Russian Body, Italian Heart, Outlaw Attitude

When I saw photos of this orange 1981 Lada 2103 for the first time, I just knew I had to see it in person.

The fact that the owner lives outside of the big cities didn’t make it easy, but during one of my trips to Moscow to shoot the Russian Drift Series, I managed to catch a three-hour train to Ryazan, where I spent a couple of hours with Sergey Grachev and his car.


By day, Sergey works in a car workshop where he predominantly services steering racks. His automotive hobby tips over to work, and even though he doesn’t suggest mixing the two to others, there are positives, namely a full-equipped facility and lots of knowledge around him.

The Lada was bought in 2014 from a friend as an emotional purchase. It had previously been modified and was known in Russian stance circles, but needed work, hence a low buy price. Sergey knew that he was buying the 2103 for a project, and that it would only be a weekend car, but at the start he didn’t know which style of modification to go with. Without many good customized examples of this chassis around, for a couple of years he was at a loss for inspiration.


But after looking at a variety of European and US stanced classic projects on Instagram and other social media channels, Sergey eventually formed the vision of his very own low-down Lada 2103. It was 2016 now, and he got stuck straight in, adding leather to the engine bay, refurbishing the engine, and starting work on a set of custom wheels.

Unfortunately, health issues didn’t allow Sergey to finish the car right away, but a year later it made its debut.


The Lada certainly looked the part, but Sergey knew there were still issues and how it could be so much better. So in 2018 he disassembled the whole car, repainted it, freshened up the interior, laid down new leather under the hood and built up a set of custom 15-inch wheels based on BLMZ (Balashikha Casting & Mechanical Plant) wheels from the USSR.


He combined Soviet magnesium centers with 9.5-inch wide aluminum barrels from a Japanese truck, and dressed them with stretched 165/45R15 tires. The finishing touch came with custom wheel caps featuring the logo of Sergey’s own workshop, PGC.


A wood-rimmed Nardi steering wheel feels right at home in the retro cabin, complete with lap belts, analog dials, and a bunch of Soviet pins.


The last thing to go in was the new engine: a 2.0-liter DOHC inline-four from a Fiat 132, which was fully rebuilt and stripped of any unnecessary ancillaries for a cleaner look. A custom intake manifold running twin side-draught Dellorto carburetors, and a single-pipe custom exhaust system featuring shotgun-style dual tip ensures it makes all the right noises, while producing around 130hp (on a good day) according to Sergey.

Suspension-wise, the front setup is modified original Lada fare – with -9 degrees of camber adjustment – while the rear setup was taken from a BMW E21. The low-riding stance comes courtesy of an air suspension package that features Berkut compressors, a 19-liter tank, and Chassis Tech airbags.

Next to the air tank is a neat spot for the spare wheel, which is wearing an Advan A048 semi-slick. Sergey told me that he thought about prioritizing speed at one point, so he felt that sticky rubber would necessary.


Right now, Sergey is working through some small engine glitches and will try to visit as many shows and events as possible in 2020. As it stands though, this 2103 takes its rightful place as one of the best custom Ladas in Russia.

Vladimir Ljadov
Instagram: wheelsbywovka



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dudeeee yesssss


Massively cool!!


I need to know how those wheels work? It looks like there's more wheel after the rubber to get it to stick up around the fender like that but how would that work?


on airbags, he would raise to a higher drive height and slam it when required


Yeah that part I get. I mean the wheels/rims/whatever themselves. it almost looks like he extended it past where the bead is or something to give it that little lip maybe?


Its called tyre stretch, the tyre is massively undersized for that rim width, exposing the rim lip.


Oh wow, I've seen stretch before but never to this degree, or maybe just never paid close enough attention. I honestly wouldn't have thought doing that would work, it seems like they'd leak or something? Idk much about stretching though, it never interested me much before this


The venerable old Fiat twin cam. I haven't seen one of those in years. They were a British hot rodding staple running in many a Morris Minor. I bet it sounds great.


And apparently ' the most successful engine in the history of the World Rally Championship'.


Not that weird when you think about it. All the WRC cars below had that engine in one form or another:

- Lancia Delta (1987 untill 1992, so 6 years)
- Lancia 037 (1983, so 1 year)
- Fiat 131 (1977, 1978 and 1980, so 3 years)

Engine itself was also produced from 1966 all the way untill 2000. Not quite as long as the BMC A-series though....


You're right, I just never really thought about it :)

Space Cadet Randy

beautiful little car, for sure. gotta say, the leather engine bay treatment looks damn fine. wheels look stunning as well, almost like that one mugen wheel. stance is perfect as well!


Sweet ride best wheels ever. I cant see the ignition set up but I once ran an MSD spark box off the points ignition on a 124 !800/1600 mash up with high comp and jetted single carb, it was almost imossible to start and run without it.


To the photographers. On the cars with airbags. Can we get some pics with the car at the actual height it is driven at. It seems silly to see all these pictures of cars sitting on the ground.


Awesome car!
Side question: Is the SH store ever coming back?


I’m drooooooliiiiiiiiiinnnnn :P


A breath of fresh air.


Luv this! Those wheels (drool)


Beautiful.. my grandparents had similar looking Indian car ‘premier 118’ couple of decades back. I wish I could get that one back .



But I really wonder how ultra low car runs?


Sorry.. admin I quoted wrongly in above comment. Please delete it. Tq


Troechka na pyaterochky!)

Mustapha D'eeflok

No plates or just removed for pics?

Great shots. However, it would be good to see ride height shots. Just one. Tucked away under another parked shot...


Hello Vladimir,

great shots of a very interesting and high quality build. I like the style and the color combination. Nice photography, as expected from you. Well done. As some other commenters here, I'm also interested in some shots at rolling height of the air suspension. Thanks in advance and best regards, Seb.


WOW the leather engine bay... wow. Love it!


Where are the clutch/brake master cylinders?