Lada 1600 / VAZ-2106
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 1
Plagued with an ancestry of eccentric compatriots, the Russian Lada had to overcome many prejudices to achieve any degree of sales success in the West. Ironically, it was the 1600's adherence to convention which made it somewhat individual in an age when the hatchback ruled, along with front-wheel drive and styling look alikes.
Not that Lada could claim sole tenure for its own design, which first saw the light of day as the Fiat 124 before being adopted for the Lada in 1200 and 1500 guises. Under the skin the Lada was faithful to the front engine, rear-wheel drive, live rear axle formula of its predecessors.
Lada set about making changes to the 124 design to ensure some degree of longevity in the harsh climate of Eastern Europe. These included the use of aluminium brake drums which were added to the rear, and the original Fiat engine was dropped in favour of a newer design also purchased from Fiat. This new engine had a modern overhead camshaft design but was never used in Fiat cars.
was raised to clear rough Russian roads and the bodyshell was made from thicker, heavier steel. The first Lada models were equipped with a starting handle in case the battery
went flat in Siberian conditions, though this was later dropped. Another feature specifically intended to help out in cold conditions was a manual auxiliary fuel pump.
In September 1978 the Lada range was supplemented by 1600 versions, including the 'up market' 1600ES, using not the twin cam Fiat unit but a single overhead cam 1570 cc engine of Lada's own. This engine developed 78 bhp at 5400 rpm and was allied to largely Fiat running gear, including wishbone and coil spring front suspension
and disc front brakes.
Although, as mentioned, the Lada used thicker metal than the Fiat, it was a reasonable performer. Top speed was almost 100 mph and a fourteen per cent increase in low speed torque over the 1500 models aided in a 0-60 mph time of around thirteen seconds. High ground clearance didn't detract too badly from the car's handling, largely thanks to very positive rear axle location but the overall package was badly tarnished by the steering
which, at best, was heavy and at worst - when parking for example - was near immovable.
Whatever its shortcomings, the Lada 1600 offered remarkable value for money. For much less than an equivelant Japanese small car, the Russian was equipped with cloth upholstery, reclining seats, pile carpets, laminated windscreen, heated rear window, dual-circuit servo-assisted brakes, alloy wheels
with Goodyear radials, and a stereo radio. Unfortunately, however, the grey suit with matching cream shoes (as seen in the image below) were not included. If they were, we dare say the 1600 would have achieved cult status today.
Lada 1600 Quick Specifications
Front-mounted, water-cooled straight tour. 79mm (3.11 in) bore x 80mm (3.15in) stroke 1570cc (95.8cu in). Maximum power 78bhp (DIN) at 5400rpm, maximum torque 88lb ft (DIN) at 3000rpm. Cast-iron cylinder block and light- alloy head. Compression ratio 8.5:1. 5 main bearings. 2 valves
per cylinder operated direct by single overhead camshaft. Weber 32DCR twin-choke downdraught carburettor.
Single dry plate clutch and four-speed manual gearbox. Ratios 1st 3.242, 2nd 1.989, 3rd 1.289, 4th 1.0, reverse 3.340:1. Hypoid bevel final drive, ratio 4.1:1.
Front-independent by wishbones, coil springs, telescopic dampers and anti-roll bar
; rear- non-independent by live axle, upper and lower trailing arms, Panhard rod, coil springs and telescopic dampers.
Worm and roller. Turns from lock to lock 3.0.
Servo-assisted, dual circuit hydraulic, discs front drums rear.
Light-alloy, 5J x 13in. Tyres 165SR x 13.
Dimensions and weight:
Wheelbase 95. 5 in' track - front and rear 53in length 160 in width 63 in, height 54in ground clearance 6.88in, kerb weight 2271lb, turning circle between walls 36.1 : fuel tank capacity 8.6gals.
Four-door, four-seat saloon. Integral.
Maximum speed 97 mph. Acceleration 0-60mph 13 seconds. Fuel consumption approx. 26mpg.