What car company sounds like a sewing machine from the 1960’s? With that clue, you would have guessed Singer, but that wasn’t it. It was produced in Russia and sold in a variety of places including Cuba and Canada. In fact, “they became very popular in the eighties and by the end of this decade they represented more than 30% of the cars used in the country.” The only car I could think of was the Trabant and the YUGO. But neither was correct. With no idea whatsoever, I humbly asked my little sister. According to Katrina, Mystery Car 94 is a Lada (probably a model 1600).
“Lada is the trademark of AvtoVAZ, a Russian car manufacturer in Tolyatti, Samara Oblast. All AvtoVAZ vehicles sold currently are of the Lada brand but this has not always been so. Ladas were AvtoVAZ’s export vehicles, the same models being sold under the Zhiguli brand on the domestic Soviet market since 1970. The brandname Lada was borrowed from a famous Czech manufacturer of sewing machines in the 1960s. They became extremely popular during later decades in Russia and Eastern Europe, particularly the former Soviet bloc countries where they have become a symbol of city life.”
In 1978, the Lada 1600 Sedan came with a 78 hp 1.6 L inline four cylinder which was good for 0-60 in 13.1 seconds. Not a real zippy car, but one that gained a following in the 1980’s. And believe it or not, there was even a rally version called the 1600R or RS. There’s nothing really special about the car that I can see. But to some people, the LADA is/was a fun little car to drive.
And this brings up an interesting question: Why do people like cars like the Lada 1600, the YUGO, or the Pinto? I think that a lot of it is just what happens to be available and what you you can afford. In certain countries, there aren’t many cars to choose from. And when that’s the case, you take what you can get. Or if your budget doesn’t allow for a Mercedes-Benz, you drive something inexpensive. The Lada may never make your Top 10 dream car list, but to some people it was the car they grew up driving and they wouldn’t mind having another one. And that’s okay.