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In late 1991 the leaders of the former USSR (CCCP) republics issued a declaration that the Soviet Union was dissolved. Only a year before my Lada Niva rolled off the production lines of the largest car factory on the planet. Much maligned, often wrongly, occasionally rightly, this is my story of ownership of one of those legendary "Russian Range-Rovers"...
—Diary starts at the bottom of page.
Click on images for a larger view.
New to Nivas? Check out my Newbies Guide & Buyers Guides for some handy info I wish I had known about.
UPDATE :: April 2017
On the 40th anniversary of the Niva entering production I went for a wee explore around the the Roxburgh area with another Niva owner. And yes, they are clouds behind us.
UPDATE :: February 2017
Readied the Niva for the 2017 Lada Niva New Zealand SUMMER CAMP , and had some fun with fellow Niva owners over a long weekend...
UPDATE :: January 2017
My Niva gets a wee mention in the local newspaper ...
UPDATE :: October 2016
I'm, or more accurately my chief Niva wrangler who is small enough to fit under the dash, is sick of fitting heater taps. Here's the silicon covered tap I've been using for the last six months because I'm sick of replacing them :lol:
So I finally fitted an after-market tap with a ceramic core. These are an improvement on any car that has a steel tap, as steel taps eventually rust and jam or leak. So this is one of the few exceptions to the "buy genuine Lada parts" rule. Well in theory.
There are a few ceramic core versions available, this one was cheap...
...and its fit was rubbish — it's larger than the original tap so part of it touches the upper heater pipe (potentially causing chaffing and hence potentially a leak).
Left: Lada tap on showing the gap between the tap and the top pipe; Right: aftermarket tap - visibly making contact with top pipe.
Further, the arm on the after-market tap is longer than the lada tap's arm.
Lada tap (bottom), despite this one's arm being broken you can clearly see that the after-market tap's (top) arm is longer.
This means the after-market tap's arm jammed on a bolt head on my peddle-box so it either wouldn't work or knocked the cable off the arm if forced (obviously this is not an issue for left-hand-drive Nivas). To solve this we had to swap the after-market tap's arm for the arm from the Lada tap, which sort of works - it rubs the bolt but at least it works.
After-market tap using the arm from the Lada tap - it still rubs on the bolt head, but ar least it works (just).
However, the two arms' angles of actuation are different...
...so I'm not 100% sure the after-market tap can open and close fully while using the Lada tap's arm (it definitely can't close 100% using the Lada arm, mind you none of my Lada ones did either :lol:) . When I get a chance I'll check if it is able to fully open using the spare after-market tap I bought (and if it can't, I'll use the aftermarket tap's arm but re-bend it so it has a smaller arc to clear the bolt).
Speaking of the spare after-market tap, look at what appears to be it's sealant, I suspect there's a good chance this one would leak.
I'll update you on how it works out. Overall it seems to work, but a very poor fitting product especially on a right-hand-drive, and potentially poor quality.
UPDATE :: October 2016
I replaced my worn out radiator cap with a Luzar cap. These are apparently better built than the Lada original, so it's probably one of the few exceptions to the "buy genuine Lada parts" rule. It fitted great, and works fine. I'll let you know if it gives any issues.
I also noticed the "rubber" mount in gearbox cross-member can move from side to side; this is a brand new genuine mount I put in some time ago because the old mount also had side to side movement (perhaps oil from leaking gearboxes causes this failure). This movement allows the gearbox to move in and out alignment with the the transfer-case and create vibrations. My quick fix has been to put some rubber wedges (made from cut down door wedges :lol: ) on each side of the mount, I thought these may fall out, but they happily lasted the 4WD trip below.
UPDATE :: October 2016
Topped up the oil in the leaky gearbox and front diff, refitted the rear suspension arm armour, doused the ignition in silicon spray, and went on a 4WD trip with some others around the Tekapo area.
