In 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 4x4 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.