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VIDEO: Development of the Lada Niva

Kamil Kaluski October 17, 2017 All Things Hoon 5 Comments

The Lada Niva has been around for more than forty years, kind of like the Mercedes-Benz G-class. You can still buy a brand new Niva today and it isn’t much different from the original model. Again, kind of like the Mercedes G-class, except the Niva has more class, better ride, and is more reliable. 

Except for most things on it, the Niva was an original Soviet design. To pat themselves on the back, in the late 1970’s Soviets released a documentary/propaganda video on how the Niva was developed. The small size of this vehicle, good ground clearance, narrow tires, and locking differentials made the Niva a genuinely capable off-road vehicle.

Looking back at the video now, it’s heartening to see that the primary design point of this SUV was off-road ability and not third-row access or wind-noise at 90mph. The mechanical engineers in the video also seem to be people of great social and commanding importance, unlike the unappreciated and underpaid worker-bees that engineers have become today. The narration is in Russian but you don’t need to understand Russian to understand this short video. Enjoy.

  • Sjalabais

    That’s a lot of entertaining abuse right there. Like nanoop said the other day about cars in Kyrgyzstan, it is telling how the European fleet of the mid-90s has been replaced by Japanese RHD cars – all the while a host of Soviet machinery keeps populating streets and back roads.

    The price list is a “404 error”, but the Niva/Taiga is still available with EU papers:
    http://lada.de/cars/4×4/taiga/about.html

  • Christopher Tracy

    I’d rock that in a heartbeat.

  • Zentropy

    After watching this Fifth Gear video, I am completely enamored with the little beast.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IFx5b5Tpjfc

  • oldcarjunkie

    I’ve owned three Lada Nivas – fantastic vehicles. Lots of quirks (over fill the five speed gearbox to ensure it lives), Chevy Cavalier fuel injection on the newer ones. In fact the newer ones are likely the only vehicle that has a starting crank handle AND fuel injection. The interior has plastics that are so poor in quality that they would make a McDonald’s Happy Meal toy blush but the mechanical design is quite brilliant. Would recommend if you can still find a decent one in Canada.

  • vega60

    Want to know how I know you never drove a Niva? You just called it more reliable than a Mercedes G. And having a better ride…..

    Hahahahaha!

    Just because all the parts that usually break on a Niva (and believe me there are many) are mostly repairable with a mallet, doesn’t mean it’s reliable.

    The basic construction is simple and robust, however the quality of materials is appalling. Gearboxes that routinely pack up at 50000km, coolant hoses exploding after 3 years, Brakes seizing up after only 2 weeks. They eat starters and alternators. Valves and camshafts are usually done around 90.000 miles, head gaskets only last half as long.
    Plus the only way to keep it from completely rusting out in a few months is to flood all the body cavities with rust protection every winter.

    And ride? The Niva and the Mercedes G are not even on the same planet.

    The Niva is a charming primitive oxcart, but it’s an oxcart. A badly made oxcart.