A Soviet Workhorse – The Lada Riva

Let me give you some background on my pre-Morris days. This first blog, about a  Lada Riva, will help you to understand my second blog Pop the Bonnet (how not to buy a Morris Minor).

Around the summer of 2005 I was sitting in my favourite pub, it went by the name of Flanagan’s. It no longer exists. Several pints into a good beer session I was hit with a brainwave.

“Lads, why don’t we all chip in and buy an old Lada? They’re dirt cheap! We can take it along to local car cruises and use it to go camping in the Highlands!”

Naturally, with my friends all similarly well-watered, everyone though it was a great idea.

Around 1am I arrived home full of the beer. I switched on the computer, got on the internet and went on eBay.

After a short search I found a white 1996 Lada Riva in London. It had an MOT and best of all it was sitting at a bid of £13. The auction was due to end in a few hours.

I thought about it in my beer induced haze for all of a couple of minutes. I decided London isn’t that far from Scotland and that buying it would be a bit of an adventure.

I fired in a maximum bid of £113, switched the computer off and crashed out in my bed.

Around 9am the next morning I woke up. Memories of the night before started to flicker through my head and I remembered the Lada bid.

Sobriety kicked in. What I had done? London was a long drive away and for the price the car was surely a wreck.

I switched the computer back on, logged into eBay and checked my account. I was hoping I had been outbid. I hadn’t. The winning amount is secured the car for was £87.

I sent text messages to three friends, as we had agreed in the pub, informing me that they owed me 1/4 of the purchase price.

Long story short is my friend, who goes by the name of Boon, and I flew down to Stansted with Ryanair for £14. We were picked up by the seller.

The Lada took some coaxing to get started when we got to his home, and the tyres were a bit flat. Otherwise though the car was very, very good. I had been lucky. We topped up the air, filled the fuel tank and began the long drive back to Scotland, overtaking a Routemaster bus and an Austin Allegro on the way.

Boon (right) and I. The Lada was a good’un.
1st overtake of the journey. A Routemaster bus.
Spot the Allegro.

The four amigos did indeed load it with camping gear that summer and we went on a weekend trip in it to the Highlands.

Edradour Distillery, near Pitlochry. Scottish Highlands (just).

We also took it along to a more local car cruise. Much to the amusement of ourselves. I can’t say we were made particularly welcome though. I think all the boy and girl racers thought we were taking the piss out them. Which, to be fair, we were.

The £87 Lada

The Lada never missed a beat. It was the best motoring bargain I’d ever had.

It was kept for a few months until the clutch started slipping. I put it back on eBay and sold it to some students, from Wales, for a small profit.

In hindsight I wish I’d kept it. It would be worth a lot more now and they’re very rare on UK roads these days. It’s probably back in Russia now.

What I didn’t know at the time though was that because it had been such a success that it would leave me (naively) believing I could get away with doing a similar sort of thing again. The success of the Lada was going to cost me with two Moggies in the years to come…

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