LADA - part II
(Click HERE to return to the part I)
Various prototypes (years '70s and '80s)
If you think that the Lada have realized, in over 30 years, only the "Zhiguli", the "Niva" and the "Samara", you make a mistake! In fact, since the introduction of the first Lada model (the "Zhiguli/124") in the 1970, the Russian engineers started with the projects of new cars (never entered in production for several reasons). In the first and second pics above, the Lada "1101 Cheburashka" of the 1971, a little "hatchback" with a totally new 897 cc. engine (increased to 1100 cc and 55 hp after some time), front-wheel drive, McPherson-type front suspensions, with a look very similar to the Honda "N-600". The doors looks as taken from the Fiat "127"; the steering gears were of ZAZ derivation. With the same engine, in the 1973, also a little off-road vehicle was realized, the "1101-1 Autoroller" (third pic). About this car, there is a funny anecdote. A member of the Politbureau, Kirilenko, during an official demonstration, said: "This is not similar to a car, but as toy it's expensive even for my grandson"...
In the 1976, instead, the Lada factory realized the prototype in the first pic above pic, called "1101 Ladoga", always 900 cc., front-wheel drive, and with a very modern look, that partially anticipates the "Samara". These pics (absolutely rare!) are taken from http://autovaz.tlt.ru/authors/ , where also other past Lada-VAZ prototypes (often not properly automotive...) are present; on that page, there are also the electric versions of "Zhiguli", "Samara", "Oka" and even of the "Niva"! In the second pic, another prototype, probably called "1105" or "1106"; unfortunately i haven't found informations about this car, but it is probably related somehow with the "Cheburaska" and "Ladoga".
Another unknown chapter of the Lada's history is represented by the Wankel engines. The VAZ has realized, since the end of the '70s, several exemplars of this type of engine, used also by names like Mazda, NSU, Comotor-Citroen, Suzuki, Van Veen, Norton, Trabant, etc.(and the Russian motorcycles Motoprom and Rotor). In the 1980, Lada begins to produce 250 "Zhiguli" equipped with a single-rotor engine, 70 hp (in the first and second pics above, a "Zhiguli" and the first Lada Wankel engine). The "Zhiguli" Wankel had the same coachwork of the normal version, but under the cowl there was an electronic section very advanced for the period: a processor analyzes the data of the accelerator position and of the rotor's speed, and with these data it regulates the ignition. There is also a system that injects anti-freeze fluid at the low temperatures. After this unit, a two-rotor engine (third pic) was realized, with a power of 130 hp, fitted also on the police version of the "Samara". During the '80s, were realized even some exemplar of GAZ "Volga" equipped by a three-rotor VAZ engine (fourth pic), with 210 hp (!). All these cars were realized usually for the KGB and the GAI (the Russian police), and for the competitions; since 1997, these cars are available also for the private citizens.
But the life of the Lada-Wankel engines is terribly short: 20.000 km!! This because the russian alloy is of poor quality: a Wankel engine needs high-quality materials for the various elements. Making an engine of this type with the russian steels, it's like producing an aeromotive engine with the bronze of the antique coins...These engines are very interesting, but the lacks of money and resources makes the ideas of the Russians engineers hard to translate in the reality. Still today, these engines are produced in limited series (also for the aeronautical use), and used, for example, on the new Lada "110 Super Tourism" (two pics above), equipped with a two-rotor engine, for the National championships.
In the five pics above, three factory's prototypes of the early '80s, remained as simple exercises of design. The first is of the 1982, and features a very aerodynamic and futuristic design, like the second one, designed in the 1988, always with MPV layout but with only three doors. Curiously, the concept looks very similar to the recent prototype Toyota "Fine-N"! Two other demonstartion that there were excellent brains in the factory, but dramatically not supported by the rigid Soviet planned production.
