Two Ladas of a kind, working on a full house
Matthew Anderson is an American engineer who relocated to Germany a few years ago for work. In his spare time, with reckless abandon, he pursues a baffling obsession with unexceptional Eastern Bloc cars. We don’t ask him too many follow-up questions.
Even though I try to keep things from getting as bad as they were back home in Carolina, I do take strange pride in the fact that my driveway here in Germany looks a bit, uh, trailer parky at times. So as to keep up appearances and not let my sterling reputation slip, I’ve been eager to litter my property with a Lada 2111 parts car to spruce up my own silver Lada wagon.
Thanks to some rear end damage and a particularly bad paint job, my silver 2111 was in need of parts—the easy bolt-on kind, preferably, so I wouldn’t have to lay paint in the snow.
The Lada Gods answered my prayers with a bounty, indeed: an identical silver 2006 2111 wagon parts car. I couldn’t resist, especially when I discovered it came with a an interior that looks like a Garth Brooks Wrangler shirt. Time to class up the joint!
As per usual, I looped my buddy Greg into my idiotic plan. My idea was nonetheless well-developed: rent a trailer on Saturday night, drive up into the Schwäbisch Alps Sunday morning, haul the car back to my rented shop, and fire up the grills and Sawzalls. Finally, on Monday morning, the stripped car would be dropped off for scrap and the trailer returned on my way to work. (Hot tip: Sunday trailer rentals are usually free in Germany. So if you can center your trashy activities around such a religious holiday, you can save some serious cash. Upwards of 40 bucks!)
In support such activities, I readied my Lada Niva and headed into the mountains with Greg and a bouncing discount trailer. The latter created a brain-liquifying driveline resonance in the Niva’s cabin that no amount of Thunder Rolls could drown out.
After blazing through the snow, we arrived after about 90 minutes of travel looking a bit like Harry and Lloyd after their famed moped ride. At least we were in the right place, staring at a really rough 2111 whose floor was touching the ground and whose nose pointed skyward. The owner, a nice Hungarian guy, imported a Lada 2105 with very nifty sport trim and “Heckblende” taillights. His plan was to swap the 1.6-liter 16-valve engine from the 2111 into a rolling sculpture that resembled what a Slavic Vanilla Ice would drive on Budapest’s equivalent of A1A Beachside Avenue. A worthy cause I’d say, even if it meant the death of an otherwise salvageable Austrian-market 2111. No matter. It was dead, I was richer in Lada parts… and 200 Euros poorer.
Given this all went down on a Sunday, Greg and I hushed our grunts and electric impacts as best we could while swapping my steel wheels on to his car. (To get such a deal, one must be prepared to bring one’s own wheels.) After handing over the money, silently shoving the car onto the trailer, and clicking the ratchet straps one tooth at a time, we were able to leave the seller’s sleepy neighborhood without arousing ire. Greg and I crawled back into our rolling concussion grenade and arrived at my buddy Marcus’ garage probably two hours later. Somehow we summoned the energy and focus to back the trailer halfway into the shop and light the grill.
Of course, our goals were more lofty than merely assuaging our bleeding ears or planking salmon. Our time to pick apart this poor wagon was minimal, so we didn’t waste any time. Upon discovering the sorry state of the thing, my guilt at scrapping this donor car dissolved. While Greg went to town on gutting the interior while I worked on the back hatch and hood. With the three most important parts of our puzzle now stuffed in the back of Marcus’ trailer, we worked together on lopping off wiring harness connectors, yanking every possible fastener, clip, trim piece, and brittle plastic doodad. Sticky fingerprints of salmon fat marked the sites of our pillage. Three hours later, the shell was bare and ready to haul.
After closing up shop and cleaning up very diligently (like a good renter), Greg headed back home and I schlepped my dual Lada rig back to my own neighborhood. I stopped first outside the house, so as to properly horrify my neighbors and snap a few photos, before parking a few streets down where nobody knows who I am.
The next morning, I got an early start so make sure I’d have time to get rid of my picked-clean junk and return the trailer. Easy, right? Wrong. Nothing that happens outside of a biergarten is easy in Germany. When I got to the scrapyard, the staff wanted me to pay them to take the car. Didn’t these guys know I had planned to buy breakfast with Lada scrap money? To my dismay, the affair instead turned into me buying breakfast with my debit card and taking cash out at the register to then pay the scrapyard 75 Euro. I pouted, ate my delicious ham and cheese croissant, and watched that innocent wagon get unloaded by a forklift.
Back home after work, I started swapping parts onto the new car as fast as possible to stave off the ever-recurring nightmare scenario where an entire parts car lives scattered in my garage. Better than in the yard, I suppose. After about a week, I whittled the spares down to one large Rubbermaid container full of clips, nuts, bolts, and trinkets. All of that work allowed me to re-enter the good graces of civilized society with a clean driveway. My neighbors know the drill by now. And if they’re not always thrilled about it, when their car breaks they’ll be happy to have friends in low places.