Lada Samara on the


Lada Samara
Lada Samara

SOME cars are just disappearing before our very eyes.

They are mainly the rusty and unloved or technologically superior models that are too expensive to fix.

One definitely not the darling of automotive perfectionists was that famous attempt by Russian car builder Lada to drive upmarket - the Samara.

Records show that there are just 18 examples left on the road with 90 on SORN notices.

This car is now stepping towards the trapdoor of extinction and although something of a brave effort it will not be missed by many.

There were few cars that were as bad as the Samara, which tried to build on the success of the old three-box Lada Riva - a basic and poorly equipped car which, nevertheless, had a healthy following in the UK, especially among private hire taxi drivers.

The Samara was the first front-wheel-drive Lada in the UK and the company looked closely at European rivals for inspiration.

It was expected to be a worthy, more modern successor to the Riva, but it was a poor car in most respects.

Lada did its best to give Samara a flying start with a launch based at Estoril in Portugal.

But even glitz of the town's world famous casino could not hide the rough edges of the Samara.

It initially received some reasonable reviews but it did not take long for the penny to drop that this car was just not up to the standards expected in the UK.

It came to Britain in 1987, initially as a three-door and the British importer created its own versions, adding extra equipment and trim details at its own import centre.

Soon afterwards came a five-door and top of the British Lada range in 1989 was the 1500 SLX, complete with a body kit which the importer believed would enhance its visual appeal. Initially sales were encouraging.

On arrival in Britain, the Samara was equipped with a 1,288cc four-cylinder engine, which was hardly a smooth runner.

The fettling and buffing up of the imported cars was carried out at Setra's Carnaby import centre and improvements made there included radios, wheel trims and body items.

One well-known motoring magazine regarded the Samara as a massive leap forward for Lada, which in was in a way. But nothing could mask the poor ride and shoddy finish which were the hallmarks of this car.

And a mainstream model could have set you back £4,795, which was expensive from a bargain basement brand.

Predictably, the only thing the Samara has been good at is disappearing. The Sensation special editions had gone to the crushers by 2006 and the laughingly named Envi specials had gone by 2010.

The Government's scrappage scheme sealed the fate of many.

The rest are going at an alarming rate considering that there were 36,227 around in 1994, a figure which dropped to 512 by 2005 before shrinking to the current 18.