A much loved child has many names according to the saying.
Now that I come to think of it, I’ve never seen that phrase applied to anything very good though. What made me think of this was today’s picture, a Lada 2105 Classic. According to on-line sources this car also went under these names: Lada Riva, Lada 1500, Lada 1700, Lada Signet, Lada 2104, Lada 2105 and Lada 2107.
This car’s roots are planted in Italy of the late 60’s. Fiat launched its progenitor in 1966, the 124, which majored on space efficiency, being quite roomy within and only 4.1 metres in length. Fiat even fitted disc brakes all around but in most other respects it was quite conventional. As well as having a very long life as a Fiat, the 124 platform has carried on in production to the present day. It’s still made in Egypt. Russian production only ceased in 2011. All of this goes to make it the world’s third most enduring platform. Presumably it is still earning money for Fiat.
Compared to the space pods parked around it, the Lada looked petite and very, very square. Yet, getting past one’s preconceptions of rusty Fiats (in the 80s) and drab, faded beige Ladas (90s), one has to salute the capacity of the design to be still worth making. Modern cars are certainly safer and cleaner in every respect but what nobody seems to have done is to make one that is safer, cleaner and cheaper than this. Tata’s Nano has had a hard time trying.
I suspect the same qualities that make it cheap to make and buy are the same ones that make the car not interesting enough to want to bother with in the way people still nurture 2CVs, Morris Minors and Beetles. Whereas those other cars had some measure of originality, the 124 is quite close to the essential idea of the totally ordinary car. All you have to do get most other car designs is to scale some or other parameter: length, engine size, height and so on. A BMW 3-series is the same as this only bigger and better across the board.
If anyone knows why Citroen didn’t go down the same path as Fiat and licence the 2CV to Third World countries, please write in. While Citroen made the 2CV in eight countries, they were made as Citroens. The Renault 4 managed sixteen or seventeen locations (including Naas, Ireland) they also wore the original manufacturer’s badge. They chose the Renault 12 as their commodity car, being bigger and having four doors, not five. It was made in 12 countries.
Fiat saw an opportunity others didn’t and presumably are still profiting from the car in some way, small though it might be. Thus a small bit of Russia blended with a fair bit of Italy ended up on my roadway today.