Day 1 we meet up at Tekapo. While waiting for the the others I briefly explored Tekapo township — and within minutes I'd spotted a Niva with a fellow enthusiastic owner :lol:
Then we followed the Macaulay Valley (which branches off Lake Tekapo) and camped beside Macaulay Hut about 1000m above sea level. Lots of rocky terrain and water crossings (enough that the Niva's underside was cleaner at the end of the weekend than when I started :lol:), with virtually no mud — hence I choose my taller AT tyres instead of the SATs. The Niva performed well and did everything the big trucks did despite being the lowest vehicle on the smallest tyres, though it's not a route you'd want to do with a single petrol vehicle if the rivers are up.
Day 2 back to Tekapo township to restock and then we explored Godley Valley (the next valley over from Macaulay), also lots of rocky terrain and water crossings, with virtually no mud. Larger rocks, and a less beaten track so we had to made our own path through large rock gardens on a couple of occasions. We made it up the valley past Red Stag Hut with the intention of seeing if the next hut was accessible by 4WD, but picking through the rocks was slow going and with the weather looking to close in and being late in the day we doubled back to Red Stag Hut and camped there.
The only drama the Niva had was my own fault. —At
the start of Day 2 after returning from the township we re-entered the junction
of the two valleys and did deepest river crossing of the weekend. —No
problem, I drove through it yesterday without a problem (to both the amazement
of the big diesel truck owners and myself) so I cruised straight in. And
it died. The engine restarted thankfully (probably thanks to the silicon
I'd been spraying on the ignition all weekend), but it totally failed to
climb out despite some judicious wear on the clutch, and was quickly towed out.
It was only a KM or so later down the track that I noticed I hadn't
slipped in into low-range or diff-lock :lol: :lol: No wonder I entered
too fast and it had no power or grip to get through or climb out —
I'm amazed it got as far as it did :lol:
The only damage from the weekend seems to be my temporary homemade number-plate bracket finally broke, and the nuts on the rear gearbox mount came loose and are probably somewhere in Godley Valley (again possibly my fault as I may have neglected to fit lock washers to these nuts in its hurried gearbox swap earlier in the year).
The Land Rover about to enter the deep part of the crossing.
I took the more scenic inland route home, which included some lakes, some canals (where a little known but cult '80s ski film The Leading Edge filmed the water-sking from the back of a Land Rover scene), being asked by a Russian in a G-Wagen if I was German, the largest earth dam in the Southern Hemisphere, and of course not getting 400KM from a tank (probably almost 350KM which is an improvement though).
UPDATE :: September 2016
Dunedin Autospectacular car show. Unfortunately the two other Nivas for the club stand had to pull out — so I thought I'd better make a bit of an effort to make mine look more interesting. I took inspiration from Series Land Rovers explorers...
Despite being hidden away by a couple of late-comers who rudely parked in front of me, plenty of people had a wee look at it :)
Baxter's Guide to Pimping Your Niva for a Car-show
UPDATE :: August 2016
I bought a trailer; sadly on the mission to bring it home I scratched my windscreen badly thanks to grit sticking to the non-sticky side of the tape temporally holding my passenger wiper-blade to the arm — on the good news front, by chance the trailer has the same PCD as the Niva thanks to its vintage Ford (probably Model Y) front axle. Annoyingly the centre bore was tiny and they were hub-centric, so neither my Niva or Suzuki wheels would fit properly. They are now no longer hub-centric and fit Niva rims nicely.
UPDATE :: August 2016
In holiday in Christchurch and went for a play at Ashley River with a Niva buddy ex-Dunedin (now in a Nissan Safari) and his buddy (in a sharp looking Defender). I managed to carefully get the Niva through a part of the track that the Defender didn't (it slipped into the hole I managed to avoid, and needed a wee winch from the Safari). We stumbled upon a less than fortunate Nissan driver who'd sunk his Safari; sadly it didn't want to run after the water was empted from its engine.
