Do you know what car Kimi Raikkonen first drove?

On April 15, 1970 the plant was visited by Henry Ford II, the chief executive of the Ford Motor Company.

On April 15, 1970 the plant was visited by Henry Ford II, the chief executive of the Ford Motor Company.

VAZ-2103 in Saint-Petersburg in 2016. Source: Alexander Demianchuk/TASS
The Lada Vesta - produced by Russian automobile manufacturer AvtoVAZ - entered top 100 most popular cars in Europe, even trumping the Hyundai Solaris. RBTH looks back at the iconic car’s history.
The AvtoVaz (VAZ) stands for the Volga Automobile Plant. It’s the largest Russian carmaker and its production lines have rolled out the likes of the Zhiguli, Niva, Lada Samara, and Oka series. The Soviets linked up with the Italians to build the plant.
In the middle of the sixties the Soviet government decided to create a “car for the people” by using advanced foreign technologies. The Italian Fiat 124 was used as a blueprint for the first Zhiguli VAZ-2101, which was able to withstand the harsh winters of the USSR.
The Soviet-Italian AvtoVAZ car plant was built in the late sixties in the city of Togliatti on the Volga River, named in honor of the Italian communist party’s leader. The irony is that Palmiro Togliatti organized major strikes at Fiat plants during the twenties that almost brought the Italian car manufacturer to its knees.
Italian specialists worked on AvtoVAZ’s first run of cars during the early years of its existence. Soviet designers worked alone from the late seventies.
At first, VAZ vehicles were supplied to other countries under its original name Zhiguli. But since the word was confused among consumers with the word “Gigolo,” the export name was changed to Lada.
It wasn’t only Fiat specialists who helped design Zhiguli cars. Porsche engineers created the body of the VAZ-2108 model. Porsche even offered to ideas for the VAZ-2101 and VAZ-2107 models, but they were rejected by Soviet engineers in favor of domestic technologies.
Perhaps hard to believe, but the first car of famous Formula 1 race driver Kimi Raikkonen bought for himself was a Lada, and he restored the motor completely.
The Lada Kalina (Viburnum in Russian) sells well in Finland. However, its name was changed to the Lada 199, because “kalina” in Finnish means clang, rattle, and clatter.
The Lada Vesta became the first Russian car to be equipped with the ERA-GLONASS (emergency response system) which sends out an SOS signal through mobile networks in case of emergency.
The NIVA VAZ-2121 is one of the most popular export models among VAZ cars. It’s shipped to over 100 countries. This is the only Soviet car that was exported to Japan.
Sometimes Ladas appear in Hollywood movies. One of the most recent examples is Atomic Blonde (2017) with Charlize Theron. Her character drives a Lada to escape away from KGB agents in eastern Berlin in 1989.
In the summer of 2010, Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin drove a Lada Kalina over 300 km on the new highway from Khabarovsk to Chita in Russia’s Far East.
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