Thursday, 22 December 2011

When you can't do something, it's all you want to do

    The weirdest of things can make you want what you can't have. A few streets away from where I sit as I write this there is a most unglamourous car parked up amid the Euroboxes, and it's exerting a pull on me that only the similarly afflicted will understand.
    You see, as regular readers of this blog will have gathered, I have a liking for dodgy old cars. A twisty British B road on a summer morning is my Nürburgring, and an underpowered and basic family saloon from decades past is my Formula One car.
    Unfortunately in a British December the opportunities are limited for doing silly things in cars, the roads are covered in corrosive salt and basic motoring loses its appeal when the air temperature slips towards zero. So I sit cooped up in town, my desire for driving on the edge whetted by my near-neighbour's choice of wheels.
    I should give C a ring, plan some crazy road trip in the Wreck for summer.
    The unglamourous car? An AvtoVAZ 2107, otherwise known as a Lada Riva. That's right, a Russian made derivative of a 50-year-old FIAT. Basic as it gets, rear wheel drive, and incredible fun to drive on damp roads if fitted with hard-as-glass Eastern European (Chinese I guess nowadays) tyres.
    Truly I am smitten.


  1. Up until we got rid of it in the early 1980's, I used to enjoy taking my rear-wheel drive V8 equipped car to an empty parking lot after the first few inches of snow to practice skid recovery.
    We also had a Lada. What a great car. Gutless until you get it up to 4500 rpm, but then... :)
    Front wheel drive has taken all the fun out of winter driving IMHO.

  2. FWD does leave a lot of the fun behind, but then if you are on a car park you can still have fun with lift off oversteer...

    I find the AWD of my V50 a bit difficult to play with in winter. It runs as an FWD car until it loses grip then increases the power to the rear wheels until it's basically RWD. If you try hard in the snow you can get it to let go but you have to anticipate the understeer first and power through it :)

    The spit though, for all of it's lack of power, is the most fun I have had in the snow. 70BHP, 650KG and RWD make a great combination in car parks. A bit skittish on the road, but fun in car parks.


  3. CooCoo. I read the post and I read the comments and I still feel like being on another planet. Interesting.
    Happy Holidays to you and your loved ones, Jenny.

  4. Dear Jenny,

    Funny you should mention the Niva, always had a soft spot for those.

    Used to be a Lada dealer here in Burlington, sign stayed up much longer than the dealership lasted. Lada left Canada in 1998 driven out by cheap S Korean cars.

    If I have to go red I would choose a Chaika (looks like a 56 Packard). Almost bought a seventies Zil once.

  5. I'm with you Ellena, I haven't a clue what they are talking about. You could almost swear they were guys.......LOL

    Shirley Anne xxx

  6. Love of cars, like most things, is genderless.

    Still, when Stace talks about playing in the snow, I'm just glad I have my AWD Subaru Legacy. With the drivers around here and the frequently wet (and occasionally snowy) roads, I'm thankful for traction and ABS, thank you very much. And I still have fun driving.

  7. You have to go and have a few skids i the snow to get the feel back and not be scared witless if it suddenly happens on the road.

    Forget what they are calling it just go sideways a few times!

    I hated front wheel drive at first but must be getting old and enjoy it's safety and love that you can yank on the handbrake and still drive the front end, turns real fast on snow!

  8. back in the early 90s, a little Russian freighter that brought fertiliser into Weymouth would invariably set off on the home run with a Lada or two or three tied to the hatches.... little brother, stationed in Germany at the time the wall came down, secured me a Trabant when they were cheaper than chips. Sadly, I was a poor student at the time and couldn't afford the luxury of going to get it. I believe it dissolved in the rain. Shame, it would have been fun....

    ..still, skedaddling around Brizzle's hills in the sudden deluge of hailstones last week was a laugh and three quarters in the moggy!

  9. Heavens! My secret is out, I still have something of the bloke about me at times! :) Well, you gotta do something to keep your mind occupied through all this.

    Ariel's right, a love of driving is genderless. But I'm not ashamed if sometimes my love of spannering tends towards the unfeminine, it's part of what has made me. I already differ a bit from my petrolhead acquaintances in my love of the underpowered and unglamourous, they sometimes worship only speed.

    Mrs. J, hailing as she does from somewhere that gets rather cold in winter, laughs in the face of our mildly slippery conditions. I've seen her catch a wayward lardy American saloon car on packed snow with a practiced flick of the wrist. Very embarrassing, when I got the Rollerskate stuck in the snow a couple of years ago.

    I find I can do entertaining enough things in cars with the drive at either end.

    The Ladas departed from British roads in the '90s due to Euro emissions regs, though someone's now importing the 4WD ones again. I too would love to drive a Chaika, though for serious Eastern Block limo chic it has to be a Czech Tatra. If this means nothing to you then be glad, for here is a route to finding yourself surrounded by many bits of old car :)

  10. There used to be a business in Hull that specialised in exporting Ladas back to the Motherland. I had a mate used to flog them to them for beer money.

    Ooh, having a Trabant secured would have been something of a dream for me at the time. I suspect I'd have had the same travel issues back then too.

  11. Jenny, you know that my comment had nothing to do with gender, I hope.

  12. Of course! Worry not, I understood. :)

  13. Dru, I miss the days of looking through thee side windows on roundabouts in my muggy to see in the direction of travel...Oh happy days...

  14. Woa, I read all this with wonder.

    I did have a red Lada when I first started driving, I had no idea that they were so loved and missed:)

    I have two friends who are natal females and absolute petrol heads. This has very little to do with gender or blokeiness unless maybe you like taking them to bits. Even so:

    Dear Santa, I would dearly like a car to match my red party dress, preferably a coupe with enough room to get in and out wearing a 50's style petticoat, preferably a Fiat 500 or something else cute and easy to drive in heels...

    Robyn-Jane xx

  15. Whoops! But I still think it's a guy thing. I think most girls like being driven around just as much as driving themselves. As for the mechanics of it all, there are few women really interested in that I would think. Whilst nothing in this world is gender specific that doesn't mean that everything is favoured by either gender. If you think that then you are in a dream world.

    Shirley Anne xxx

  16. When we first got together my SO had a red Lada Riva 1200, very underpowered, but had good handling thanks to decent European tyres and RWD - she managed to get caught speeding in it! We had many good trips including a couple to the Continent. These days we are limited to a Polo and a Transit, I miss my Singer (Jade a 1966 Vogue estate) almost everyweek!