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Showing posts from May, 2012

From Russia, Unloved

The Lada and Moskvich look so squarely similar, it's easy to confuse them. (Hints: The Moskvich has a vent plate on its rear fender while the Lada wears its vent on the C-pillar; the Moskvich has small but sharply defined rear fins.)
   Yet while the Lada is prized in Cuba for its longevity and ease of repair, the Moskvich is held in much lower regard.
   "The Moskvich has the most beautiful engine in the world," goes the Cuban joke.
   "Everywhere you see people stopping and opening the hood, just to look at it."



Whole Lada Love, III

You may already have identified this as a Willys Jeep, the embossed name above the grille being what we car-watchers like to call a Clue. Should you be a student of Jeeps (a worthy academic pursuit), you will no doubt have further denoted it as a CJ3B, from the series produced by Willys-Overland and later the Willys Motor Co. (a subsidiary of Kaiser) between 1953 and 1968.
   This being Cuba, you know it is far more likely to be a pre-1960 CJ3B than a newer model.
    But wait! You've spotted what looks like an independent front suspension under those flat fenders. A Willys with double A-arms? Never happened.
   The underpinnings, in fact, come from a Lada (with some Toyota parts thrown in). The powertrain? Lada again.
   While thousands of intact Ladas remain on Cuban roads, many other have given up their sturdy innards so that the island's still older vehicles can live on.
   This Willys was for sale, asking price 9,000 CUC ($9,183 Cdn. at this writing). The owner told me he an…

Whole Lada Love, II

A few more Cuban Lada shots.
  And for more on the Lada story, check out this entry at CubanClassics. Just one fascinating fact? Home market Ladas came with a "starting handle" with which to crank the engine if the battery was drained by the cold.
  Who but one million Siberians knew?











Whole Lada Love

As the news broke that Russian automaker AvtoVAZ was finally dropping its Lada Classic, car-watchers the world over cried out as one:
  "What? They still make those things?"
  Turns out they do, at least in the form of the 2104 station wagon, and only until the end of this year. Production of the Classic sedan ended in April.
  Forty-two years after the first Lada 2101 was built in a huge factory on the banks of the Volga River – and 46 years after the introduction of the Fiat 124 that would be the template for the Lada – AvtoVAZ says it is "time to say goodbye" to the square little soldier. From 1970 until today, close to 18 million Classic series Ladas have been sold around the world.
  And about the same number of jokes have been made about the car's buzzy ride and shoddy construction.
I remember the Lada's arrival in Canada in 1980. Its list price of $4,288, or $300 less than a Ford Pinto, won the attention of bargain-hunters, but its rusting fenders and f…

Doing the Harley math

SO HOW many Harleys are left in Cuba?
   The Cubanharlistas website, citing the country's National Register of Vehicles, pegs the number at 150, of which about 80 are in regular use.
   But organizers of this month's national gathering of Harlistas in Varadero put the number at 270 to 300, according to an Associated Press report. (Perhaps the organizers were talking about all pre-1960 motorcycles, and not just Harley-Davidsons.)
   In the years before the Revolution, the Harley was known as the favoured ride of Cuba's police and military. Just how many were imported for such service, however, is another matter of debate.
   Cubanharlistas says about 1,000. The AP report, again quoting the rally organizers, suggests 2,000.
   Really, who's to know?
   Still, even taking the higher number from the first set, and the lower number from the second, that leaves a lot of Harleys unaccounted for.