Junkyard Find: Lada Niva
When I went to Iceland to abuse some Subarus, I managed to visit a couple of Reykjavik junkyards and poke around a bit. In addition to the weird-to-American-eyes French cars and puzzling quantities of 1990s Chrysler products, I found this VAZ-2121 aka Lada Niva 3-door wedged nose-to-tail with a green Megane.
The car’s doors were locked and the yard’s proprietor didn’t speak much English, so I couldn’t determine this Russian’s year of manufacture. The marker lights and some comments by Lada-admiring Icelanders later suggest that this car is from the early 1980s.
There’s no way this car could have competed in the United States market, what with all the cheap Subarus, reliable Toyota Tercel 4WDs, and the perception that Ladas were just Fiats built by enslaved Stakhonovites in dirt-floored tents in the Gulag. Elsewhere, however, the Niva built up a reputation for T-34-grade toughness.
These days, the Niva’s appeal in Iceland has waned, and so this car will likely end up getting crushed soon.
Not many products benefit from association with the Soviet Union. The AK-47 and the Niva, that’s about it.
In Iceland, they’re a little rougher on their Ladas.
Writer d'Elegance Brougham Landau.
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