Post-Soviet: 2001 Lada 110 1.5 GLI
One of the things that happened after the fall of the Iron Curtain and collapse of the USSR was the opening of trade, technology and information between East and West. This included automobile culture. Of course, since the Russians have historically made pretty poor cars (by Western standards) it was basically a one way relationship. But without Gorbachev, we would probably never have access to this charming little Lada built exactly one decade after the USSR bit the dust. So how far they have come?
Lada have been making cars since 1970. They exported a lot of vehicles, though never officially to the United States (for obvious reasons - but can you imagine a Cold War comedy about a Russian car dealer in the U.S.? Bugged cars, suspicious neighbors, jokes about drinking vodka while driving).
They have had close relationships with Fiat, and more recently, Renault.
The 110 was produced from 1995 until 2010, quite a run for this little thing. It's a typical compact economy car, with 1.6-litre four banger pumping out just 90 horsepower that powers the front wheels. Weight came in at 2315 lbs. These are not innovative, special, or sophisticated in any manner, but rather standard transportation from point A to B.
Styling, however, isn't half bad. The tires are too small, but it looks decent in silver and is relatively simple and clean. I like the rear taillights. From what I've seen of Russian car designs, they range from hideous to passable. This moves beyond years of poor and anti-asthetic styling towards a global city-car-look, acceptable in any of Europe's capital cities as a frugal commuter machine.
What is most interesting is to find one right here in the good ol' USA. Unfortunately, the seller is one of those people who writes in all-caps, and says things like "it's in great shape for Russian standards" and "you get more noticed in this car than in a Ferrari". They also drop the worst bomb possible when considering with a foreign car not exempt from the U.S. gov.'s current 25 year or older vehicle importation rule: this Lada has no title and cannot be registered! Yikes. They say it can be used with dealer plates only and must be taken on a trailer to "shows". What kind of show would that be? Illegal cars currently here somehow? As frustrating as the ad is, it's somehow perfectly fitting of a Russian car made in 2001...a creaky country emerging awkwardly into a new world.
Find it here on ebay in Arlington, Massachusetts with 1 bid at $3,500.