19 April 2012

End of the Lada 2107

Better known as the Lada Riva. After 40 years in production, the final Riva rolls of the production line.

THE car from the nation of Vodka and meerkats. Russian car manufacturer AutoVaz finally decided that it's time to pull the plug for the venerable Lada 2107 - better known as the Lada Riva in the UK.

AutoVaz's spokesman, Igor Burnkov said that: "demand for 'classical' models have fallen sharply. So it's time to say goodbye [to the Lada]."

The Riva started life as a Fiat 124. Lada made changes to simplify the car. The disc brakes were replaced with drum brakes. The twin cam engine was replaced with a more agricultural unit. Elsewhere, the bodyshell was made with thicker and more durable steel. That bode well in the Russian climate, as the old 124 shell would have quickly rotted away.

Being the the butt of many jokes for being crude and unreliable. For example: How do you do double the value of a Lada? Fill the petrol tank! What occupies the 16 pages of the Lada's manual? Bus and train timetables! Remember them?

Jokes aside, these Ladas were popular because they were simple, robust and very inexpensive cars to buy, own and run. You could get a brand new Riva for the price of a second hand Ford Escort. They were also simple from having basic mechanicals and cheap parts. Making it a quick and easy car to work on. Making it a pleasure for the DIY mechanic, and those who did some Bangernomics where it concerned maintenance and repair. 

In the past four decades in production, around 18 million Rivas were sold worldwide in that period. In the UK, the Riva's height of its popularity was in the 1980s. They appealed for buyers in need of a simple, no-frills family car on a shoe-string budget. At its peak in 1984, around 40,000 Ladas were imported and sold on British shores that year. 

Into the 1990s, sales of the Riva plummeted to around 4,000 in the UK. With the growth of rival Skoda from Volkswagen's takeover and investment. Meant that Lada was trailing behind, but also falling foul of tighter regulations. That contributed to its demise and pulling out of the UK in 1997.

Since pulling out of Blighty, the Lada Riva continued to be made and sold elsewhere around the world. Right until production ceased in April this year. The Riva may go down in history as 'one of the worst cars ever made'. But it's hard to believe that these Ladas have also gained a cult following.

Will you mourn the Riva's passing? Or will you be glad to see the back of it?

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