Featured: A Beautiful Classic Car Proudly Made and Owned in the USSR

A Beautiful Classic Car Proudly Made and Owned in the USSR

By Andrey Smazhilo
March 3, 2014
20 comments

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…

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Erzen Nasufi
Erzen Nasufi
4 years ago

Is the owner by chance the new F1 driver Sergey Sirotkin? 😛

All jokes aside, i grew up in an ex-Yugoslavian country and it fills my heart with joy to see a Lada so well maintained and appreciated here

Andrey Smazhilo
Andrey Smazhilo
4 years ago
Reply to  Erzen Nasufi

No, it’s not him unfortunately 🙂
These cars are a really cheap and simple way into classic car world.
I’ve been thinking about buying myself one but love for BMWs still wins :))

AlphaPhotek
AlphaPhotek
8 years ago

This was my first car I drove when I was just 6 years old!

Craig Wessman
Craig Wessman
8 years ago

Used to see older square Ladas in Brazil occasionally but far more often than seeing a Fiat 124 here in the US. Timeless design and a cheap way to stand out from modern cars (but then I am a big fan of vintage small 3-boxen).

Jack Chauvel
Jack Chauvel
8 years ago

Very cool. love to see cars of all types being enjoyed.

Steijn Uijttewaal
Steijn Uijttewaal
8 years ago

you have to be kidding. Loving the Fiat 124 and or a Lada?

Due to cheep poor quality Russian steel and strikes at the Fiat Plants it has poor build quality. It is underpowered. This car is the worst design that ever happened to be showing up on the roads.

Russia needed foreign currency badly, therefore under its Lada badge it was imported in to communist free Europe.
There Lada’s terrorized the left lane of Europe’s high speed highways. 90-100km/h where everybody else drove 140km/h,…. of course without police checking.
Imagine yourself in your dad’s Mercedes 300E driving on the left lane with a comfortable speed. Braking heavily for these old polluting disasters.

These cars should never have been build……

Yoav Gilad
Yoav Gilad
8 years ago

Unfortunately, not everyone was fortunate enough to drive around in their dad’s Benz. This is a sharp looking car and the fact that you have bad memories of Ladas doesn’t mean others can’t have positive memories.

Christopher Gay
Christopher Gay
8 years ago
Reply to  Yoav Gilad

This car immediately triggers memories of the little old red Lotus Cortina that my father would shuttle me to and fro’ Laguna Seca when I was a youngster. Somehow, I don’t think I would remember the journey to the races with the same fondness had we been flying high in a Merc. The ride there and back was just as memorable as the races themselves. Sights, sounds, smells, apexes through the long and winding road… the imagination of a young petrolhead in full bloom, with the buzz of a tired Cosworth lulling me in and out of sleep on the long drive home.

I guess context is everything. Just sayin’.

124spiderman
124spiderman
8 years ago

Nothing wrong with the Fiat 124. It won 1966 Car of the Year.

The Saint
The Saint
8 years ago
Reply to  124spiderman

The Fiat 124 won the 1967 European Car of the Year. The station wagon variant, as well as the 124 Sport Spider and the 124 Coupé variants debuted at the 1967 Turin Motor show.
The 124 featured a spacious interior, advanced coil spring rear suspension, disc brakes on all wheels and lightweight construction.
Power came from a 1.2 L (1,197 cc) Fiat OHV inline-four engine designed by Aurelio Lampredi (Ex Ferrari).
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Fiat sought to extend its worldwide reach by entering into various collaborative agreements with smaller manufacturers (mostly in developing nations) by licensing the 124 design following its discontinuation in mainstream Western European markets, including the widely known variant manufactured by VAZ in the former Soviet Union, manufacturer of the Lada.

Eddie Relvas
Eddie Relvas
7 years ago

You definitely show little understanding of what these cars are. If you take the time to look beyond the old wives’ tales, you’ll find a car that was way ahead of its time, despite being disguised under an unassuming exterior design. Where else did you have a mid-range saloon with coil springs and disc brakes on all four corners? And underpowered though it might feel now, with 60 hp in a 1200 cc engine it was at the top of its class at the time. See, you’re not making sense.

And even though they might have ended up unloved and underperforming later in life, they were indeed pretty damn fast when new. And if you wanted even more performance, the Special with its 1400 cc engine was a pretty competent fast road cruiser, while the Special T with its twin-cam engine (and 5-speed box on the 1600) was the terror of much bigger cars on the road.

Sounds to me like you need to get your facts straight…

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7 years ago

The car is ok. If you have hands you can drive it and keep the fine condition for many years, even in Russia with it’s hardcore climate. If you do not like the car — your problem. Some people own TATAs and MAHINDRAs so what?

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7 years ago

By the way, you can drive 140 per hour on that car quite fine.

Musa Suleymanov
Musa Suleymanov
8 years ago

Congrats on your first article here. Good job!

Eddie Relvas
Eddie Relvas
8 years ago

Gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous! (except for the extreme height reduction…)

I love the Fiat 124, and make no excuses about it. It was a wonderful saloon, way ahead of its time, and the styling is so neat. I’m currently reviving a (now seriously rare) 124 Familiare, the station-wagon version, and it’s one of the cars I got most excited about in recent times. I love the lines, the red interior trim, the big thin wheel with chrome horn ring… and it’s so roomy! It feels incredibly spacious inside, and yet it’s the same length as a modern hatchback.

The handling is also quite good fun, but it could use a bit more power, so it will soon gain a twin-cam and a taller diff…

Stephan P
Stephan P
8 years ago

Nice car! I love the simplicity of the 124 and therefore this.
Pristine interior!

Johnny Breinholt
Johnny Breinholt
8 years ago

Sergey, your LADA is utterly cool 🙂

Dustin Rittle
Dustin Rittle
8 years ago

I always love hearing and seeing stories like this. It just shows the car passion is a global hobby for all of us to enjoy. I think sometimes we get spoiled with the European or American brands its nice to see something a bit different and obscure. I believe everyone could use a car like this sometime in their life as the owner said it gave him invaluable experience to fix and maintain his car. Thanks for showing off a great little machine.