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Hagerty Employee

Collectors are beginning to take note of Russian cars

The average American car enthusiast has historically known little to nothing about Soviet cars. That appears to be changing. As American pop culture has begun taking a more nuanced look at Soviet culture over the past decade with hit shows like The Americans, car enthusiasts-particularly younger ones-are starting to appreciate some of the metal produced behind the Iron Curtain.

I love the title. Cars for Comrades. Well done.

There is always a few who love the odd ball cars. 

The Russian cars can be a challenge. Not easy to find parts for them and they often have a great need for the parts. 

Lada cars were like a poor quality Fiat at best. 


The ruskies literally made cars out of cardboard. I am not joking. The trabbi I think is the name.
Intermediate Driver

I bought a Lada Niva 4 wheel drive new in Canada in the late 70's. The body was by Fiat but the mechanicals was by the Soviets. The driveline was rough, high revving, and full of bugs but would go anywhere. Mud, deep snow couldn't stop it but highway speeds were brutal. Wasn't long before problems started showing up and parts were incredibly expensive. Managed to dump it before it blew up. Whew!

Does anyone else remember Kruschev banging his shoe on the table shouting "We will bury you!"?
Boris Badenov says "Russian cars good for Americans. Run on vodka and can be fixed with hammer and duct tape." Seriously speaking, as basic as these vehicles are, substitute parts could very easily be installed to keep them running. You never know, a ZIL could someday bring crazy money at B-J or Mecum. Originality wouldn't play that much of a role, I think. Of course, someone will stuff an LS in one...
Intermediate Driver

A good read. I liked this article a Lada.

The whole lot of them are unimpressive when you live in America and can buy a better looking superior performing equivalent with more readily available parts. I grew up during the cold war and knew an older customer some years later while working at a gas station when I brought those old fears up in conversation. He told me Russia would never go to war with us because they were a third rate nation. He was a International Harvester distributer and said Russia was his biggest client because they could not even build a decent tractor, besides he said they would starve in the winter without all the wheat and produce we sell them to carry them over. The cars in this article are not old classics they are just beaters.
Intermediate Driver

1st satellite, 1st man in space, 1st manmade craft to land on the moon, didn't make their own toilet paper until 1976. The US fought a 20 year war that benefitted who, but healthcare is too expensive. Priorities. If you can afford something unique, why not? 

Intermediate Driver

I like the Packard knock off 4 door convertible.

In "Never Leave Well Enough Alone," Raymond Loewy had a cartoon of a typical Russian car, called a "Drakcap."
New Driver

Russian cars are junk. Pretty much like most everything else made in Russia. When I was stationed in Panama during the late 80's we'd see Ladas on the road, usually on the side of the road broken down.
Intermediate Driver

Я хочу трабант.
New Driver

I first encountered Ladas in 1986, while visiting my wife’s family in Denmark.

I’ll never forget her cousin’s comment. He said, “If you buy a Lada, you have a car for life.
(Because no will buy it from you)”.

I have no first-hand experience with the car, but I thought the joke was funny, regardless.

One of the gutsier tourists I have ever seen was in the late 70's. I was heading south on I-75 in northern Kentucky and I passed a Lada with Ontario plates. Ladas were sold in Canada and here was a brave snowbird making the trek to Florida for the winter. Not at all uncommon. But going in a Lada? Can you imagine having a breakdown in Southern Georgia and eliciting a "Doo Whuut?"

According to my Russian history textbook from long ago, cars were never very important in the Soviet Union because they realized early on that given the enormous size of the country it would be much cheaper to emphasis air travel than build long distance roads. Back in the Soviet days air travel was heavily subsidized and the cost was comparable to traveling by bus in the US.

Believe me, a bus is much safer than a flight that doesn't leave Russia and is not subjected to international safety standards. I flew from Moscow to Ulan Ude in Eastern Siberia and back again on a Tupilov 154, what a POS!!. The flight home was delayed as the pilot had no money for gas, 15 hours later he hands a wad of Rubles through the cockpit window to the guy with the fuel tanker truck. On the flight home we never leveled out and the pilot kept coming to the back of the aircraft to listen to the engines that were making a very strange noise, I made it back to Moscow though had the crap scared out of me. The 154 is no small plane, about the same seating capacity as a 757. And it was filthy, not just the bathrooms but the entire airplane inside and out.


I'm sure finding parts for these junkers must be a lot of fun. Given the plentiful supply of vehicles of all types I see at auctions, why would you want such vehicles to begin with. If you want something "Different" you can get a DeLorean - where most of the parts are still available.
Intermediate Driver

...when the Iron Curtain came down, I had a friend who set-up an export company - their primary export products were all the Bar's Leaks line - they made a lot of money selling all this stop-leak sludge to the former Soviet Union...a testimony to their wonderful cars, no doubt! When it comes to Russian cars, I say "NYET!"

There's no "dispute" or "controversy" about the ZIS/ZIL. No Packard or other US sheet metal, trim or mechanical parts. They were copies.
Intermediate Driver

When these cars are brought up, I can’t help but think of the Top Gear episode when they examined “Communist cars”, 99.5% of them were absolutely awful.
Intermediate Driver

I had a Russian girlfriend. High maintenance. Very high maintenance. And worth it. But the cars? Not worth it. Nope.
Pit Crew

I toured the Soviet Union and the satellite nations in the summer of 1969 and wrote a paper for my college humanities elective entitled "Transportation in the Soviet Union Today." As a 22 year old car nut travelling through those nations I found their transportation means fascinating. There were many examples of smaller cars (The Moskvitch and Zaporozhets) that were not mentioned but were more affordable for Soviet citizens. The main issue for buyers of cars at that time was there was always a long waiting list and when the car came in it had to be paid for in its entirety - no installment plan. Whe the Russians I met found out I had my own car (a Volvo 544) and a Honda motorcycle back in the U.S. they thought I was a very wealthy man. In fact, I only met one person under 30 who owned their own car. I rode in many Volga taxis and thought I was in a '53 Ford...

I admit I don't get the want for a Russian car at all but someone has to love them I guess.
Pit Crew

There is a reason the Lada is named, Lada . You need a Lada money to keep them running.

The Garage 54 YouTube channel will amaze you with what can be done to and with Ladas.
Intermediate Driver

When Ladas started showing up in bg numbers here in Canada in the early 80's, many people, especially young folks with little money, could get a new one for under five grand.
A couple of years later, most of them would have a prominent place a the scrap yard. I don't think very many made it to the 90's. They were crap. Period.
Russian vodka, sure. Russian cars? Don't make me laugh.

Let's cut to the chase - these are the only three things the ruskies have worth impoting:
1 - vodka
2 - caviar (I don't like it, but they are the best)
3 - mail order brides

Everything else is like communism - failed

What no Yugo ?
Advanced Driver

Interesting to see the design differences between American and other countries cars. As America once was Free Spirt so were the models and designs of the cars. In more suppressed countries the design stays less dynamic. Still like the 50's American the best.
Advanced Driver

What a treat. Great article on a fascinating slice of the hobby.
I have two models of the Gaz 21, the first in the same colors as the photograph and a blue '70.
There is also a "Pobeda" model in the collection and of course a Trabant.
Love these. They're fascinating.
At car shows I will blast past all the exoticars, supercars, tri fives, supercharged and the customized to see cars like this.
Intermediate Driver

Ladas, so close but yet so far. When visiting family on Vancouver Island in Canada I remember seeing a dealer with a small utility vehicle, no sport at that time on his lot. I don't know how successful that venture was but if the Lada was cheap and dependable it should have been a hit. I am curious how many were sold in Canada.