Niva No More? Lada Concept Vehicle Heralds the Demise of a Communist Classic

We’ve all seen movies set in the perpetually grey, bitterly cold Soviet Union (later Hollywood films featuring Russia were apparently allowed to show sunlight), but if you lived north of the border a few decades ago, it wasn’t just the weather that looked familiar.

Lada Canada imported Iron Curtain cars for two decades (1979 to 1997), offering rudimentary, pinko automobiles to Canadian cheapskates for very few kopeks. Your author recalls entering the high school library at the dawn of the internet age and slowly booting up the Lada Canada website, where a five-door Samara was advertised for $4,995. Few of these showed up on local roads, as Hyundai offered slightly better no-cost transportation options.

However, there was one Lada vehicle that can truly be considered a classic, and it’s the one everyone remembers best. Sadly, after more than 40 years of production, the virtually unchanged Niva (now known simply as the 4×4) seems destined, like the Berlin Wall, to pass into history.

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QOTD: Buy Russian?

The relationship between the United States and Russia over the past hundred years or so would put any soap-opera romance to shame. Russia was the enemy in the 1930s, then it was an ally, then it was the enemy. When I was a kid in the ’70s, the Soviet Union was absolutely the enemy and we all expected that someday there would be war between the countries. Despite a concerned media effort to paint McCarthy, Nixon, et al as panicked morons swinging at shadows, most of us figured the Soviet Union did, in fact, regularly attempt to interfere in American affairs. (Turns out McCarthy was as right as he was wrong, maybe more so.) Sure, you had the committed leftists who were willing to take a “honeymoon” there, but they were few and far between.

After the fall of the Iron Curtain, Russia-US relations enjoyed a thaw. It didn’t last. Now the same political left that excused Stalin’s purges is clutching its pearls over Crimea, while the right-wingers who used to seriously discuss a nuclear-equipped preemptive strike against Moscow see Mr. Putin as a sort of fun-loving, horse-riding fellow who has the guts to drive an F1 car in wet conditions.

This is the sort of stark dichotomy that tends to cause trouble if left untended. Luckily, there’s something that can be done about it.

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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.

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  • Johnster My understanding is that the Mark VI Coupe was built on the shorter 114" wheelbase shared with the Panther-based LTD and Marquis, while the Mark VI sedan was built on the longer 119" wheelbase used by both the Continental Coupe and Sedan, and that the Mark VI Coupe was then slightly shorter and smaller than the Continental Coupe.
  • Varezhka Ugh, had one as a rental and no wonder they disappeared quickly.Now they still have the current gen. Quest as a Nissan Elgrand in the home market, but even in the minivan heaven that is Japan (where minivan has a 20% marketshare as a bodystyle) they only sell 2~3000 units annually.
  • Fred Look at me! I drive a weird truck thing made by a guy who is losing money running Twitter.
  • Fred The mid-engine Vette hasn't been as successful as the previous race car. They did just come in 2nd at Daytona 24hrs but I'm not sure it's enough for buyers to line up.
  • Fred CNBC is a odd channel. Financial news, but mostly about American stuff. Then a lot of reruns of Shark Tank, and infomercials. Then a sprinkling of sport shows from NBC. I only find the occaisional sports because I'm a fierce channel surfer. I just don't think they know what to do with that channel.