You may be surprised to find out that I was the one who first became obsessed with Ladas. Like a lot of things the idea came from the internet. It all started in November 2012 when I came across a car show video with titles in Cyrillic and a very interesting combination of stanced cars. I wasn’t sure exactly where the video was from, but the style of the cars got my attention. The cars were unique and there were many I had never seen before, but the style was familiar. The car that especially caught my eye was a boxy sedan that kind of looked like a Fiat. I watched a few recommended videos from the first one, and realized that the small sedan was popular. I still wasn’t sure what it was called, so I couldn’t look it up!. Some had two headlights and some had four, and they had varying amounts of chrome, but they were all slammed. It took a while (Cyrillic!) but, I finally I found one I could read the back of and it said Lada.
Once I knew what the car was called the video search intensified. I spent weeks in an internet black hole searching for Lada and later VAZ and BA3. I wanted to find out more about these cars and the car culture in Eastern Europe. They called the clean and simple style of their cars Resto after the Resto-Cal style that is popular with Volkswagens. Both styles are typified by a mostly stock restoration of the vehicle with the addition of period accessories. One area in which they may differ is ride height. With Resto-Cal cars anywhere from stock ride height to slammed are acceptable, whereas Resto taps into stance culture and requires a slammed car.
Once I came out of my internet black hole I had learned a lot about Ladas and the Resto car culture in Ukraine and Russia. I figured out that the first video I found was the road trip to Lowville 2011 in Ukraine. I found some web forums and other sites where people were posting about their Ladas (drive2.ru). I found out more about the history of the car and the factory (the Lada was based on the Fiat 124). I figured out the different model numbers (2101, 2102, 2103 being the most common). I found a group in Hungary that restores Ladas, their site veteranzsiguli.hu was helpful in figuring out the different models. I can now look at a Lada and tell you if the steering wheel is stock, for example.
I starting thinking about how cool it would be to have one of these cars. We had been thinking about buying a Datsun 510 as our “practical car” for a while (practical to us is more than 2 seats and more cargo space than a Miata). Ladas have a similar look, but would be much more unique, in LA anyway.
Actually buying a Lada and bringing it back to California started as a joke. Bird said that if I wanted one we’d have to go and get it. Many hours were spent fantasizing about how cool it would be to own a Lada, and how much fun we would have picking it up. We decided that if we ever got one we would want a 2103. We picked out or favorite colors and talked about what mods we would do. Sometime around December 2012 we decided that maybe the idea wasn’t so crazy. So the decision was made to go for it. We would buy a Lada, take it to Lowville in May 2014, road trip across Europe, and then ship it back to California.
We made lists of things we needed to research, places we wanted to go, and things we would have to pay for. We started saving for the trip, but we still needed to figure out how much it was going to cost! Bird does a lot of budgets for work, so he made a budget template and filled in some ballpark numbers. No doubt the budget will be revised multiple times, but a least we had something to work with. We decided if we could find a way to save more money we would make our trip longer!
We researched the prices of cars and the route we would drive. We bought a desk calander and hung each month on the wall. With over a year to plan it was hard to figure out what to do first. We spent (and are still spending) countless hours on the Internet learning everything we could about Ladas, Ukrainian car culture, and all of the countries we wanted to visit. We got a wall map and some tacks and started plotting our route.
We started contacting people all over the world who might be able to help us. We needed to buy the car before we got there so that we would have time to make modifications. We collected information on car shows we might be able to go to. We want to be able to meet as many car people in each country as we can. This trip will be more than a road trip. We want it to be an exchange of car cultures.
We truly view this as an opportunity of a lifetime that we are creating for ourselves. Many people say they don’t have money or time for a trip like this, and we don’t have those things either. We’ll find the time and money somehow, we’re determined to make it happen. They say people who are happiest spend their money on experiences, and I can already see how that works. I can’t imagine for one second regretting the money spent on this trip.
The list of things to see and do is growing daily and we will be updating this blog with the process as it happens. Join us on our journey from planning to the trip to enjoying the car in the California sun. It’s going to be a busy year!