From concept to reality: The VAZ/Lada 110/2110

“You make me sad”, said King Arthur to the Black Knight in the very well known Monty Python movie. I’m reminded of that scene every time I compare Lada prototypes to the finalized production cars: it’s clear how the design studios were positively awash with striking ideas and impeccable taste, but despite getting the basic shape to production, something got lost in translation to sheetmetal. It’s hardly different from what universally happens to a concept car, but the Lada 110/2110 is especially galling: to get it so close, yet to fall so far.
The project, started in the mid-1980s and producing driveable, SVX-baiting prototypes in 1990-1991 made it to production beginning in 1995 and for European-wide sales by 1999. It managed to be a decade late, if you’re looking at the inspiration.

This shot shows how the 110 was benchmarked using a 1986 Audi 80, a car that’s still driving all around Eastern Europe. It explains the dimensions and general attention to packaging and aerodynamics.
The wagon looks actually awesome in this sketch dated 7/87. Those SVX-style windows actually pre-date the Subaru, which was unveiled at the 1989 Tokyo Motor Show – even if design sketches probably circulated widely years earlier.
A smart-looking sporty three-door hatchback/coupe was also in the cards.
Frankly, I find it amazing how they wanted to reach a certain level of futurism, and how you can find elements of these concept sketches in the final car, no matter how plain the end result was.
Here is the final car. The beltline is there, the headlight shape, glasshouse and the general silhouette matches the 1990-1991 concept, but the magic has vanished from between those janky panel gaps.
Press shots of the interior.
Sales shot of a 1999 car sold in Finland. By the time the car got here, it was a weirdly retrofuturistic product: so immensely dated, but yet grasping at straws that were decades ahead. It’s like from an alternative timeline.
The 110 was sold in Finland until 2007, and used examples command around the same prices as old Chrysler Neons. It would be amazing if someone bought a 110 and set out to perfect it to look exactly like the concept versions did, with those split windows, smoked glass and late 1980s concept car detailing.
[Images: VAZ, Nettiauto]

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  1. Rob Emslie Avatar
    Rob Emslie

    These always reminded my of a Shrinky-dink version of Ford’s Sierra presaging Probe III concept car.

  2. Sjalabais Avatar

    People in the east had this joke following the introduction of the 110:
    “A factory-fresh Lada used to come with 90 faults on average. What did they call their newest model?”

  3. dukeisduke Avatar

    Sure, the SVX-style windows would have been cool, but then, really not cool, unless they made air conditioning standard equipment. Imagine driving that on a warm day, with only those little windows to open.

    1. julkinen Avatar

      They would probably have allowed the car to be driven at speed with the windows down with not a lot of buffeting. A/C would have been out of the question.

  4. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

    Still blows me away that some of these received Wankel motors.

  5. salguod Avatar

    Those windows were concept car staples in the 80s. The theory being that cars would all have AC and all you’d need to open the window for would be toll booths and drive throughs. Making the large window flush increased aerodynamics.

  6. karonetwentyc Avatar

    I remember the various car magazines running a piece on these approximately annually in the run-up to its production. At the time, it was actually really interesting – partly because of what it could have turned out to be, but partly also because it was coming from, of all manufacturers, Lada.
    Then the 110’s prolonged gestation meant that we got stuck with the wretched Samara (really, it’s hard to comprehend just how good of a car the Riva was until you’ve spent time in a Samara), Lada quit sending cars out in RHD, and that was the end of that.

  7. Dean Bigglesworth Avatar
    Dean Bigglesworth

    Never seen that many of these, I still see more Zhigulis and Samaras.. Just today i saw a Samara, looked to be in pretty good shape. The rather alarming sound coming from it made think it will fall apart at the next pothole, though.

  8. cronn Avatar

    For some reason, there are quite a few of these in the area where I live. One of the owners leave for work at the same time as me every morning. He lives in the next building and I can see their back yard from mine. It’s about 50 meters away.
    I can sometimes hear his engine on high idle as I’m walking out the door and he’s locking up his garage doors after reversing out. I look over and see the blue 110 hatch smoking in the cold morning air. What a terrible racket that thing makes.

  9. Rover 1 Avatar
    Rover 1

    Two inch lower suspension and up one or two inches in wheel size with correspondingly lower profiled tyres would be a help to the looks just as much as better panel fit and closer shut-lines.
    On the other hand the raised suspension AWD wagon version looks quite good.
    And the standard wagon and hatch have crisp styling too. But as someone whose mother owned a Lada based on the Fiat 124, I would certainly be checking build quality before purchase as I have been well warned. That Lada was the worst assembled car I’ve ever experienced, and it was brand new.,5_Li_in_Krak%C3%B3w_(4).jpg

  10. Christoffer Niemonen Avatar
    Christoffer Niemonen

    I have a 111. it’s economical and easy to fix

  11. Borjan Apostolski Avatar
    Borjan Apostolski

    Thankfully Lada has seen the error and their new models are very much like their concepts. Trough the 110 did have issues [looks at the panel gaps], it’s not a bad car. Unlik e a few I have seen so much all over the world [looks at Mustangs].

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