A password will be e-mailed to you.

This time of year – unless of course you live in SoCal, Australia or the south of Spain – you’re likely to be dreaming about a classic car which you don’t have to pamper. One which you can drive anywhere, at any time and in any weather too.

While we at ViaRETRO are always banging the drum about getting out there on the roads and enjoying your classic as it was meant to be, I must confess that even I do understand why you wouldn’t want to take your concours flat-floor E-type out onto heavily salt-infested winter roads. Or for that matter the family-owned Marina, which you’ve painstakingly spent the last three years restoring to perfection. So how are we then meant to satisfy our addiction through those cold and grim winter months?

Well, I’ve touched on the subject before: Off the Beaten Track
You need an off-roader! After all, they wear their battle-scars with pride, so you don’t need to live in fear of using it. In fact, an off-roader will only look better and more authentic with a solid amount of patina to it.

In the article “Off the Beaten Track”, among some true icons from the world of Four-by-Fours, I included the Lada Niva. Also known on its homemarket as the VAZ 2121, it was launched in 1977 as a tough and durable vehicle for the rural market of the Soviet Union, including harsh and remote areas like the Ural Mountains and Siberia. The development team at VAZ set out to design a compact hatchback body inspired by the original Renault 5 but placed on a Land Rover chassis. Ironic then that the development process went through so many different prototypes up through the seventies, that the final product actually ended up being the first mass-produced off-roader with a monocoque chassis, instead of a separate ladder frame chassis. There was of course also four-wheel-drive, a transfer case and even a lockable central differential. The utilitarian but endearing Niva proved its worth and became a huge sales success for VAZ – both within the Soviet and now Russia, as well as on export markets all around the globe. Its low weight and high ground clearance gives the Lada excellent off-road capabilities, and through continues development with new engines and various other updates the Lada Niva has stayed in production right up to this day.

Despite its success and not least a diehard following of enthusiasts, a second-hand Niva is still very much a budget entry-level classic. There’s a RHD UK-version coming up for auction on the 27th January in Norfolk in the UK. This Niva is from 1990, has five previous owners and a very low claimed 28.000 miles on the clock. It’s the Cossack version with bull bars front and rear, spot lights on the front and an externally mounted spare wheel on the rear, all of which lend it a distinct off-roader look. Granted, the Cossack seat covers are perhaps less cool with their typically cheap late eighties vibe, but at least it’s a fittingly functional interior. The Lada presents quite tidy in the pictures, as you would of course hope for with such a low mileage. There doesn’t appear to be any obvious rust, and even the engine bay looks good. The Niva also comes with the factory owners manual, service history, some old MOT certificates, a current MOT valid until September 2018 and a spare key. Here are some pictures borrowed from the auction catalogue:

The Lada Niva has an estimate of £ 3.500 – 4.500. If the little off-roader indeed checks out as well-kept as it’s presented on the auction website, then that seems like a whole lot of classic off-roader per pound! Have a look here for yourself:

1990 Lada Niva Cossack



With our Saturday instalment of Prime Find of the Week, we’re offering our services to the classic car community, by passing on our favourite classic car for sale from the week that passed. This top-tip might help a first-time-buyer to own his first classic, or it could even be the perfect motivation for a multiple-classic-car-owner to expand his garage with something different. We’ll let us inspire by anything from a cheap project to a stunning concours exotic, and hope that you will do the same.
Just remember – Any Classic is Better than No Classic! We obviously invite our readers to help prospective buyers with your views and maybe even experiences of any given model we feature. Further to that, if you stumble across a classic which you feel we ought to feature as Prime Find of the Week, then please send us a link to

About The Author

My passion for Bavarian classics is profound. But all classics are charming. My fantasies range from Imps over quirky Panhards to my dream Montreal. But then there’s also my nerdtastic lust for classics from the Country of the Rising Sun… I appreciate originality, but most importantly, regardless of origin, year or value, classics are meant to be driven. My keeper is a 1973 BMW 2002 - the first car I ever bought.

Related Posts

5 Responses

  1. Claus Ebberfeld

    I’ve always had a weak spot for the Niva – even as I lived well inside the comfort of the city limits. But now on my fourth year in the countryside the Niva seems more and more relevant. Well sort of relevant, as what it ACTUALLY means when you live in the countryside is that you will drive a lot to get to anything else – and even out here the roads are actually paved.

    But then the week before christmas I almost got the SLC stuck in wet grass – now IF that had actually happened a Niva would come in handy…

    …for anything else I (unfortunately) think my other classics would beat the Niva in most disciplines. Except if “Russianness” can be considered a discipline.

  2. Ib Erik Söderblom

    Hi’ Anders.
    Did you do this for me? :-D

    I’ve had two Niva’s.
    A car relationship with love and hate.
    My first was a 1978. With snorkel !!!
    But no way to disable the beltdriven cooling fan…
    Next Niva was a 1984’ish.
    Was extremly cheap.
    Sometimes things are just so cheap, that its impossible to say no.
    Found the Niva in a farmers barn.
    He used the car as a hen house (!).

    Turned out to be an impossible projekt.
    In the days before the Internet, parts and advice was difficult, “expensive” and took lots of time.

    But for the last couple of month I’ve begun missing the Nivas.
    They are a lot of fun, if used the right way.
    The question is, if you can live with it as a daily driver.
    If you want a Niva, you have to do everything on the car yourself.
    But everything can be done roadside !!!
    If you want a smooth ride, it takes work.
    Ensure the gearbox and tranfercase are aligned, keep bushings in perfect order, do not raise the car, buy road tyres.
    And replace the blowerfan. Its the single most noisy component in the car !!!

    From a Niva purists eyes (I’m not), the car has changed A LOT over the years.
    Boot lid goes all the way down now ( great in everyday use, gives water in the boot, when you are in a river an opens it…), the interior and seats are all modern (well, more like western 1990’ish style), the engine is a lot more modern with injection and emission control and electric fan and more power, less noise and just better…, powersteering (thanks Lada and give me the electric version), ABS breakes (not really needed on the Niva), nice tinted windows, and for the depraved westerners ( :-D ) AIRCONDITION option.

    I want a “never” one. Mostly for the engine.
    The car still needs to be “upgraded in the same way as a 1984 model, because it has to be a daily driver as well.
    That means reducing vibration from the driveline and tyres and the cabin blower.

    Going in to the wild, where the Niva is a gem, just have a set of spare wheels with propper tyres.

    In Denmark it is difficult to find places to go offroad, and getting more and more difficult.
    But its such fun !!!

    Fining a Niva in Denmark is difficult and the ones found are often not in good shape and absolutely to pricy.
    Import is a better option, but taxation on import is steep, so its never going to be as cheap as it should be…
    But better than domestic.

    Yesterday I made myself what I call my “2020 plan”.
    All leading to a Niva in 2020.

  3. Dave Leadbetter

    It was possible to buy a brand new Niva in the UK quite recently as there was a company down south importing them. The standard passenger model was £10k and a commercial van variant was even less than that. Fuel injected for emissions compliance but left hand drive only. Sales must have been miniscule as I don’t think I’ve seen one yet and the importer seems to have given up. The market for an actual no-frills 4×4 is limited even in the agricultural sector, but I think they’re ace.

  4. Anders Bilidt

    Yes Ib Erik, naturally this article was written solely for you. I’m glad you enjoyed it… ;-)
    Sadly I haven’t yet had the pleasure of owning a Niva. But I would like to!
    Should I ever take the plunge, I’ll ensure to run through the list of subtle modifications which you’ve kindly listed above.
    I think it’s a great little piece of kit!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Skip to toolbar