling their cars that they’ve owned for quite a long time. It is usually a very good deal too, since one can buy a vintage car in great condition for approximately $1,000–$1,500. The market value is frequently several times higher. For example, Sergey once received an offer that was six or seven times higher than the amount that he had paid for the Lada himself. However, he did not accept it and he still enjoys this little “carrot-colored pensioner.”
One thing that might seem strange for classic car owners is the height of the car. Inspired by lowriders, mostly Impalas, many young Russians lower their cars without taking into account the rarity or historical value of their cars. Wisdom comes with age, and this Lada is no exception. Sergey has decided to raise the height back up this year and make the car completely stock.
Something else that might grab your attention, besides the height, is the overall impression of the Lada’s Italian roots since the VAZ-2101 is a licensed copy of Fiat 124. The car might not be as comfy as modern cars but its red leatherette interior, thin steering wheel and a good amount of chrome make it look classy. Sergey doesn’t drive it daily, he has an Audi 80 for that, so the Lada stays in the garage, waiting for a sunny summer day when its shine becomes intolerable to watch and your eyes might hurt from such brightness. That is what you buy a vintage car for: to make everyone watch you pass ‘em by and leave ‘em standing there, envious, for not having one…