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Lada 1200, more than a Fiat 124

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There is nothing romantic about the creation of Lada. The Fiat 124 won the 1967 Car of the Year title. Meanwhile, the Soviets were looking for a family car that could be mass-produced locally in a yet-to-be-established city and then sold at a reasonable price, even in foreign markets. This car also had to be durable enough to withstand Soviet road conditions. And those Soviet conditions were… Well, picturesque.


Italians are flexible

Fortunately for Moscow, the Italians were communist enough to sell their cars to anyone with enough hard currency, but in this case shipping over the tools used just wasn't enough. And the currency was also a thing. That is why, as early as 1966, the Italians were instructed from behind the Iron Curtain to completely redesign the Fiat 124 sedan, then set up an assembly line, train the workers and give the people of Togliatti a product they can proudly wear. could be on.

On the banks of the Volga

The factory was set up as a partnership between Italy and the Soviet Union and was built on the banks of the Volga. In Tolyatti, named after the Italian communist Palmiro Togliatti, a new part of the city was built around the factory.

The VAZ-2101 was ready to conquer the world in 1970. The main differences compared to The Original, the Fiat 124, were the following…

Look for the differences

  • The Fiat 124 had an OHV engine with pushrods, while the Lada 2101 had a more advanced OHC design.
  • The Fiat has a horizontally mounted Solex carburetor, while the Lada came with a vertical Weber-style unit.
  • The Fiat had an alternator, the Lada has an alternator.
  • The Fiat 124 has a cable-operated clutch while the Lada has a hydraulic one.
  • The Fiat had disc brakes on all corners while the Lada had to make do with drums at the rear. However, the Fiat had a single circuit braking system, while the Lada was upgraded to a dual circuit.
  • The Lada's suspension has been raised, strengthened and simplified to equally absorb abuse on and off the road. The handling and road holding are therefore less good than that of the Fiat.
  • The Lada is made of thicker steel. Too bad that the 'Russians' left the unpainted bodies outside just a little too long. That plus the fact that recycled steel was used often led to serious rust formation within a short time.
  • The Fiat 124 has of course no crankcase protection plate. The Russians did install such a contraceptive.
  • The coolant temperature is displayed on the Lada's dash, but the Fiat will only let you know when it's already boiling.
  • These are the basic differences, but pretty much every other detail has changed for the Lada as well.

Evolution exists

Over the years, the model received more and more innovations and variants and eventually the car was further developed into the 2105 and related models.

After the fall of communism, the new capitalists withdrew Ladas from Europe en masse. They often returned home as deck cargo. They were often already stripped of the usable parts on board. What was left just went overboard.

All in all, there aren't many neat Ladas here anymore. But for Lada's (and Skoda's) a small group of enthusiasts is moving.

Ladas are still somewhat undervalued and pleasantly affordable. And with the standard tool kit you can handle just about anything up to and including a complete engine block disassembly on the go.

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34 Comments

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  1. 5 Lada's 1200 bought in 6 years at Dengerink In Zwolle all LPG. Crossed all of Europe with those things, never had 1 problem with it. My wife found the chairs wonderfully upright. And yes then those colors a white a kind of white, liver color, yellow ocher especially I liked the yellow ocher with black upholstery, black tires cool bakkie. And yes if the 1200 on LPG pack m bit now again for now Eur 10.000 for sale (then fl. 10.000 guilders) I would buy it like that.

  2. Still have the on-board tool set of a Lada from an acquaintance.
    Screwdrivers, various wrenches in all sizes and all kinds of other stuff
    A sling indeed
    Even tire levers, a tire pump (bicycle pump xxxl) and a manometer that holds the pressure until you press the "reset button".
    All this in a sturdy synthetic leather bag with straps-with-buckle.
    Nowadays there is only that eternal "reversing screwdriver" and a wheel wrench with a car.
    Not that you can do anything with “more”, but still. . ... . .

  3. After the trabbi 601 de luxe with parking heater, but bought a real car.
    A Lada 2207, what a super car that was. Went everywhere, we came (1989) regularly in the former east (Czech Republic)
    Made a lot of hilarious things with that, the police stop us to see if it was really the case that we came from the Netherlands. Shook his head and said Lada lada.
    The stove, in the winter in your T-shirt in the car. Stand cold uncertain hot was on it.
    Light under the hood, tool set (I still have it in the sidecar box from
    the ural.
    Finally got rid of it because the clutch pedal was very heavy (2 x broken inside 😞.
    The outward appearance (how a child draws a car), its simplicity, its clumsiness. What muscles do you get when you live in the city and have to park a lot in traffic jams.
    We still miss them.

