“Lada” («Ла́да») was originally the export brand for models sold under the “Zhiguli” name by AvtoVaz in the domestic Soviet market. I was told “Zhiguli” sounded too much like “gigolo” so they changed the name to Lada for the export market.
I currently have a dozen Ladas in my collection, some made in USSR, the others made in China. Most are 1:43 scale.
The Fiat 124 based Lada 2101 was a big seller in the Soviet Union and in numerous export markets. A town and factory named Tolyatti, after the leader of the Italian Communist Party were built in the Samara region of Russia near the Volga river. The keys to its success were: competitive price, reliability, simple DIY-friendly mechanics and unpretentious functionality. Their cheap utilitarian nature made them joke fodder for some:
Why do Lada’s have heated rear windows?
So you can warm your hands when pushing it.
The father of one of my students recently gave me a Soviet made Niva, I was very pleased, I’d been looking out for one for a while but the prices at Dry Bridge Market were too high for my budget (200 lari = $65.15).
The Niva (VAZ-2121) was described by its designers as a “Renault 5 put on a Land Rover chassis.” It went into production in 1977 and was a pioneering SUV vehicle.
Ladas may have been the butt of cheap jokes in UK but in the Soviet Union, where temperatures might vary between -60 C in the winter and 50 C in the summer, where the roads were poor and the petrol low on octane, they came into their own.