Lada Niva 4×4

Does anyone remember the Lada Niva 4×4?

Lada Niva

Well, I sure do since it feels like it was yesterday I was 12 and in the family Oldsmobile heading to the dealer to test drive one with my father.  I’m still not 100% sure but I think I got my Dad curious to go for the test drive by explaining the amazing price point and reinforcing my argument by saying the Niva was a modern day International Scout with a cold war twist. As my Dad was a travelling salesman who leased a different car every two years I did my best to influence what car/vehicle would be brought home and this time I was focused on getting Dad interested in the little Niva.

A well used Niva in the Soviet motherland

During the test drive on a Southwestern Ontario back road, I remember thinking how awesome the Lada 4×4 was and how it would be “perfect” for our family. Unfortunately, while I was thinking that, my father was nowhere near as impressed and was down right shocked with the unbelievably low level of quality from the Soviet automaker. In fact, I do remember the interior looking a bit like a Sputnik spacecraft so I know he was not way off base. Suffice it to say, Dad and I did not drive home from the dealer that day in a new Lada. Nevertheless, the impression was not lost on me and since then I have always had a bit of a soft spot for the infamous Niva 4×4.

Modified Niva

The Niva was built by Soviet/Russian automaker AvtoVAZ,  which brands all their vehicles under the Lada brand. According to Wikipedia, the Niva was originally described by designers as a Renault 5 put on a Land Rover chassis.  It was AvtoVAZ‘s first non-Fiat based model. However, much of the vehicle’s mechanicals were carried over from the Fiat based Lada models, except for the body, four-wheel drive system, and front suspension which were specifically designed by Lada. Production of the Niva began in 1977 and continued for 34 years as the last Niva just rolled off the production line in September 2012.  Quite a successful run for the little gutsy 4×4 from the land of the iron curtain.

In terms of engineering highlights, the Niva was one of the first mass production off-road vehicles to feature a unibody architecture with an independent front suspension of which most of today’s crossover/SUVs follow as their suspension set-up.

Factory stock Niva

The Niva’s standard powerplant includes a 1.6-liter overhead cam, four cylinder, gas engine producing 72 hp and 93 lb·ft of torque, matted to a four or five speed manual transmission, and full-time four-wheel drive. A 1.7-litre gas engine was introduced later in production, as well as a single-point fuel injection supplied initially by General Motors.  Since 2004, a multi-point fuel injection system designed by Bosch was also used and in some markets a 1.9L Peugeot XUD diesel powered powerplant was available as well.

The four-wheel drive system employs three differentials (centre, front and rear), similar to the manual transmission of the Toyota FJ Cruiser. With the Niva, the transfer case consists of a high/low range selector lever and a central differential lock lever while low range can be selected with the centre differential locked or unlocked.

The Niva had a maximum speed of approx 130 km/h (80 mph), and could cruise at 90 km/h (56 mph) while fuel efficiency was a solid 8.25 L/100 km (28.5 mpg). The towing capacity was rated for up to 860 kg (1900 lb) which was generous considering the size of the engine.

Lada in snow

Apparently, President Putin is a fan too as seen in this 2009 pic of his heavily modified model including lift kit, camo paint scheme, winch, lights, brush bar and snorkel exhaust.

Putin’s Niva

Although the Lada Niva 4×4 never won too many production quality awards it remains a very unique and interesting vehicle and it certainly captured the heart of one Canadian 12 year old boy many years ago. Earlier this month, Lada announced it intends to replace the Niva with the below XRAY concept car.

New Lada Protoype

So who knows, maybe the new version can capture the hearts of the next generation. Only time will tell.

2012 Fall Mudfest at Gopher Dunes

On an absolutely beautiful Sunday in September, Team RedlineNorth headed back to Gopher Dunes in Courtland, Ontario for their Fall Mudfest event.  Having attended several times now, we knew what to expect and it lived up to the hype once again.  It really is something you have to experience in person to fully “get”.  At this season’s event, there were three large mud bogs for those ambitious folks as well as some amazing trails for the more conservative 4×4 enthusiasts.

We have attempted to capture the essence of these grassroots mud buggies.

Custom fabricated ride

60s Dodge

Ford with tractor tires

Pontiac Fiero on steriods

Vintage Willy’s Jeepster

Hitting the trails in the woods section

Jeep TJ

Classic K5 Blazer

For more information about Mudfest, be sure to check out the Gopher Dunes fanpage on Facebook.

2012 Spring Mudfest at Gopher Dunes

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to spend a beautiful afternoon at Gopher Dunes in Courtland, Ontario attending the 2012 Spring Mudfest event. With over 400 trucks competing in three different mudbogs and trail sections it was a sight to see and hear. As spectators, you are able to get very close to the action which is not for the faint of heart as experiencing these trucks first hand is truly a very visceral experience.

Who says a Pontiac Fiero and Chevy Camaro are not suitable for the mud?

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From the pint sized, four cylinder Suzuki Samurai’s, through to Jeeps of all kinds, Toyota 4Runners, Hummers and full size 4 x 4’s from decades ago, Mudfest attracts all types of enthusiasts to test their skill in the muddy farmland of Southwestern Ontario.

Here is an assortment of the machines at this year’s event.

1980s K5 Chevy Blazer

Chevy and Ford lined up and ready to go –

Heavily modified purpose built mudder

And don’t forget the Rednecks…

Having attended twice now, the one thing that still surprises me is the broad appeal of Mudfest. For example, some people roll up in their shiny new daily drivers while others bring their well used SUV’s and there are also the folks who come with their fire breathing custom fabricated mud slingers on trailers to be thrashed about for the afternoon.

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It really is a special event and worth experiencing if you are interested in trucks of any kind. Although trucks and 4×4’s are designed to be used and abused in the mud the reality is only 15% of them ever experience any type of off-road use so to witness them in action doing what engineers designed them for is enlightening. For more information about Mudfest, be sure to check out the Gopher Dunes page on Facebook.

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