  4. I don't agree with the rust story because the Lada had hardly any rust problems on load-bearing parts, less than the Fiat 124 anyway.

    And there were more differences. The Lada had a heavier battery, a possibility to crank (which can be a life-saving in the vast country), a much more reinforced hood (the Lada can have a deer or bear on it), a petrol and a handbrake/brake oil warning light, a clearly stronger heater and blower, a much heavier rear axle and rear suspension with upright shock absorbers, which means that the Lada also has a larger trunk space, the Lada also has lights in the trunk, the glove box and in the hood. The Lada had a very good tool kit (again, vital there), thicker bumper rosettes, slightly different hubcaps, different toggles on the vent windows and the most recognizable: different door handles.

    Oddly enough, the Lada had the same 38-litre tank capacity, which was rather scant in a country that spans half the Earth.

    And yes, I had one and no, there was nothing wrong with it. Not that it was a great driving experience, but he did what was asked of him, never caused any weird surprises and always got you home. In my village there was a painter with two LPG station wagons, both of whom had buffed somewhere between 300.000 and 400.000 kilometers and apparently had no problem with that. So qualitatively there was little to argue with and that also ensured that this became one of the most produced cars in history, with over 20 million copies, many of which are still on the road.

  5. for several years the proud owner of a Lada 1200 from 1972.
    Fantastic car! very reliable and very affordable.
    Every kilometer is a pleasure, no power steering or power brakes, yes it is really still working in the lada.

  6. In the early 80s, I went on an excursion through the north of the Netherlands with the HAVO. Also seen the site of the company Gremi autoimport. That was where all the Lada's stood. And indeed… the colors were often delivered in batches, which you could clearly see in the field. Less fun for the tour guide of our group was that during the tour we discovered that a burglary had taken place on the site the night before. With a few aiutos they had been joy-riding with all the damage that entails. And also a few cars that had their roofs crushed because they had jumped on them. Unfortunately.

  7. Wonderful cars. I always drove quite expensive cars and bought new at a young age until one day I decided that I also wanted a car that could take a beating. Bought a cast-off for 100 bucks. Lada 1200 was painted by brush but technically nothing wrong with it. I dared all maintenance myself because the loss could not be great given the purchase price. Everything could be repaired that is different with today's plastic cars. And everything was ready at the demolition. A dent didn't hurt either. Later bought a station wagon with load carriers and towbar for 150 guilders. Also in the meadow a wonderful tool at the time. What a wonderful workhorse that was. Tool kit included so you could do the 10000km turn on the way. Even cranking was possible. I like to fix things that were often needed so I had success every time I succeeded. The disadvantage was that I no longer heard music above 50 km/h.

  8. I have owned two Ladas myself, but I stopped because the local dealer also sold Hondas. in terms of service, Lada clearly came in second place, after every maintenance damage and poorly performed turns, after a few less pleasant conversations with the dealer stopped with Lada. Otherwise a great car.

  9. Bought a white Lada 1200 in the eighties, four years old, 50.000 km on the odometer and already checked twice. A perfect car, never a problem, no rust. After 10060 thousand kilometers the car came to an end (totally loose) due to an accident. Unfortunately. Otherwise we would have enjoyed driving it for many years to come. The Russian Mercedes.

  10. I now drive a lada 2021 bj 2101 in 1978 I have a 1600 engine in it and have built a 5 speed gearbox and put a belt driven compressor on it it is just a lot of fun to drive and many people ask about it when you stop somewhere

    • That gearbox was a thing, already 3000 rpm at 80 / h
      The car played with a howling engine to more than 150 / h
      I think it's great to drive with 5 speed

  11. In 1977 I bought my first Lada from the management of the company Poels van de pasties en other pasta from Weert, where I lived at the time. The Lada 1600 with dual headlights had run 35 thousand kilometers and was red in color. The car was richly equipped with, among other things, a tachometer. I drove it for more than 5 years and when I sold the Lada the car had run over 280 kilometers without even a single moment of breakdown on the road. The funny thing about the Lada was when we drove to Arnhem via Son en Breugel, the windows dropped a little bit because the road then consisted of concrete slabs. Later I drove a Lada 1200 station wagon where you could load a lot. I have had a lot of fun with the Lada's and recognize myself in the nice comments.

