The Yorkshire wedding that featured a bright orange Lada
News that the last Lada Classic (or Riva as it was known in the UK) has finally come off the production line had Angela Flynn digging out her wedding snaps
My wedding ‘limousine’ couldn’t have been shinier … or heavier! Forget the horse drawn carriage or lavish Rolls, the vehicle that transported me and my sister bridesmaid to my wedding on August 23rd, 1980 was a bright orange Lada. Forget the chauffeur too; dad was the one behind the wheel. Looking back, he was probably the only one who would have wanted to have driven a car we came to know as ‘the tank’.
But dad loved his ton (or more!) of hairy-armed Soviet car making. The jokes that were soon to be made about this heavy gauge steel behemoth hadn’t reached his ears. Or if they had, he’d chosen not to hear them.
(An example: man goes into a service station and asks: ‘Can I have a windscreen-wiper for my Lada?’ ‘Okay’ replies the man in the garage. ‘It seems a fair swap.’)
Dad had spent days bringing the box-like Lada to a shine, although strangely my wedding pictures reveal he hadn’t trimmed it up. Perhaps he thought that might be demeaning to a car that had rolled so proudly off its assembly line in the Urals.
I don’t know how much it cost but it was his first ever new car and he’d bought it on a council worker’s wage. The reason he liked the car so much probably had a good deal to do with the vehicles he drove in his working life – first as a lorry driver then as a driver of gritters, dustbin lorries and gulley clearers for the local council. Driving the Lada must have been much the same as maneuvering a dustbin lorry.
Mum hated it – hence the tank nickname. Even now, over three decades later, she blames the Lada for giving her biceps bigger than those of an Olympic rower.
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Back in 1980 when the UK was just getting used to having its first woman Prime Minister and the Russians were to dub Mrs Thatcher ‘The Iron Lady’, they’d already picked a suitable soubriquet for their most famous car creation – Lada means boat in Old Russian and the symbol used on the car was of a Viking ship. It was an apt emblem. Steering the Lada was as responsive as a Viking long boat. Just like Mrs T, the Lada was not for turning!
I don’t recall wearing a seat belt on the three mile drive to my wedding at Heckmondwike Christadelphian Hall, but then it wouldn’t be compulsory even for front seat passengers for another three years. Perhaps I trusted dad’s driving implicitly. I can’t have had the same trust in the Lada getting me to the church on time, given its lousy reputation for reliability.
As for petrol consumption and emissions, we probably blew our personal hole in the ozone layer on that short drive.
But we did arrive safely and on time and the pictures show Rachel, my sister and bridesmaid, fussing over my Edwardian-style gown.
That gown was the one extravagance of a wedding day that fitted the austere era – costing an eye-watering �80.
As for the rest of the day, expense was kept to a minimum. Flowers, organ music for hymns (‘Dear Lord and Father of Mankind, forgive our foolish ways’) and even our wedding pictures all provided by friends. Even the service was conducted by a friend and church member (we just paid the registrar’s fee).
The reception was in the back garden of my mum and dad’s home with a family frame tent coming in as wedding marquee. Drinks? We did buy in some champagne for the toasts but my husband’s home-brewed beer was voted best tipple of the day.
Still, with interest rates at 17 per cent and inflation running at a sky high 20 per cent, there wasn’t money to throw around. Most of ours had gone on the deposit for a terraced house that we were to move into the day after we got back from honeymoon – three days in Reeth, North Yorkshire, staying bed and breakfast.
I started my first teaching job in a local comprehensive just a few days after moving into our first home.
One month later and I got my first salary … only to see it all go on replacing a rusted sub-frame on our ageing Mini.
As for the Lada? My parents eventually traded it in for a mini Metro, the model that was supposed to save British Leyland from oblivion. It rotted like a carrot. Cars, don’t you just love ’em?
But still when I look back at those wedding snaps I can’t help but have some affection for a bright orange Lada. Tank’s for the memory.