Growing up, I had a friend who lived in Canada. This was a luxury, because it fostered exposure to all manner of things. Fries and gravy, for one, but also thousand-mile road trips to Montreal, Toronto, and rural Ontario—including a nerve-wracking trek from North Carolina in his ratty, short-wheelbase Range Rover Classic with an oil pressure lamp that flickered at highway speeds.
Nestled in these periodic trips was always Lada viewing. I remember one example that we found while browsing newspaper classifieds in a Tim Hortons, archetypically situated next to Canadian Tire in Montreal...
Read the full article on Hagerty.com:
Hilarious. And kudos on realizing a dream.
You're going to be able to write a book about this period of your life I am thinking. Keep us posted on the Skoda project.
Great finds Matthew, you definitely hit the jackpot. You have also put smiles on my face in my coffee time with your writing. Good luck with your new situation, it is a big move, language barriers will break down timely though...
Probably drove most of the cars in that yard, my uncles had 2110 and favorit, also learned how to drive in a face-lifted '86 model 120L. They got the job done for what they worth in our half farm, half city, eastern european lives...
Can't wait for more stories!
Thanks! I love to hear that feedback! I'll keep doing dumb stuff and putting pen to paper. Where did you grow up with such access to cars like this?!
Great story! I vaguely recall seeing Lada dealers on my infrequent trips to Canada, but ... my real introduction to these little Soviet crapmobiles was my trip to Cuba 4 years ago and riding in them in "independent" unlicensed taxis. One late night in Havana 4 of us piled into an ancient example that had seats inside ... that was it! NO headliner, door panels, arm rests, floor covering or functioning dash. It coughed and wheezed and creaked and growned maybe 3 miles back to our tourist hotel. We were laughing so hard that I nearly ..... had I been sober I probably would never got into the thing! 😉
Having grown up in Germany, I was a mechanic-apprentice at an Opel dealership who sold Lada new. They had 2 models at the time - a 4 door sedan, essentially a copy of the Fiat 124, sans the Fiat engine. And the Niva. Initially laughing stock for many, as the vehicles arrived pre-rusted from the factory - similar to Alfa Romeo back then, and driving resembled more the feeling of a lawn-tractor, Lada's turned out to be cheap solid transportation. Most of them never saw a repair shop again after sold new, because if they broke, owners were able to fix them at home. The Niva was a rugged, affordable and pretty reliable 4wd SUV before that term even existed. We used a Niva to haul parts or people for the shop when all else failed during snow or flooding. It also made a great snowplow, including a salt-spreader in the back. Our shop Niva was also used to recover the occasional Opel Manta from a ditch after youthful driving mistakes... Ask me how I know... Ich wünsche einen schönen Tag
Danke fuer ihre Nachricht! The rust issues still persist with relatively new models. I have seen several for sale less than 10 years old with really bad structural rust. Otherwise they are totally bulletproof and - fortunately or not - due to rust, mechanical parts are very cheap and easy to find. Now you've got me thinking about doing youthful things in a Manta!
I have had the privilege of enjoying two Lada experiences. The first growing up, my dad had a Lada sedan for his daily driver to and from work. Occasionally my mom would have to drive the car, but even with experience driving a manual transmission, she was never able to put the car into reverse. This ultimately required my brother and I to constantly push the little Lada back out of parking stalls so we could turn around to go. My second experience was with a coworker who owned a Lada Niva. One afternoon, I was called upon to help him fix the transfer case which was locked up and not shifting into four-wheel drive. On realizing the removal of the transfer case was going to be a bigger project than the afternoon we had scheduled, we resorted to hitting the transfer case with a big hammer. Miraculously, the big hammer actually worked and my coworker drove that Niva for another four years and ultimately sold it without any further transfer case issues.
That's exactly the kind of percussive maintenance the Lada was designed to endure! I had a similar issue with the differential lock. It took a massive shock to the driveline to make it work again. Were your experiences in Canada?
I had a 1996 Niva in Toronto Canada. Loved it. As hard as I tried I could never get that little truck stuck. Here is a VHS Lada demo tape I digitized a few years ago:
The Lada sign is still on the building that was their Canadian headquarters even though they pulled out of Canada 25 years ago. See the street view here:
Ah, wonderful memories for me. I had three Ladas, all purchased brand new. The first one was when I was living in Montreal in 1981. If I recall correctly, the price was just over $5,000, definitely the cheapest car, price-wise. You used to see Ladas all over Montreal at the time because they were very popular as taxi cabs. The next one was a Lada Niva purchased in Calgary which had been prominently displayed in the showroom. The third was again purchased in Montreal. By now, they had updated the design of the car to make it look like the more typical sedan style but this last one was disappointing because the quality was much poorer. The Ladas used to come with their own tool kit and I have even retained one of these. I also have a Lada branded key chain which the company had sent me, I believe as some promotion at the time. I may just sell that on eBay since I no longer have any Ladas.
While in Bulgaria for 10 days back in the summer of 2008, I recall seeing these cars for the first time and, then almost every day. I was completely taken with their simplicity and utilitarian appearance! I have been an American Muscle Car lover and collector for over 40 years, but these little deals stole my heart that summer. The ones I recall were more of a “box” than the feature car here, probably because they were pre-2009. Upon my return to the USA, I tried in vain to find one for over 6 months and then gave up. Congrats on a great purchase; enjoy for me!
Neat thread, and it hits home as I drove the first Niva that came to Canada. My brother Wayne (now deceased) was a service manager for LADA head office (Ajax, Ontario) and showed up at my house early one Saturday morning and parked the Niva on a three foot high snow-pile in front of my house! It was a Kelly green colour, and we hopped into it to try it out. Found a snow covered hill and attacked it to try and get it stuck. Couldn't do it. It had little top speed but would climb anything. I eventually was hired at LADA, initially as Parts Manager for PUMA, a fibreglass sports car from Brazil, based on a VW beetle platform, but then was the warehouse foreman for LADA. The LADA's were imported by Peter Dennis, of the Dennis bus and firetruck fame. Interesting time at this employ, before I moved on to Hyundai when they came to Canada in 1983-84 with the Pony. Thanks for the memories!
My wife, daughter, and I moved to Russia after my retirement 5 years ago (Ancestors, and wife born in Moscow). Like a kid in a candy store, I started buying one-owner "Soviet" vehicles; a Niva, a classic 2106, a Moskvitch 412, a ZAZ 968 and a Volga 10. Growing up in the USA and owning many US, Asian, European, and Scandinavian cars, the Soviet vehicles are like driving VW's and Saabs in 1960's New England. We have a large farm and forest in Russia and a large barn to park these, so each of these cars has a purpose and special use, I wrench them myself, and the parts to repair them are all made in Russia (except the ZAZ) and are dirt cheap! Every so often my wife and daughter get tired of letting me drive them in the Soviet vehicles and we take the Lexus RX out, and always on long trips.
The joy's of owning/driving a off-beat Euro:
are held close to Heart.
Issues were common, repairs [how do I fix this with-out replacement parts?]
You learned to Love it, since it kept on running, always.
My favorite car is 'in this realm'