Lada love for a laughing stock
Ladas may have more jokes than you can poke a dipstick at but one Nelson College boy loves his Russian runabout.
At just 16-years-old, Tom Henman's first car is a 1992 Lada Cossack 4WD.
His fascination with Ladas stemmed from his dad, Derryl Henman, former co-founder of Lada Nelson on Haven Road with Graeme Powell in the 1980s.
Henman is no regular teenage boy. His father referred to him as "an old soul" who listened to Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, so his choice in cars was no surprise to Derryl.
In July last year, Henman went about following his father's Lada loving footsteps.
"I knew Dad used to sell them and I thought it would be quite interesting if anybody had one. I went through his files and I found a number."
Henman said he contacted the man by post who responded saying he had a 2L diesel Cossack if Tom wanted to take a look.
That same week, Henman was driving out to the man's farm in Orinoco in the Tasman region with his Dad.
"He didn't even tell me he was writing the old guy a letter", Derryl said.
Henman left the farm as the proud third owner of what he referred to as Boris, named as he said "it's sort of a rough Russian name".
And Boris was rough when Henman got it after its farm life.
The car that cost $3000 to buy last year was estimated to be worth double now, Derryl said.
Since moving to city life, the Lada has had a new lick of paint on its roof, bonnet and tailgate and had two new tyres.
Henman has yet to get his driver's licence so he's unable to legally get Boris out on the open road without sitting in the passenger seat.
He said he liked Ladas because "they're just so different".
"It's so uncool, it's cool."
People related to the car, he said, as everyone knew someone with a Lada.
"It's just an icon really.
"Usually people think of butter and the Dairy Board and the story behind it which really makes it quite unique."
Ladas originally came into New Zealand with a barter of butter.
The New Zealand Dairy Board owned Lada New Zealand, trading dairy for Ladas with Russia from the mid 1980s until 1990.
Henman's Lada was one of 24 converted from petrol to diesel by his dad and Powell.
When the pair took the Nelson Lada franchise on in 1986 the Chatham Islands were using Landcruisers.
Derryl said the Landcruisers "wouldn't last" so they put diesel engines into the new petrol Ladas and shipped them to the islands.
Powell may have had a few jokes up his sleeve about Ladas but he didn't have a bad word to say about them.
He said the most common thing that went wrong with them was just drivers forgetting to "fuel them up".
"Off road, they're amazing, absolutely amazing. Tom doesn't know this yet but he will one day.
"The amount of times you'd be away with 4WD people and you'd be towing out Toyotas and Mitsubishis out with your Lada."
Henman's mission was to keep the spirit of Ladas alive and to remind people "that they're still here".