SOTW: Lada Niva Cossack

We're used to thinking that consumer products which sprang from the other side of the Iron Curtain as backward, slipshod affairs that lag behind their more sophisticated Western counterparts.

This is especially true of the Eastern Bloc and Russian cars that trickled across the ideological divide during the 20th century. And if you're looking at Lada Rivas, Samaras, Yugos, FSO Polonezes and the like you'd have to say that the preconception stands up. These are, without exception, miserable cars.

But the Lada Niva is different. We would even go so far as to say it was ahead of its time. When it was launched in 1977 it was AvtoVAZ's (Lada's) first design that wasn't based on a Fiat. So, although it carried many Fiat mechanicals, the body, 4WD system and front suspension were Lada's own.

Most significant was the fact that this was one of the first mass-produced 4x4s to feature unibody construction and independent front suspension in a compact body, thereby making itself the precursor to the modern soft-roader.

There was (we should say 'is' as the car is actually still in production) nothing 'soft' about the Niva, however - this is a car that was designed to withstand Russian winters, so it's pretty much as tough and durable as they come.

It was even quite popular in the UK for a while, especially 'Cossack' models such as this, which were tarted-up by the importers with body decals, 15-inch alloys, and even occasionally a sunroof and bull bars (as here).

These days, the numbers of Nivas left alive in the UK have dwindled somewhat (How Many Left? suggests that there are fewer than 100 trundling around), and the vendor's alarming admission that jacking the car up has caused one of the sills to disintegrate implies that rot may be a possible cause for that, but as an automotive off-road curiosity this 49k-miler is still pretty intriguing.

Although it is possibly telling that the seller would consider a part-exchange of a Land Rover...

Advert is reproduced below

lada niva cossack (1991)
49,000 miles £900

white alloys, bull barr, crank handle,
The car is taxed until next year and mot until sept 2012,There are some bad point it dose has rust in a few places eg.front wings and now drivers side sil,
It needs a rear wheel bearing and now some welding work on the sil because i jack it up and the jack went in a bit.

P.H. O'meter

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Comments (218) Join the discussion on the forum

  • y2blade 27 Oct 2011

    This was featured on Fifth gear this week...great car smile

  • prand 17 Oct 2011

    HON2A said:
    "100% solid Barn find classic" of this rarity anyone?
    Certainly not worth the money. (Buy it now for £2000! no chance!) Having sat for 16 years with seized brakes and god knows what else, and with the poor availability and cost of replacement parts, I would not want to pay more than £500 to take it of this person's hands, even if I was a keen spannerist. Also - I;m not a fan of some of the aftermarket trim and additions, those wheels are awful!

  • HON2A 16 Oct 2011

    "100% solid Barn find classic" of this rarity anyone?

  • Munich 16 Oct 2011

    ivantate said:
    Great little off roader, the RangeRover link is help by the fact the rear suspension design is very similar. I should imagine it has about the same thirst too.
    More capable that an SJ and on the right terrain as everyone with an ounce of experience knows in the right conditions they can runs rings around the bigger stuff.

    Looks tidy enough but £900 might be a bit steep.
    On the right terrain and in the right conditions I can run rings around you on a MTB, but how often will those two stars aline?

    Edited by Munich on Sunday 16th October 12:25

  • GPS 10 30 Sep 2011

    These are very capable off roaders but truly awful for going any distance at any speed. I bought this one about 10yrs ago for green laning and club events and it never once got me stuck or let me down in all the years I had it. Repairs were peanuts too until the tin worm became too much of a problem to keep at bay! smile

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