UPDATE :: June/August 2016
The crack in the "chassis" where the steering-box mounts was re-welded up (it's already had a plate welded in place to strengthen this weakness, but one of the welds to this plate cracked), a loaner replacement steering-box fitted, two inner tie-rod ball-joints replaced (possibly a casualty of the lift, as it puts them on the limit of no travel when at full suspension droop), and the steering alignment finally done. Also when addressing transfer-case vibrations I found that the gearbox rubber mount allows movement from left to right (allowing the alignment to alter itself), this was "fixed" by hammering some wedges on each side of the mount in its steel box :lol:. Alignment was then done using the Wire Method, drive-shaft joints re-greased, and while it's not perfect (the donut's a bit average and will need replaced when I have time) vibrations are 100 times better and perfectly tolerable to drive around town and holiday in. The play in the Pitman arm was finally noticed at the WOF test, everything else passed — even the brakes! I've had Pitman arm re-bushed with a bronze bush, and the Niva is currently my daily driver — and steers like a dream (well at speed anyway :lol: ).
UPDATE :: June 2016
The other Italian design flaw the Niva inherited (ie other than the gearbox) also failed on me while on holiday — the window winder cable.
This is the third time it's failed, and it couldn't have happened at a worse time — when the gearbox failed in the middle of nowhere during a massive storm with the broken window side taking the brunt of the downpour, and I had to leave the Niva outside a garage in a different town from where I was staying while it was being repaired (with most of my camping etc gear inside it). Grrr.
The weather was NOT this good when the window-winder mechanism let me down :(
Luckily the cable hadn't broken this time, but the crimped tube that should be fixed to the cable and move the window up and down as the cable moves up and down wasn't fixed to the cable any longer.
Time for a lasting solution (and one that can be fixed in the field if it doesn't). So an old hose-clip was butchered to made a tiny sandwich clamp.
Because the clamp could pop out from the holder we added a nut on the back so the clamp was also bolted to the holder cage (we had to slightly enlarge the hole in the back of the cage).
Note the head of the front bolt needs to be shallow so that it doesn't protrude and catch on the door on the way up (we had to grind down a regular bolt's head).
UPDATE :: May/June 2016
The bent rim was fixed thanks to a buddy who's also a Niva enthusiast and handily worked at a tyre centre. A replacement bolt also came from his spares Niva after a fruitless search to find a generic bolt of the correct specs. Rim now painted up and refitted with its SAT, and bolt fitted.
And buddy who used to work with electric forklifts has started to oversee the overhaul of Warn winch I picked up. New bushes and bearing awaiting fitment.
UPDATE :: March 2016
We never quite made it to The Church in last year's winter Serpentine trip, so it'd be rude not to have a visit over summer.
Wouldn't be right without a quick beer at Clarks Junction on the way home.
Unfortunately I was a bit heavy on the right foot climbing a large rock step and did some damage — I got up the steps on the first attempt though :lol: I bent the lower wishbone bolt (pushing the wheel back in the arch), bent the rim, and damage to the steering-box so it lost all its oil overnight (hopefully just a seal and not damage to its alloy casing). I very probably wouldn't have needed to be so rough if the Detroit had been still fitted; well that's my excuse :)
First real off-road damage. The gap between upper suspension arm and the damper mount shows the right wheel has indeed been moved backwards - further visual inspection shows the bolt that holds the lower wishbone to the body is indeed bent, the steering-box no longer wants to hold oil overnight. and the rear jack mount was bent.
UPDATE :: 1 March 2016
Gearbox swap done, and the odyssey continues. Unfortunately I no longer have the Detroit Locker fitted and don't know how good the gearbox is, plus funds are running low, and I have dead gearbox and spare TC also strapped to the roof, so I cancel plans to camp in Marlborough Sounds and other 4x4 exploring, and make a gentle dash to a buddy's farmlet north of Christchurch (who owns a diesel ute and can rescue me if things do go bad). I do however have a 5th gear that works — haven't had one of those for years :lol:
UPDATE :: Late Feb 2016
After reaching the most north-western place in the South Island as you can for breakfast and a brief bit of off-roading, I enjoyed day of driving around a virtually empty Whanganui Inlet with awesome twisty gravel roads and spectacular scenery — plenty of left-foot braking :lol. However...
