From Russia With RED!

It seems that only yesterday I was walking around Roppongi area simply taking pictures of supercars as they roared past me when I came up with the idea of sharing that scenery with the rest of the world.  As I laid the foundation of Tokyo Car Parade I was challenged with the dilemma of deciding  which direction I would have take to make this site more unique and interesting.  As much as I enjoy the grass root JDM scene, to me it seems that there are already too many chefs in the kitchen, as same tuners, same cars, and same events keep appearing all over the internet.  Having profound interest and accessibility to Japanese import scene I have decided to explore the non-JDM cars ijn JDM-land.  Fast forward to 2015, 2 years since starting the site, 1 year of BMW ownership the first official feature car of Motorflair is the 1974 Lada 2101


You see, tricked out BMW's are not the only cars I can relate to, as strange as it may seem an old Soviet-era Lada 2101 is part of my childhood and it may shed a bit of light about my origins.

There was no doubt in my mind when I came across this project at the hands of Garage Red-K that it deserved more exposure than the usual snapshot from Tokyo Auto Salon.  After all, there are less Lada's roaming Japanese streets than Bugatti Veyrons or Koenigsegg CCX's; precisely, there is just one!

And now it is appearing in front of my camera for an exclusive photo-shoot that myself and guys from Garage Red-K have threw together in last minute.  And since we are on a subject of exclusivity - location choice came down to this - Roppongi, where it all started and perhaps that would make this Lada seem even more unique. 


After all, LADA and Roppongi are completely bipolar paradigms: Lada is an ultimate people's car - made under strict state guidelines to satisfy the mobility needs of Russian working class,  while Roppongi is synonymous with success, up-class, posh and has largest concentration of super-cars in entire Japan, if not Asia! Many may remember some other photo-shoots I've done in this location.

So while usual wide open spots with scenic background tend to be the trend for car photography these days, we took this antique communist era car to the most developed and modern part of the world.


While the contrast of ideals on display was looking great, the busy nature of Roppongi on Friday afternoon proved difficult and down right unsafe to shoot, and besides, one location to show off this rarity just won't cut it.

So before we knew it we were on the move,

... and after a quick drive on C1 arrived to resort-like part of Tokyo, which is becoming very popular with tourists and car enthusiasts alike.  Welcome to Odaiba!

The gentle light from early hours of sunset has set the tone and mood for the photo-shoot,

while empty and calm streets in the ocean-side neighborhood allowed me to explore the vehicle in detail.

Even though the guys at Red-K were reluctant to show the engine bay stating that it's all original, I managed to persuade them to reveal the cast iron block from the other side of the similarly crafted curtain.

The ignition wiring has been replaced and the heavy block undergone some hefty polishing reveling the ancient-like engraves in my mother tongue. 

The performance.... well, it doesn't exist.  En route to Odaiba I asked the Red-K guys to pass me on the highway so I could capture a rolling shot on the Rainbow Bridge, but unfortunately even though I was crawling below the posted speed limit (which I must say is ridiculously slow for modern times) with everyone overtaking me wondering whether my 306 HP BMW has broken down, they never managed to catch up.  Looks like the Soviet era power delivery just doesn't cut it in today's world.

But power is not what this car is all about.

On the flip-side, it came properly equipped to be displayed

The wheels have been designed by Red-K, and built by Work sized 7.0J×16ET20 I  the front and 8.0J×16ET22 in the rear with 165/50 tires given a proper JDM stretch at all corners.

the old school Soviet interpretation of suspension has been ripped out and replaced by a proper custom built air suspension...

... that enabled the car...

...to be properly slammed

The staggered look, however is for show purposes only,

as the moment the car hits the deck, it becomes pretty much immobile,

even though not as quick as modern automobiles, it is the motion that completes the car.

But before heading out the next stop let's have a look at some of the features

As many of the readers would know, LADA2101 was based on Fiat 124, it "borrowed" the vast majority of the design features, making the LADA emblem pretty much the only Soviet developed component of the car.  The yellow lights and chrome eye-lids are result of hard work of Red-K Garage

From the rear the car screams nostalgia as Fiat's classic design sets the tone for entire vehicle.

The chrome details were quite striking as they highlight the 70's design trends. 

all levers were restored by Red-K to their factory look,

while side windows... well, just look at them!.  Who needs automatic air-con when you can get just enough wind and stick out your cigaret out of this?

On the inside we are treated with the true Soviet comfort.  Brown vinyl covers a set of springs and cushions making this seat softer than the mattress in the 70's motel, and when combined with suspension based on the same principles, the ride is ultra comfortable. Luckily the air ride managed to eliminate some of that unlimited rebound rate.

The lack of center console and low positioned dash gives an illusion of spacious cabin.

This illusion is quickly swept away however, by the massive steering wheel taking about a quarter of the width of entire cabin.

In the center - authentic VAZ logo, which stands for "Volzhsky Avtomobilny Zavod" - factory near town of Tolyatti where these cars were originally made.



As with anything from the State controlled manufacturing, the customer could only expect the bare minimum. hence inclusion of a tachometer was not even an option.  All in all, with no tach, no syncro, no power steering, no assists of any kind and genuine lack of power you needed to be a skilled driver to be able to control this thing.

The fully functional window roller was a part of a standard equipment, nonetheless.

the guys at Red-K have added just a bit of 21 century into the cabin in form of air suspension controller, but they did it in a very subtle way, without jeopardizing the classic feel of the communist interior.

We all know that unlike the Fiat 124 on which the 2101 was based on, the Lada will never win any awards.

It is therefore the unique and inspiring approach by the Red-K Garage that brought life to dying generation of Soviet Era cars.

At the same time, they have made their contribution to the variety of awesome and unique cars roaming the busy streets of this island nation.

While, I can't help but applaud this brave move, I have stop stop and wonder what's next.  Will this car receive a proper engine? will it be a drift project (after all, drifting is what put Red-K on the map)?

for this little red machine, nothing is certain as they want to leave the Soviet power plant as is for the time being.

However, with the import channel established, the plan is to bring a few more examples from across the Sea Of Japan in what may seem like world's most unlikely import.  I am therefore almost certain that we will see a Lada with which my BMW will have trouble keeping up with.

When there is, you will see it right here on Motorflair; until then, please don't forget to comment, share, and follow.

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