Thursday, 6 June 2013

Lada Samara 1987 - 1997

They didn't look much better than this even when new.
The Lada brand was something of an odd-ball in the UK.  How Russian cars ever made it into the West during the Cold War was something of a mystery.  For whatever reason, they did let them in and found more than a few undemanding buyers with thick skins and thin wallets.  The Lada Riva was well known, but if that was just too utilitarian to the point of being antagonistic to ones outer sensibilities, then the Samara offered a package that could just about pass as modern at a price point where many were tempted to part with their cash.

A friend of mine was provided with one of these as student transport by his mother.  We could never work out whether it was intended as a gift or a form of passive-aggressive punishment.  Street cred - it had none.  Words motoring journalists normally use to rate a car like performance, ride and handling all seemed rather abstract concepts when you were in it.  But, to give the car its due, it was damn near indestructible.  Crashes it seemed to enjoy; mechanical failures were unknown.  In the pre-immobilser era where Escorts and Astras were stolen daily, theft wasn't a concern for the Lada owner at all.  In all, there was something in this car that was actually desirable to those in the know, contrary to every pre-conception you might hold, no matter how logically valid it might be.  Of course, the Koreans soon arrived with their raft of Japanese copies and swept up the budget market in no time at all.  That and stricter emissions laws saw the end of Lada in the UK altogether, withdrawing in 1997.

Back in 1994 when these were still being imported to the UK, there were nearly 50,000 on the road.  Today you'll be very lucky to see one of the mere 36 active survivors still out there.  Could you find room in your garage for one?  Just to completely fox the grandchildren when they ask you what it is in 30 years time, of course.

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