Disaster far from home - the first time the Niva has failed to drive through mechanical issues and get me home :(
Heading back over the hills from Takaka to Nelson at the bottom of this twisty and not generously wide pass, something in the Niva's driveline locked up leaving me stuck firmly in the middle of the road, and refused to shift out of gear or into neutral on the transfer-case. In a massive storm. With a dying battery as light was fading and big trucks hurtling past.
Typically it was after-hours (very expensive for a tow as it turns out) and only one towing place was interested in helping. They were based far away on the other side of the pass and still on a previous job so took over a couple of hours to arrive. During which my driver's window decided not to fully close letting the sideways rain inside just to complete the misery.
I eventually got the gearbox un-seized, and with some judicious work on the clutch I managed to get it mostly off the busy road, which had gone mysteriously quiet. The pictures don't do the conditions justice — unknown to me the weather was so bad the road was closed while I was waiting for a tow.
First time it's ever failed to get me home :(
Thankfully it was able to be winched onto the trailer without too much drama which I'd feared if it was totally locked up. The recovery company were a garage from the other side of the pass (Riwaka), so it was a long tow back to their workshop. As it turned out the towie was the boss at the garage, and had had previous experience working at a Lada dealership iirc. Given this, and that there really wasn't many other options I chose them to do the work.
By luck, the old school friend I'd arranged to stay with that night lived close the workshop (well, close in rural terms).
Not so luckily my more permanent accommodation while repairs were being made was further away back in Nelson. My buddies there rescued me the next day. Back in Nelson the good members of Lada Niva New Zealand found someone with a spare gearbox and transfer-case for sale in Nelson — so the the following day I bludged a lift back to Riwaka from another old school buddy who lives near Nelson and dropped off the spare gearbox and transfer-case to the garage.
All good you'd think, other than the bills of course.
Not so, sadly. Riwaka garage started to remove the gearbox after a few days, but noticed that the vehicle couldn't be rolled around unless the rear wheels were jacked up off the ground, and called to say they though the rear differential was the problem. So another call out to the guy who sold me the gearbox and transfer-case, and luckily he also had a differential available. Another bludged lift and I got the diff to Riwaka the next night. This of course means the Detroit Locker wouldn't be fitted for the rest of the journey sadly, limiting where I can risk exploring while solo.
So when they finished installing the differential a few days later, all good you'd think, other than the large bills of course :lol:
Yeah. not so much as it turns out.
I picked it up and set off back up the Takaka pass to see some caves at the top I'd missed. Not before being called by a desperate Riwaka garage who wanted to check that the gearbox oil hadn't be drained when they started that job. The boss checked it and oil levels were apparently ok. I also had him readjust the brakes as they were unsafe even by my standards :lol:
While inside the caves the battery died while I was in the car-park over a couple of hours; odd as this battery should well charged after the drive, and had lasted fine powering a fan and phone-charger overnight for the last few nights. But as it turns out later it had indeed died a sudden death. Unfortunately I hadn't be able to charge my jump-pack as that had remained with the Niva while I was in Nelson, and despite some angry effort it stubbornly refused to start on the crank handle (it never has for some reason). Luckily the cave owners managed to find a set of jump-leads; I did have to wait till the next tour was finished, but that gave me a chance to almost finish reading Richard Pape's Cape Cold to Cape Hot in the sun :)
So pfft, new battery and no big deal now you'd think, other than the unexpected cost of a battery.
Heading back down the pass towards Riwaka and Nelson it briefly jammed in reverse after I stopped to take a phone call. I wasn't too panicked as the rubbers around the shifter had been messed with in preparation for the gearbox swap that didn't happen, so hoped it was just that getting caught. However, about half way between Riwaka and Nelson I noticed a occasional sound like stones hitting the floor, though I was on a sealed road, worse it had an alloy sound to it rather than a steel floor sound. By chance I had my hand on the gear-stick during one, and I could feel it as a little tug on the 'box, and a look underneath showed there was a not inconsiderable amount of oil now leaking from the rear seal and spraying along the underneath as I drive along - 1000KMs from home :( :(
I stopped exploring the coast I had be enjoying and limped it to my buddy's I'd been imposing on while the Niva was being worked on at the workshop, with fingers crossed all the way. It must have worked. Though I don't know for how much longer it would have - here is the the oil that came out of the box, *all* of the oil that came out...
