From Rust to Race: 8-Month Built Lada Cosworth Duratec Is the Ultimate Street Sleeper

1981 Lada 2101 11 photos
Photo: YouTube Screenshot/The Late Brake Show
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Russian automaker AvtoVAz doesn’t have a large footprint on the international market, but in Europe, it made a notable appearance with its Lada brand of cars. Renowned for its simplicity, hardiness, and efficiency, the Lada 2101 (VAZ-2101) was a popular pick for buyers looking for durability without straining on finances. It was nicknamed 'Kopeyca,' the smallest coin in the Soviet Union. And that happened for a reason. 
Like most things bought for cheap, the Russian sedan had its own set of problems. Despite having a durable exterior, the Lada was prone to galvanic corrosion, leading to catastrophic brake failure.

Due to its conservative design features, the Lada was berated. It was the sort of car you’d not want to get dropped in at school – unless you enjoyed getting trolled for weeks on end.

Still, everything bad deserves a second chance. It’s the sole reason the custom car industry thrives.

Jonny of The Late Brake Show YouTube channel recently featured a different kind of Lada 2101 sedan. It’s the sort of classic car that’d get heads turning, not because of its peculiarities, but for how cool it looks.

We all know cool and Lada don’t go hand in hand, but Retro Dave from RetroFord has an exceptional unit. It's a Lada Cosworth Duratec Sleeper.

After successfully completing a Ford Mark II Cortina project, Dave was looking for another project car to get his hands on. One of his friends suggested a Lada 2101 Sleeper project. He was hesitant at first, but after checking out a website with decked-out Ladas, he was sold.

There was loads of Ladas that were lowered, and I saw a picture of a Lada, and I’m like, I never really thought that was a car I’d want to do, and then I thought, I’m going to do one,” Dave revealed.

Dave bought the classic Russian sedan through a local Lada forum for cheap (£500/$605). It was a 1981 right-hand drive British spec version in a desolate condition. It needed new seals, rear arches, front panels, and a floor pan.

Stock the European spec VAZ-2101 came with a 1,197 cc engine good for 59 hp (60 ps) and 64 lb-ft (87 Nm) of torque. It had a 4-speed manual transmission running on a rear-wheel-drive layout. Pedal to the metal, it would hit a top speed of 87 mph (140 kph) and bolt from 0 to 62 mph (100 kph) in 19 seconds.

Most people doing Lada swaps prefer the Fiat 2-liter twin-cam engine. But since Dave is part of RetroFord, a custom car venture that works on classic Fords, he decided to go for a Ford Cosworth swap.

As docile as it looks on the exterior, Dave’s Lada 2101 sleeper packs a 2.3-liter Cosworth Duratec engine with a 48 mm (1.9 inches) Jenvey throttle body and an Emerald K6 ECU good for 235 hp (238 ps).

According to Dave, the Lada Cosworth Duratec Street Sleeper has a top speed of 150 mph (on private roads) and can do 0 to 62 mph (100 kph) in 4.5 seconds. It can complete a standing quarter mile in 12.9 seconds. Not quite a... Kopeyca anymore.

Harnessing all that power to the rear wheels is a 6-speed Mazda MK3 MX5 gearbox with custom quick shifts and a retro-plated LSD.

For the front suspension, the sleeper Lada runs on custom short-body Capri Blistein front struts with 2.25-inch coilovers and 280 lb (127 kg) springs. On the rear, it has custom extended in-board turrets and Gaz double adjustable 2.25-inch coilovers.

He retained the original Lada 5-link setup (all tubes were replaced with chromoly). Also, all the brackets were removed from the original Lada Axel casings and fitted to the Escort Axel casing. It weighs 950 kg (2,094 lbs).

It took Dave 8 months and more than £24,000 ($29,018) to complete this project (working evenings and weekends only).

The restoration done on this VAZ-2101 is nothing short of phenomenal. We recommend catching the entire build story in the video below.

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About the author: Humphrey Bwayo
Humphrey Bwayo profile photo

Humphrey is a car enthusiast whose love and passion for automobiles extended into collecting, writing, driving, and working on cars. He got his passion for cars from his Dad, who spent thousands of hours working on his old junky 1970 E20 Toyota Corolla. Years later, he would end up doing the same with a series of lemons he’s owned throughout his adult life.
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