It’s hard for me to even call what I’m about to show you a mistake, because it is absolutely glorious. While at the incredible Galpin Car Show yesterday, I ran upstairs to the Aston Martin dealership and hung out with Autopian cofounder Beau in the VIP section, where there was a harpist playing songs from Sting and Michael Jackson. There were drinks, there was good breakfast and lunch, there was delicious crème brulée (I won’t lie, I had to look up how to spell that; I’m more of a cobbler man), and there were watermelons. Engraved watermelons. Maybe you see where this is going.
This being a premium car show at a premium sports car dealership, naturally you’d expect the cars engraved into watermelons to be premium vehicles, and they were! (mostly). Of the three watermelons perched as decorations on the dessert table in the VIP area, two sat down below on either side of the tallest watermelon, which was clearly the “featured” melon meant to get all the attention. The lower melon on the left showed the front of the latest-generation Ford GT — a vehicle that had an MSRP of about $500,000, but which tends to sell for over a million these days:
The watermelon on the right featured the rear of a 2005-2006 Ford GT, a vehicle that had a sticker price of about $150,000 back when it launched — a damn bargain, and frankly, something that my 14 year-old self should have (somehow) purchased en-masse and stored in a warehouse, as this generation of Ford GT tends to sell for about a half a million dollars these days:
Two expensive, highly collectable supercars — totally appropriate for the VIP room of an Aston Martin dealership during a great car show. But what was the crown jewel of the three watermelons on that dessert table? What was the one in the middle, sitting up high for everyone to admire? Was it a rare Aston Martin? Was it a beautiful Jaguar or Lotus, since the Aston Martin building is shared by the two brands? Was it perhaps an iconic Land Rover, since that brand is also in the same building?
The crown-jewel watermelon in the Galpin Car Show’s VIP lounge in the Aston Martin dealership was…
A Lada Niva.
Why the hell is the centerpiece of the car show’s VIP room a sub-$25,000 Russian off-road economy car? This is the equivalent of engraving a Subaru Crosstrek into a watermelon and presenting it proudly above two Ford GTs, except it’s even worse, because the Lada Niva — which is somehow still in production — is a 40+ year-old design!
I get the impression that the vehicle was meant to be a Land Rover Defender, since, as I mentioned before, the Aston Martin showroom shares a building with Land Rover, but what’s actually carved into the melon is very clearly a Niva. I mean, just look at those two turn signals above the headlights, with that strong hoodline joining them. No other car looks like that. Then you have the round headlights connected via horizontal grille slots. The front bumper is simple and straight, and the wheel arches are nice and pronounced. Plus, the two doors and small overall profile — this is clearly a Lada Niva.
It’s a hilarious mistake, and one that — as I mentioned in the first sentence — I’m hesitant to even call a mistake, because the Lada Niva is an awesome machine! It’s a tiny 4×4 hatchback with real off-road capability and cockroach-like longevity. The design has stuck around this long because it’s a great overall package — it’s small but spacious, it can go anywhere, and honestly, I think it looks great. It’s an honest little 4×4 — Russia’s Jeep Cherokee XJ.
I see charming little Nivas all the time when I visit my parents in Germany; Nivas, along with Suzuki Jimnys, are the ultimate alpine runabouts, and I think they’re fantastic. Obviously, sentiments towards Russia aren’t exactly high these days, but that’s not the Niva’s fault! You can like a car no matter who developed it, as Jason – our resident VW Beetle fan — can attest.
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So I take it back — this hilarious mistake by the catering company wasn’t a mistake at all, but rather a triumphant statement: Give the Lada Niva the respect it deserves, for it is worthy of that top-watermelon-spot.
I can support that.