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Pretty Much Everything Was Crazy About Soviet Cars Sold In The West

Illustration for article titled Pretty Much Everything Was Crazy About Soviet Cars Sold In The West

If you thought Vector was responsible for the most ridiculous press shots in human history, just look at this British art piece depicting just your average day with the Lada 1200 4-door Saloon.


While the Soviets made their repressed citizens wait and wait for their outdated family haulers, export was booming because Moscow needed all the foreign currency it could get to finance the Cold War and keep up their false economy.


While a Lada Niva 4x4 might have made sense in Canada or New Zealand, the same couldn't be said about the Polish Fiat 125 clone FSO 1300 in Great Britain, or the rear-engined Skodas with their questionable rust protection. And how about the Yugo in America?

The only reason for a British customer leaving the dealership with an Eastern model was their low price, but as the BBC found out in 1986, buyers of the "luxury" Lada Riva would have been better off with a second hand Vauxhall.

However, it would be very unfair to blame anybody for having a limited budget but no desire for a dreadful '80s Citroën 2CV.

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Selling in the West might have been a bit crazy, but Lada, especially, did have some decent staying power in markets like Britain and Canada.

The really crazy thing was when they tried to sell Skodas in the United States. It wasn't even like they did it during detente, it was back in the Eisenhower administration. Somebody in charge had to have known that wasn't going to work out.

Also, just about every Eastern European car had a dreadful reputation for quality and reliability in Western markets, even though the export models were usually built on dedicated assembly lines by hand-picked workers with better materials and quality control. Which proved that they just couldn't build a car properly under any circumstances, even when they were actually trying.