Samara, which appeared in the 1980s, significantly increased the export of Soviet cars. They began to be supplied not only to Western Europe, but also to other countries, up to Australia. And some foreign dealers even produced original versions of “eights” and “nines”.
In some countries, Samara came up with original names. In West Germany, some of the cars were called Forma.
In France, the once famous Poch company, very actively promoting Soviet cars, sold Samara under the name Sagona.
In Belgium, front-wheel drive Lada was known as the Diva. But in the UK, the name Samara was not changed. By the way, it was thanks to this family that in 1988 Lada sales in Britain reached their peak – about 30,000 cars were sold in a year!
Picky British journalists have commented on the spaciousness, economy and good handling of our cars. They criticized the unreliable electrics, grip and paint quality.
But in terms of price, Samara was comparable to cars of a lower class – such as Citroen AX, FIAT Panda, Renault 5.
With fashionable fillings and body kits
Engines and gearboxes were fine with importers.
True, the 1.1-liter 54 hp engine, created specifically for export, was not very popular, and soon it was discontinued. So most cars, as in the USSR, were sold with 1.3 liter and 1.5 liter engines and a five-speed gearbox.
However, the rest of the dealers modified the cars, and quite seriously: repainted, installed more reliable generators and starters, fashionable wheel disks and other tires. The rudders were often changed. Some cars were equipped with sunroofs. And, in the fashion of the 1980s, many Samaras were “hung” with other bumpers, sills, spoilers.
Among the many options were harmonious Samaras. Particularly from German and French sellers. But there were especially many variants made with some degree of taste or tastelessness in Great Britain.
Three-door “eights” were usually “make up” for sports cars. Local journalists openly laughed at some of the “decorations”.
Take off my hat! (“Prisoner of the Caucasus” USSR movie)
Not a single Soviet car, besides the Samara VAZ-2108, became a convertible abroad. And the 2108 even had several such modifications.
In 1990, by order of one of the largest dealers of Soviet cars Scaldia-Volga in Belgium, the first prototype of the San Remo convertible was made. The body was designed by the Togliatti designer Vladimir Yartsev.
Soon, under the funny name Lada Natacha, such cars began to be made in small batches. In 1990-1996 456 Natasha was built.
About 600 open Samars under the name Lada Samara Fun were made by Deutsche Lada in Germany. These cars were simpler – with the front part of the roof retained and the awning fixed to a plastic panel over the body. In perestroika times, the most convinced fans of Samara brought such cars to their homeland.
The original convertible based on the VAZ-2108 was also made in Canada. This car was distinguished by minimal body changes. But in the side bumpers, they installed side lights, which are mandatory in Canada and the United States.
We also made a convertible Samara in the Czech Republic. But a car named Bohemia was only shown at exhibitions in the early 1990s. It did not go into series, even a small one.
A prototype of the VAZ-2108F van was made in Togliatti. Then something similar was produced in small quantities by the VAZinterservice company under the VIS brand.
But even earlier, vans based on the “eights” appeared abroad. True, they were made according to the principle “it couldn’t be easier.” The rear seats were removed from the car and (sometimes) opaque panels were installed instead of the rear side windows. Such, for example, was Lada Samara Bizivan from Australia. The van, by the way, could hold up to a cubic meter! An analogue was made in the UK.
By coincidence, one of the western versions of Samara in the USSR could be bought new – the “nine” Lada Samara Baltic. In Russia it was known as Euro-Samara. It was produced at the Valmet plant in Finland, which in the past has made, among others, SAAB convertibles.
Finnish Samaras were intended for buyers in Western Europe. Cars from our “nines” were distinguished by coloring, other wheels, tires, clutch, and some other elements.
But the demand for Lada in Europe has already fallen sharply, so some of the cars in 1996-1998. sold in Russia. They cost about a quarter more expensive. Nevertheless, they were in demand. Although the owners of Russian Samaras looked at the buyers of Finnish cars with bewilderment.