2008-11-05

Макарушка: A tribute to the first car in my life

Makar was a mid-1970s white VAZ 2101 Zhiguli (Lada), the first car I ever rode in: From the hospital where I was born to my grandparents' house. Makar had a 1.2-liter, 4-cylinder in-line OHC carbureted engine that generated a little over 58 horsepower at 5600 RPM. It had 4-speed transmission, disk brakes in the front and drums in the rear, and fairly meat-and-potatoes suspension: coil springs and A-arms in the front and solid axle in the rear. It was a rear-wheel drive. I have no recollection of power steering (or power brakes), but then again, I never drove the car.

VAZ 2101 was based off Fiat 124 and built in Togliatti. The logo vaguely reminded of the silhouette of Shelby Cobra logo, but of course I did not know this at the time. Years later I would naively wonder why someone put a VAZ badge on their perfectly Western Ford.

My grandfather bought the car before I was born, in 1975, I am guessing. I don't know at which point he gave the car its name, but when he did, he started a tradition.

He had a manual clutch control put in for his bad leg later on. Granddad kept Makar for almost 20 years, before passing the car on to my dad in the middle of the decay of the Soviet empire. In absence of steady employment, Makar served as gypsy cab driven by my dad, who likely put more miles on it in its final years than its entire previous life.

Just recently I found out that dad performed a ring job on this car in his garage--and was done in one day.

Makar's final journey was about 8000 km (5000 mi) long, carrying my parents and I from Kazakhstan to Germany.

Once in the civilized world, the car could not be sustained any longer, and its engine was turned off once and for all at some junkyard in Berlin.

Rest in pieces, dear Makar, and may your components be recycled and made into new parts for a graceful Alfa Romeo.