VAZ 2802 "Poni"

I'd like to think that the location in the first photo was chosen because the birch tree's trunk is almost exactly leaning over parallel to the "Poni".

You may recall that I mentioned more to come from VAZ in my story on the VAZ 1801, a barely-there car(t) designed for duty primarily in stadiums during the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow.

Nicknamed "Poni" (and even had a snazzy pony logo), the VAZ 2802 was an evolution of the 1801, and intended for the same types of indoor "roads", albeit in factories. Two were built, and christened 2802-1 and 2802-2. -1 is the truck, and -2 is the box van.

What's interesting to me is that Lada seemed to be behind the project wholeheartedly, and committing its few resources to an electric utility van must have seemed insane. But if there's a country that has tons of factories that need utility vehicles, it's Russia. For export markets, who knows? A cheap Lada box van would likely be far more economical than a propane-powered vehicle. For areas where restricting emissions is important (like in a salt mine), the 2802 would have fared well. Sources say at $10,000 each, they were early front-runners as utility vehicles during construction of the Chunnel, er, Channel Tunnel.

You may say that the vehicle would be awesome for local deliveries, but don't forget: commerce wasn't exactly a thing in the USSR.

Before I get into statistics, if you're interested in this sort of thing, make sure your translator is running and read this. The VAZ electric vehicle program evolved from an incredibly simple buggy designed to be cheap, easy-to-fix, and mass produced. The program was shelved, and later evolved into both the company's electric car platform and, if my story is straight, the Lada Niva. 

After more than six years of development, the 2802 was the company's best shot at creating a vehicle that would (finally) enter production. It didn't. Built as two very different versions of the same theme, -1 had an aluminum frame and bodywork, and was used to test maximum loads, speeds, and other performance measurements. Prototype -2 had a steel frame and fibreglass bodywork.

And how much could the box van carry? Well, weight was a constant issue for engineers, and once the heavy body was fitted and its batteries were charged, the payload was something ridiculously useless, like 100 kg (220 lbs).

There is a silver lining, however. One publication, autotesla.com, says that Giorgetto Giugiaro made a covert visit to VAZ, apparently to provide feedback on the various projects that the company was working on. Of the vehicles he saw, he thought that the little "Poni" was the belle of the ball, so to speak. That's high praise, indeed.

(There's also a 2702 prototype that came after the 2802. Its story is just as confusing.)