A couple of hundred ml at most — and with some extras :(
The garage it was towed to for repairs checked it only 100 odd KM before this, and it was full. The oil appeared to have been escaping as I'd been driving along, and giving me some free rust-proofing along the underbody.
Oh and here's a hole in the side of the gearbox I found :( :(
As you can see this was not the cause of the oil leak; so as there's no other places I can find evidence of oil leaking I can only assume the oil had be escaping the the rear seal as the vehicle is driven for some reason. Not a 'box than can be trusted to get back into town to buy fresh oil, let alone 1000KM home. Bugger.
An inspection from the shifter hole discovered that the speedo-drive* broke and part of it fell off, (*Nivas usually just have a spacer here as their speedo drive is from the transfer-case, my 'box is from a Lada saloon).
This broken off part of the speedo drive almost certainly caused the hole in the gearbox casing, and was possibly the reason for the drive-train lock up on the Takaka hill (so perhaps it wasn't the diff at all; there was some minor damage to the diff gears I guess that could have been the cause of the lock up and the 'box was then damaged as a result of that sudden stoppage, but the diff damage really doesn't look like it was enough to lock the whole vehicle up as dramatically like it did). I can't see a reason the speedo drive failed (and can only guess it was damaged when we over-tightened the rear gearbox bolt before we put the 'box in), and there's no obvious explanation why the oil seal suddenly stopped working.
As the load on the speedo drive was only along the shaft and there was still a decent chuck of the drive left firmly in place taking this load, I did debate Loctite-ing and wiring the broken bit back in and limping the Niva back 600 odd KMs to Christchurch when I have a buddy with tools and and abilities to do a gearbox swap — indeed I Loctite-ed it back in, but as I was trying to wire it on I managed to knock it and it fell into an area I couldn't get it back out of the 'box from (despite spending a day walking about Nelson's industrial area finding a magnetic stick tool and suitable oil).
So a 'box swap was the only option, but paying a garage to be wasn't. Luckily the buddy's I'm staying with in Nelson have a pit in their garage (which we'd joked about needing before I headed off north :lol: ). And contently I also have a spare gearbox strapped to the roof-rack.
However, since my heart attack I shouldn't lift heavy things like gearboxes above my head, and the people putting me up weren't car people. Luckily my other Nelson buddy who ferried me and parts back and forward to Riwaka to drop bits off was called in for yet more favours.
So with limited experienced help, working around people's lives and work schedules, and only my cheap 3/8th drive socket set for the heavy tasks, the swap was done relatively drama free over a couple of days. The only real issue is that I couldn't get the transfer-case to line up without serious vibrations; best I could get was putting the transfer-case mounting spacers sideways in the rear bolt slot of the mount to try and tilt the front of the transfer-case downward.
Forth gearbox swap - the white patches are house paint covering some "alterations" to the body where the gearbox defied us getting it in and out with the exhaust still in place :lol:
And I discovered why Riwaka garage couldn't get a great brake pedal — they had left one of the handbrake cable brackets dangling in the wind; I'm surprised they got it as good as they did :lol:
There are many far worse places to be stuck fixing a car than Nelson in the summer :) :) but a week or so after the failure I was back off on the odyssey. However, now without an unknown gearbox, severely reduced funds, and no Detroit Locker, so I cancelled plans to camp at French Pass in the Marlborough Sounds and gingerly headed to a buddy's that lives north of Christchurch (roughly half the distance home) and owns a diesel ute capable of recovering me if things did go bad.
UPDATE :: Feb 2016
The next leg of the odyssey was to take the Niva as far north-east as you can in the South Island — Farewell Spit.
