Product Type: Lada cars
Newest Review: ... and ran for another 12 months before I traded it in for a 1500GLS. By this time Lada were fitting an eco carb which was I have to admit rub... more
My First Car
Member Name: IainWear
Date: 18/08/01, updated on 18/08/01 (360 review reads)
Advantages: Always started, Reliable, Many happy memories
Disadvantages: Dreadful colour, Loss of street cred, Your mates will never let you forget that you once drove a Lada
It's the Summer of 1991. In a small village in North West Kent, a young man named Iain is nearing his 17th birthday and immensely looking forward to learning how to drive, as most of his friends live a long way away, public transport is appalling and his parents refuse to pick him up from a nightclub 20 miles from home at 3am.
Iain's father, who I'll call Dave, as that's what his parents called him, is preparing to buy his son a second hand car to assist him in his learning how to drive, knowing how excited Iain is about the prospect. Little spins round the car park at the local Asda on a Sunday for now, and on the roads between lessons once he's turned 17, that sort of thing. Dave knows someone who has a low mileage, ten year old Lada Riva 1500 Estate that they don't need anymore, and are prepared to sell to Dave for £150. There's an interesting/amusing story behind it, but that's for another day, (although I may add it later upon request). Iain is mercifully unaware of this.
One Sunday afternoon in the August of 1991, Dave and his wife disappear in the car and when she returns, he does not. Iain is upstairs, probably reading a book, as that's the sort of thing he does. Dave later returns and announces to his son that he has bought him a car. Iain dashes outside to the driveway and, although his heart sinks when he discovers what his father's definition of "car" actually is, he remains outwardly polite and grateful. And cries when he's alone.
The car, which having only about 35000 miles on the clock was in fairly good condition remained in the drive like an insult. It was a huge looking thing, although dwarfed by the Renault 21 estate that he was driving, and the Renault 18 estate which belonged to my mother. But when you're learning to drive in a Nissan Micra, it's very big and scary looking!!
In a colour that can only be described a diarrhoea yellow, with
a chocolate brown interior, this car was never going to be ahead, or even pushing for the lead in the style stakes! The interior seats were soft, a little too soft, and horribly scratchy on bare skin. Although, to be fair, they didn't heat up to burning point in the summer. They were the only thing that didn't, however, as the Lada Riva Estate featured a black vinyl roof which caught the sun and overheated the car beautifully. Especially the nice, er I mean HUGE, plastic steering wheel. The only other place I have seen a steering wheel that size was on a bus. On the plus side, it meant that you had something to hang on to should anything go wrong. And, believe me, you were expecting EVERYTHING to go wrong at pretty much any second. Extras? Well, it had a radio - Longwave and Medium Wave only, no tape player, and a fan/heater. Now think of all the other extras on your own car. Got them all? Did the Lada have them? Nope!! Power steering, sunroof, electric anything, airbags, automatic choke? You guessed it...nope!! Although much of this was due to the age of the car, and I believe that later models did include some of these features. And to drive? For a 0-60 speed, you needed to give it three weeks notice. In writing!
Iain passes his test and, on occasion, drives the car to school. And gets the mickey taken almost permanently. It's a tank, it's in a disgusting colour, and it's a Lada!! In it's time, it develops a hole in the exhaust and sounds like something far more impressive. So people turn to look. And see you driving a Lada. Street cred? Forget it, even the street won't talk to you now!! The car is swiftly named "Uriah the Heap" Readers of Dickens' "David Copperfield" and prog rock fans will understand, and readers of the Old Testament may recognise the name, too.
Oh dear, you're thinking, another rant against Ladas. No, I gave the car two stars for a reason. The
reason is this. I have many happy memories of Uriah. And I never had that much street cred to start with, so it wasn't a great loss.
Uriah ran beautifully for 2 years. He did as many miles in the time I owned him as he had done in the previous ten, and was driven (I suspect) harder and faster than he ever had been before. Uriah did (or so the speedo said) 95, despite the specs in What Car? saying he should have had a top speed of 80. I beat a VW Golf GTi away from every set of lights on the Maidstone one way system, much to the driver's disgust. I out-accelerated a VERY surprised Ford Sierra driver down a motorway slip road. And I did £1000 of damage to the back of an Austin Metro without even denting Uriah's bumper. And in one memorable, wet day in Milton Keynes after a Guns 'N' Roses gig, Uriah, being rear wheel drive and very heavy indeed, drove sure-footedly out of a wet and muddy field whilst everything else just slithered sideways. It was a great moment!!
Ladas were built to withstand temperatures of -28 C in Siberia, so starting in the morning was never a problem. It passed 2 MOT's without a hitch and in 2 years, needed only 1 repairs - a burst water hose and a new clip. Total cost of repairs in two years...86 pence! Being an estate, it would take 5 people and all their kit to play in a hockey match, or anywhere you wanted to go. Sadly, in September 1993, he died of sudden and terminal brake problems. It would have cost more than he was worth to fix, and he had to go. But we did get £25 for scrap!
Uriah was not fun to drive, and he looked dreadful, but he was cheap, reliable and efficient, which was all you need for a first car. I cannot speak for other Ladas, but I would never drive one again, due to the memories of having the mickey taken at school - especially by my Chemistry teacher, Mr Smith, who drive a PROTON! And the jokes would always be enough to put you off. These days I have a F
ord Fiesta I am very happy with, and Lada stopped selling on the UK market several years ago.
<br>But as for Uriah, 10 years on I still have vivid memories of him. I will never forget (and my school friends will never let me forget!) owning and driving him and, although I wouldn't want him back, he will always be a part of my life I will look back upon with fond memories. Which is more than some of my ex-girlfriends can say!