And now, some other prototype of the years '80, realized by research institutes on Lada engines. The car in the first, second, third and fourth pics, realized in the 1983-1985 and never entered in production, was realized by the "Dragon Motor", a research institute in Leningrad (now S. Petersburg). Called "Laura Kaliakra", it was a front-wheel drive coupè (with or without rear door) equipped with the engine of the Lada "Zhiguli-2105" (1458 cc, 77 hp), combined with a gearbox taken from the ZAZ "968" (turned of 180 degrees in order to adapt it to the front wheel drive). The coachwork was in fiberglass on a tubular skeleton. The prototype in the fifth pic, instead, was called "KADI-15", and it was realized in the 1980-81 by the "KADI" Research Institute of Kharkov, in Ukraine (see also the page about the Soviet cars realized for the speed records). Also this car had a tubular space-frame and a "Zhighuli" engine, with 85 hp. The engineer of this car was Nikolay Semenenko; the total weight 650 kg, max speed 200 km/h.
The two prototypes in the six pics above were realized always by the Dragon Motor. The "Oxta" (first, second, third, fourth and fifth pics above), realized in the 1987, was an interesting 7-seats van, based on the Lada "Samara" engine (1500 cc. version), with an accurate aerodynamic (Cx=0, 28) and the feature of the front seats turnable for 180 degrees, like the most modern similar cars of Europe, USA and Japan. In the fifth pic, the car is observed with curiosity by a Soviet cop...indeed, cars like the "Oxta" were a real rarity in USSR still during the late years 80s! The engine of the "Samara" was used also for the cabriolet in the sixth pic, realized in the 1989. Now, the Dragon Motor produces -in limited series- interesting off-road vehicles based on the UAZ jeeps (see page).
The years '90s
In the 1990-91, the Togliattigrad's factory launched the prototype in the two pics above: the "Katran 1.6i", a two-seater coupe. A full scale model was build. It was tested in an aerodynamic gallery, and some corrections were made. Some details that were interesting at that time: windows divided in two parts, sharp edges, etc. The difficult part of the project was that an all new 3-door body had to be build. Later due to the lack of financing, the project was indefinitely "frozen"; however, the car was the base of the "110", the first post-communist model produced by Lada.
And, in fact, in the 1995 the second generation of Lada front-wheel drive cars was presented: the "2110", or "110" for the Western markets. The car has a look much more modern than "Samara", but in my opinion it's similar to the first versions of the Seat "Toledo" and Opel "Vectra"; now, it's indeed quite outdated. Also engines 16V were presented, always derived from the eight-valves of the "Samara" 1500. But the definitive production begins only in the 1998, and only with eight-valves engines; the production of the 16V version begins in the 2000. The rear suspension are new, with indipendent double-arm. But the delay of the production was too high: the first project of this car was begun in the 1990...Above, the "110" sedan, the "112" hatchback, and the GTI with Opel 2.0 engine (150 hp), the yellow exemplar is a special GTI version called "Yellow Shark" (similar to the first "Katran" prototype).
Unfortunately, the reliability of the early versions of this car was very low (see the "Defects of the Eastern cars" page), especially the 16V versions, but the newer model are improved. Of the "110", several versions (and restylings) were realized: in the first pic above, the station-wagon "111"; in the second pic, the "112 16V" restyled; in the third pic, a long-base version and, in the fourth pic, a longer limousine (Lada "Konsul")...yes, there is a Lada limousine, it's not a joke! But this car is very different: Opel 2000 engine, TV-VCR, even a refrigerator...obviously (and unfortunately), this car is not for all the Russians...
Above, three pics of the coupè version of "110", always equipped with the Opel 2.0 engine. The look it's "years '80s", but enough pleasant (except the terrifyng decoration "Coupè GT" on the rear of the white car, of very bad taste!). In the fourth pic, the "110" rally.
