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 (215) Join the discussion on the forum

  • johnpeat 23 Sep 2011

    Oh dear...

    At least you could actually use it AS a Shed I suppose?

  • EDLT 23 Sep 2011

    Pretty cool how he got Yakov Smirnoff to write the ad for him. These were supposed to be pretty good off road, if it uses Fiat mechanicals could you put a twin cam engine in it?

  • Alx323 23 Sep 2011

    Still amazing you can buy one new... Isn't it about £11k? Something about a Riva though these days, I wouldn't mind one to roll about in. Once twin-cammed obviously.

  • Colonial 23 Sep 2011

    Massive respect for these.

    Real, no bull off roaders.

  • mad4amanda 23 Sep 2011

    I had one of those back in the day it went everywhere yes it was noisy and rough to drive but what a laugh! They did rot though even at 3 years old the sills were rusting and yes we looked at the twin cam conversion and it appeared it would fit rasily enough.
    I had mine i the workshop for a clutch and a scrapped Fiat 132 at the time .
    worst part on it apart from the std tyres was the carb which would keep unscrewing the top plate screws despite thread lock superglue , eventally I areldited them in !

    Id love one as a winter shed , anyone want to buy an E34 540i touring?

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