Mr Toad; Putin or Sarkozy?

Parp parp


At the start of December Mr Putin's party won the elections in Russia. At once there was the suggestion that not all had gone well, there was suspicion about the outcome. This in turn led to caution in the way the results were greeted by some European Leaders, but not all. The effervescent Mr Sarkozy heaped praise on Mr Putin from the moment the results were known. Then, just a few days later we see that Renault, in partnership with Nissan, have bought a 25% stake in the Russian car maker that we call Lada, but is called Avtovaz in Russia. Could these events be related? To get this stake the French and their partners beat off competition from, amongst others, General Motors and Volkswagen.

Dauphine Dauphine
There has been a tradition of the Russians forming partnerships, both formal and informal, with other manufacturers to build cars. It is always said that one of these informal partnerships led to the Zil Presidential limousine for this was in fact a copy of the Lincoln limos beloved of pre-WW2 American Presidents. Formal agreements have been made with several well known names, the Ladas which have only just rusted off our roads bore a striking resemblance to the 1960's Fiat 124 because that was what they were, a licence built Fiat. So let us hope the new couple, Putin and Sarkozy, are happy with their deal.

But I'm a traditionalist, I prefer the 'pure' Russian car, one untainted by foreign influence. My favourite is the Zaporozhets, rare I'll grant you; I bet you've never heard Jeremy Clarkson going on about one these on his TV programme. It was rear-engine and air-cooled, a sort of cross between a Hillman Imp, Chevrolet Convair and a Renault Dauphine, but with far worse handling, if that is possible, see here. The feature that sticks in my mind is that it had a form of petrol burning heater to keep the driver and his passengers warm - makes you think!