But the most important novelty of Lada, is the new "Niva", waited since 15 years...In the first, second and third pics above, some prototype realized between the 1997 and the 2001. The look is very pleasant, and similar to the Western and Japanese realizations. But, unfortunately, the engine will be the old 1.7 Fiat of the previous version; also a russian 1.8 turbodiesel engine will be available. The 16V of the "110", increased to 1700-1800 cc., could be a good engine for this car, but oddly it will be not used on it. In the fourth pic, the pick-up version, that will be available also with the only rear-wheel drive transmission. In the 2002, the "Niva" is entered in definitive production (fifth pic), but with the brand Chevrolet (!), because of the agreement with the General Motors. I don't know if this means the future disappearance of the Lada brand: anyway, this is another triumph of the Americans on the Russians....
From the actual "Niva", derives also the car in the six pics above: the mini-van "Nadeschka", realized on the platform of the "Niva", with 4WD transmission. This car was launched in the 1996, but is still in the pre-production phase, like the new Niva; the engine is always the old 1.7 Fiat SOHC. The look of the first version of this car is now outdated (first pic above), and, therefore, the car was restyled (second, third, fourth and fifth pics). In the sixth pic, instead, the "taxi" version. "Nadeshka" means "hope" in russian...and the hope that this car will enter in production it's always alive...!
In the first and second pics, above, another prototype derived from the "Niva": the "111 Tarzan", an hybrid with the transmission/engine/suspensions group of the Niva, and the coachwork of the "111". Also this car is interesting, and could be good for the Western markets, but the engine is always old! And the name is very queer...lacks only a "Jane" version to complete the list! In the third pic, the "111 Stayer", similar to the "Tarzan", and always equipped with 4WD transmission, but this car is intended for road use. The engine, in this case, is the Opel 2.0 with 150 hp: much more better than the old Fiat of the "Tarzan".
Above, a totally new car: the "Calina", launched at the Moscow Show 1999. This car has the same engine of the "110" (1.5 eight-valves with 71 hp, or 16V with 90 hp), but the progress in the design is evident. In the first and second pics, the hatchback version; in the third pic, the sedan version (similar, for my personal opinion, to the Seat "Cordoba"). In the fourth and fifth pics, instead, two rare images of a prototype of the "Calina", during a test-ride in Russia, in the winter 1996. At the period, the car was called with the strange name of "Lotta" (in Italian this means "fight"...testing a Lada with the snow and the russian weather, it's really a fight!
With the "Calina", in the 1999 also a prototype of electric car was presented: the "Rapan" (first, second and third pics, above). This concept-car shows the good ability of the Lada's designers...but it's very strange to see this car realized while the old "Zhighuli/124" models of 30 years ago rolls out of the factory! In the fourth pic, instead, a prototype of Lada 2.0 DOHC 16V engine: it's still in phase of realization.
Above, others two experimental vehicles by Lada: in the first and second pics above, a prototype called "Gnom", and in the third and fourth pics, the "Elfi". "Elfi" and "Gnom" are two examples of microcars, with the engine of the "Oka", twin-cylinder 650 cc. They were realized also with electric engine. Interesting, although the orange exemplar doesn't has a look of luxury car!
The latest realizations
Above, we can see an interesting prototype presented at the Moscow Show 2000 (and also the Geneve Show): the Lada "Roadster", designed with the help of the famous Swiss designer Franco Sbarro, and equipped with a 2000 16V engine, 150 cv. It has an electric roof similar to the Mercedes SLK or Peugeot 206 CC. The design, although shaped and square, is pleasant.
Above (first, second and third pics), the "Peter Turbo" prototype, called in this way in honour of the Zar Peter II (another sign of the changes in Russia), and with a design that reprises the solutions of the "Rapan" prototype. The engine is a 2.0 turbocharged. The "Roadster" and the "Peter Turbo" are two very interesting experimental cars: the "Peter" is a real show-car, but the "Roadster", if produced, can be a good chance of success for the Togliattigrad factory, and can make more actrattive the image of Lada.
In the meantime, the Lada is working to several possible evolutios of the "110": in the first pic above, a new version called "110-M", and, in the second pic, the "110-M4", presented in the 2002, with the headlights from the new "Niva". Of the "110", also a new 3-doors coupè version has been launched (third, fourth, fifth and sixth pics): it shows that few modifications are enough to improve the look of a car...but this model is still a prototype. Anyway, it will be produced also with a 1800 cc. engine, with 107 hp.
