1978 Lada 2103
Possibly the most durable car ever made
Not a lot considering the mileage - now into its third time round the clock. Changed the clutch pressure plate once, the fuel pump twice (an easy job and the last one lasted 17 years), all the brakes and brake seals, changed one of the valves after we went to lead free petrol (and never got the timing adjusted), the thermostat, one or two things on the carbie and the radiator electric fan and sensor. Other than that, the only thing that has ever actually broken on the car was the boot catch and I bought a new one for $10.
In all that time, the amazing thing is I have never had to add oil to the diff and only recently topped up the gearbox with a cupful. That was the first time it has taken oil in 20 years of running!
Very hard to fault. I hear jokes about Ladas, but they must be from people who have never owned one or know nothing about them as this car will still be going when all other cars have collapsed. The lada likes the open road and does 90 mph (its not supposed to according to the handbook, but there you go...) Happily cruises at 80-85 on long trips. The car got flooded in a carpark after a big storm and the water went right through the cabin. All other cars in the park had to be towed out - Lexus, BMWs, Nissan Laurels - none of them could go under their own steam, but the Lada started first turn of the key and I drove out after bailing the water out of the passenger cabin. Rust has to be kept at bay, esp in the sills and front guards, but if it's not too bad the metal is so thick you can just sand it down and paint over it. The turning circle is very wide for a small car, so you soon learn to put it on full lock for doing 360 turns.
The gearing (4 sp) is excellent and the twin barrel carb and twin chain drive OHC motor performs more like an 1800 than a 1500, esp on long hills where it leaves others in its wake. It also rides really well over rough roads even full of passenegers.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 8th March, 2007
20th Feb 2012, 00:47
I live in Canada, and I owned a 79 Lada 1500, which I bought new. I had it for about 5 years, and sold it with 140 000 Km (85 000 miles) on it. Most people have given it very high marks on this review site, but I had some misgivings about the car.
Firstly, mechanically it seemed quite sound. The engine, drive train (transmission etc), and suspension looked quite solid. I had to do a fair amount of work on the car, and was surprised and disappointed by this.
When the car was new, the wheel caps kept flying off on the highway. I must have gone through about 10 wheel caps. Front brake pads seemed to require frequent replacement. When the car was new, the rear brakes used to make a rough jarring sound, and had to be replaced. The steering wheel cracked at about 50 000Km. It gets quite cold in Canada, but this was a Russian car, and it's cold there too.
The carburettor float had to be replaced twice, which really annoyed me.
The passenger cabin heater motor failed quite early.
The window mechanism broke.
Had to replace the high-tension plug wires and distributor cap.
The alternator failed twice. Once, while driving a distance of about 400 Km in a deserted part of the country, the alternator light suddenly came on one very cold winter night. I continued driving on battery power, hoping to get help along the way. I eventually had to stop as the battery power wore out. I was really fortunate a passing motorist helped me. He told me I was very lucky, because there was very little traffic on that road at that time, and people who get stuck there freeze to death. I had to abandon my trip and turn back. This experience made me extremely angry, and I almost became physical with the dealer when I returned the car for repair.
The car rusted very fast. Just before I sold the car, while driving on the highway, a length of metal trim about 1 metre long came off from below the door, and ended up on the highway. A very dangerous event, which I only discovered when I returned home.
The car was quite quick for its size, and remained quick even with 5 passengers. It handled very well when fully loaded, although the steering was a little vague, because it was an older worm-and-roller type, and not a rack and pinion.