  12. When I worked at a Russian shipping agency in Rotterdam in the early 90s, I spoke to countless shippers who were looking for a cheap VAZ Zhiguli and they came from literally everywhere… plus, since they were not or barely allowed to send their new acquisition in port areas ( because they had already been exported for Customs) I was regularly asked to place them a little further away next to a crane with lifting gear. That's how I came into contact with countless other brands, old E32, E28, W126, W124, Audi C2, B1, B2 were also popular. Later in 2001 I drove a then fairly new 2107 in northern Russia (Arkhangelsk) and that car was just at home there on those sloping roads that also generated a strong wave movement because they were laid straight through the sod soil. Beautiful memories.

  13. I myself tinkered with a 1979 Lada 1600. Adjusting the valves was a thing. That engine was always ticking and idling was hard to get right. The cause was soon found. One of the inlet valves could not be reached with the feeler gauge between rocker arm and valve stem. So the garage should never have asked!
    Copying the size between rocker arm and camshaft of another inlet valve with correctly set valve clearance, that worked fine. Problem solved. Walk like a charm.
    The Lada graced the roads of the Netherlands for another three years until its next owner was illegally rammed at high speed by another car from the left after a right-of-way error in front. The Lada's engine was thrown out. But the rider didn't have a scratch. Look, that was that strong Lada again.

  14. I thought the Polish version of the Fiat 125 was more successful, but that Fiat was also much more car than the 124 as an original.

    • It depends on how you look at it. Technically, the Fiat 125 and therefore the 125p was just a Fiat 1300 / 1500 from 1961 and therefore older than the 124. It was also larger and therefore more user-friendly.

      Unfortunately, Fiat did not want to make the FSOs a competitor in-house and, for example, the Poles were not allowed to use the beautiful Italian 125 dashboard with round clocks. Instead, the 125p had the old 1500 dashboard. In tests, the finish of the Polski Fiat often left something to be desired: rough paintwork, large body seams and wiring dangling under the dashboard.

      The 125p / Fiat 1500 still served as the basis for the 1978 FSO Polonez, which looked very modern, inside and out, but was still the same Fiat 1500 under the skin, with rigid rear axle and leaf springs. The Ladas were more modern and actually made better because of the new factory.

      • And not just quality checks… we had versions for sale that fell through their feathers from the perks that weren't even available in Russia!

        They got pretty pissed off about that. In Russia a car was expensive and there was a waiting list and the same cars were sold below cost here and you could drive them out of the showroom in no time. And the parts supply was also good, unlike in the home country.

        The reason, of course, was that the USSR was in constant need of hard currency, otherwise the country could not import anything. Without Ladas there would be no bananas and pineapples, but also the necessary machinery, ores and chemicals needed to keep the country running. And that in turn was due to the Bretton Woods Conference, in which it was agreed after the war between the Western powers that the Soviet Union and its satellite states should be excluded from international exchange trade: with Rubles, Ostmarken, Leva, Kronen or Zloty nothing to sell us.

  15. Speaking of Lada colors, in the 70's and maybe 80's you couldn't pick a color.
    First a ship of bright green Ladas arrived, then a ship of baby blue, then white or cherry red. You just got a color. There were also many Lada's on the scrapyard that were barely 2 years old, simply because the color was not to our liking. But that didn't matter, because they were also ridiculously cheap. Renewing worn tires was often too much of an investment for many. Better order a new one. Those were wonderful times.

  16. And they are massively sold outside Russia, and in the poorer countries you still regularly encounter them. Cuba, former Soviet republics, Egypt and Ethiopia as a taxi. Often kept afloat with artifices and tie wraps. I bought 1 in 2013 as a hobby oldtimer, imported from Hungary. A 1200 station in canary yellow in neat condition. Nice affordable oldtimer, and every time I drive it it's like I'm on holiday in one of the above countries again. Fun fact: 1st owner ordered a green one in 1 and only got this yellow one in 1977.

  17. My first car in 1982 was a Lada 2103 (or Lada 1500S)
    It was a 6 year old used car for 200 euros. After I had closed the rust holes of about 10 cm with polyester, I have had a lot of fun with this car for 2 years and 50.000 km. Also in the winter of 1985-86 it was -21 C. New cars did not start, but the old Lada always started immediately. The successor was a Mitsubishi Galant 2.3 turbo diesel. A larger car long outside, but much smaller inside than the Lada. and technically worn out very quickly (after 100.000 km)
    In 1982 the Lada 1200 (and the version with square lamps) was the best-selling car in Belgium. nowadays rarer than Ferrari.
    I've owned many types of cars, but the good straightforward memory of Lada remains.

    • and my fond memories of Lada have the side effect that I now occasionally ogle at a UAZ van, slightly different, but built with the same philosophy.

    • My then Lada 1600GL was in the winter of '86 with a temperature of minus 20 in the morning just cooling at 06.00 !!

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