At the Moscow Show 2001, the definitive version of the "Calina" was launched (five pics above), with an updated front part and a very pleasant look. Recently, also a minivan version was launched (sixth pic above). These car, if well realized, have good chances of success...but, without foreign money, the definitive production has been planned in the 2006-2007 (!!!!!). Now it's a pleasant car, but in the 2007 it will be a dinosaur in comparison with the future Western models!
In the five pics above, the substitute of the legendary "Zhiguli/124": the new Lada "2151" (the first pic shows the team of engineers who realized the prototype), launched in the 2002, exactly one year after the "Calina". This car features, differently from the "Samara" and the "110", the same mechanical part of the old "Zhiguli", with the longitudinal 1700 cc. engine renewed with the injection (84 hp) and the rear wheel drive. Therefore, this car was planned to be less expensive for the Russians customers, in comparison with the front-wheel drive models. Moreover, in several Russian zones there is an higher request of rear-wheel drive cars. The coachwork, instead, was totally new (surely newer than the engine...), and also the suspensions were new. "Were", and not "are"....because also this prototype was "stopped", a real pity.
At the Geneve Show 2002, instead, the prototype Lada "Karat-1108" (first, second and third pics above) was presented. This car could replace the little city-car Lada "Oka", although it's still a prototype without engine, without sure prevision of production. I don't know what engine it could have....probably, not the same 650-750 cc. twin-cylinder of the "Oka": a so little engine, on this car, is enough only to move the car at the start! But the "Karat" is not the only project for a future Lada citycar: in the fourth, fifth and sixth pics, there is the new "Oka 1121" (it's enough strange: "Oka 1121" was the same denomination of another prototype of the 1988...), launched at the Moscow Show 2003. The lenght is close to 3,50 meters; the car is longer and wider than the previous "Oka", and it's intended to be equipped with a range of engines from 750 to 1500 cc, with two, three or four cylinders. Date of production: unknown. Anyway, with the 1500 cc. engine, it could have good performances...surely better than the asthmatic 750 cc. two cylinders of the old version!
There are also other projects for a new high-class car (Lada "3116", first and second pics above) and for another minivan (third, fourth and fifth pics), although these two cars are simply static prototypes. However, i think that it's better to improve the models already in production, and not to realize a lot of prototypes destined to remain in a museum...
In the six pics above, the new Lada medium-class car: the "Status", or "2170", launched in the 2003. It is an evolution of the well known "110", but it will be equipped with a 1800 cc. unit (107 hp); the car is also longer and wider than the "110", and the front and rear parts are totally new. However, the factory declares that this car (still a prototype) will be destined to compete with the BMW 520 and Audi A4...maybe it's better, for the Togliattigrad's factory, to modify its own intentions!!!
Anyway, the Lada partecipates also to the national competitions, with very well-tuned cars! In the first and second pics above, the Lada "112 1600 Super Rally", realized in collaboration with the tuner TMS, and equipped with a 16-valves engine, capable of 200 hp!
Same engine (but placed centrally) for the beautiful racing car in the four pics above: the Lada "Revolution 2", always realized with TMS. The engine is boosted up to 215 hp, and, with the help of a low weight (650 kg) and of the six-speeds gearbox, the car is capable of very high performances: a real "Russian revolution"! The sport activity of the Lada -although the lack of money...- is very developed: you can see www.ladamotorsport.ru to see some image of Lada cars in action...Anyway, all these cars are the demonstration that the Togliattigrad's factory has still a good capacity of project. The only two things that actually lacks, are the organization and the quality, caused also by a national situation that is still critical. All depends by the effective intentions of the Lada managers: recently, i read that Lada was accused of duplication of the serial numbers of the produced cars, to pay less taxes...
I hope that Lada will remain on the market...the Russians needs cars, although not Mercedes!
Some pic taken from www.zr.ru and www.sovavto.cjb.net