Russian Cars: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

When it comes to the allure of classic cars, Russian oldtimers hold a unique place. These vintage vehicles, often seen as relics of a bygone era, offer a driving experience that is as intriguing as it is challenging. If you’re considering renting one of these iconic cars, it’s essential to know what you’re getting into. Here’s an honest look at the good, the bad, and the ugly of Russian cars – in particular the Lada Niva and UAZ Buhanka that we rent out as camping vehicles.

The Good

There’s something undeniably charming about driving a Russian oldtimer. These cars evoke a sense of nostalgia and adventure, taking you back to a time when driving was as much about the journey as the destination. Their robust design and off-road capabilities make them ideal for exploring rugged terrains and remote locations. However, itโ€™s important to note that this doesnโ€™t mean you can abuse the car. Treat it with respect and care to get the most out of your adventure.

The character of these vehicles, with their vintage aesthetics and unique quirks, can turn any road trip into a memorable adventure. Imagine driving through scenic landscapes, the wind in your hair, with the sound of the old engine creating a soundtrack for your journey. It’s a unique experience that modern cars simply can’t replicate.

Additionally, the mechanical simplicity of these vehicles means that many issues can be (temporarily) fixed with basic tools and a bit of know-how and willpower.

The Bad

However, the charm of these cars comes with a hefty dose of reality. Contrary to popular belief, Russian oldtimers are not particularly reliable. Despite our best efforts to maintain them, these cars can develop minor or major issues at any time. Weird noises, vibrations, unexpected breakdowns, and a general lack of comfort are part of the package. The ride can be rough, and certain features might not work as expectedโ€”or at all. Additionally, some aspects of these vehicles might even be considered unsafe by modern Western standards.

A Russian car is always leaking, rain water from the windows, the doors or in the worst case, oil from the engine or gearbox. Dust is coming in the car through cracks and gaps in the panels. The driver’s sitting position in the UAZ is awkward, especially for people taller than about 1,90m, they will have to bend to see through the window. The Lada Niva however, offers a much more comfortable seat with more leg space.

Operating a Russian oldtimer can be a challenge and requires practice, and occasionally, a good deal of patience. You need to be very comfortable with a manual transmission to begin with, as these cars often require more skill and finesse to drive than modern vehicles. The controls can be quirky, jerky, and the driving experience is far from smooth, which can be both part of the fun and part of the frustration. You will hate it or you will love it, or both at the same time ๐Ÿ™‚

The Ugly

The biggest challenge with Russian oldtimers is their unpredictability. The quality of some components is just bad. A careful driver will come a lot further, as they will feel something is โ€˜offโ€™ before it might break. It requires a certain intuition that not everyone has.

If you have a set-in-stone travel plan and need everything to go off without a hitch, these cars might not be the best choice. Flexibility is key, as we can’t guarantee that you can reach every destination on your itinerary without encountering some hiccups. It’s essential to approach your trip with a sense of adventure and patience, understanding that things might not always go as planned.

Our Commitment to You

While we can’t change the inherent design or reliability of these vehicles, we are committed to supporting you throughout your journey. If you encounter issues, we’ll do our best to help the best way we can, based on our experience, support network and knowledge of the car and the area, even if you’re in a remote location. Your patience and understanding are crucial, as these cars, and the context of the country, require a different mindset and approach compared to modern vehicles. There is always a lot of improvisation required, as there aren’t any ‘official’ ‘quick’ fixes such as calling the ADAC/ANWB/AA.

Options for Peace of Mind

We understand that this unique driving experience isn’t for everyone. If you feel that a Russian oldtimer might not suit your needs, we offer some different, more modern options. Our goal is to ensure you have the best possible experience, whether that’s behind the wheel of a vintage Russian car or another vehicle.

Final Thoughts

Driving a Russian oldtimer is not just about getting from point A to point B โ€” it’s about the journey, the stories, and the experiences along the way. If you’re up for the adventure and willing to embrace the quirks, these cars can offer an unforgettable trip. But if you prefer reliability and comfort, consider your options carefully.

Feel free to reach out with any questions or concerns. We’re here to assist you every step of the way.

Happy travels!