This included some freedom and stealth camping, the WOW classic car museum, Kaiteriteri beach, Labyrinth Rocks (near Takaka; like an Indiana Jones set), a quick walk in Able Tasman National Park, Wharariki Beach (a remote beach surprisingly with a stand alone cafe), and of course some impromptu 4x4 exploring.
I stealth camped in Motueka a few streets back from the pubs on the main road. No issues at all, and Mot has their public toilets next to their tourist visitor centre for a convenient start to the day.
Takaka has two freedom camping grounds nearby, but they're too far of a stumble from the pubs so I got to test my theory that stealth camping in an obvious vehicle can be easily done if you park near a backpackers (ie everyone will just assume it's an empty backpacker's car). This worked well, but I learned a new stealth camping tip — even in a small town don't park on the main road as trucks will drive by and sway your vehicle annoyingly if you're trying to sleep.
Golden Bay seems to have a good attitude to freedom campers; I wanted to stay near Farewell Spit so I could have time to explore this area before before leaving. I found a beach car-park south of Puponga that wasn't an official freedom camping spot, but instead of simply popping a "no camping" sign up and have people ignore it, the local authority had placed a portable toilet there. Excellent solution — visitors have a positive experience, and locals don't get nasty surprises at the beach.
This proved to be a popular spot to camp as 6 or 7 others did the same. While I didn't bother to make friends with any of them on this occasion, our vehicles were literally parked in a circle like a wild west film. —Which was fitting, as later that night gun shots were hear in the not too far distance (presumably farmers :lol: ).
And the next day I made a new discovery, Whanganui Inlet (on the west coast). The road sign promised 22KM of twisted unsealed roads - it was more like 50KM, plus return (as it doesn't really go anywhere) of deserted gravel road with *epic* scenery. It was left-foot braking sideways-ish driving action with the occasional brief 4x4 track. Sadly I suspect this exuberant driving took its toll (see next chapter).
UPDATE :: Feb 2016
I discovered Nelson's Mangatapu track is able to be accessed again (previously closed to 4WDs since a fatal accident a few years ago; key available from the Nelson City Council). So it'd be rude not to have done it. Very easy summer track; but typically no photos of the 4WD bits as I was too busy driving :lol:
UPDATE :: Feb 2016
Three days of hammering the Niva over rough roads took a small toll, and some minor repairs were needed at my Nelson stopover.
My temporary tech-screw repair to the rear-door strut's mount finally gave out, and a broom handle was used instead - this later turned out to be dangerous as I nearly knocked myself unconscious while alone in remote country when I inadvertently bumped it.
Plus a dislodged a rear coil as usual (the dampers on my lift are very slightly too long), no biggie.
Note the tell-tale orange of a genuine Hoodoo-made ring under the black paint on the lifting ring.
Oh, and can you see the problem here...?
Yep, that's one of the studs that should be holding the air box down! Luckily it's nut was still attached and neither got past the butterfly, also no sign dust was getting in despite the missing stud (which is stripped and won't reliably go back in). Lucky save :)
Lastly, the angle-iron armour I had on the right rear suspension arm is now somewhere between the Hamner Springs and Farewell Spit.
UPDATE :: Feb 2016
After the Lada Niva New Zealand event I continued north on a solo odyssey, one more night in the Molesworth at Lake Tennyson then north out of the Molesworth via Rainbow Road (a $25 access private road) to Nelson where I had buddies to catch up and stay with for a bit.
And onwards to Mordor... (actually the exit of Molesworth into Rainbow Road), New Zealand.
Bedroom view, Lake Tennyson DOC camp, New Zealand.
UPDATE :: Feb 2016
I was made redundant for my job at the end of 2015 so finally have the time for a decent holiday in the Niva, do some freedom camping, catch up with friends in places I never usually get to, and of course a bit of 4x4ing. The first leg of the odyssey was the first ever Lada Niva New Zealand Summer Camp. We met up in Hamner to head north into the Molesworth Station conservation area.
European class in Hamner - 3 Nivas to 2 parking spaces, none of this decadent Western one-car-one-park frippery. // Some of my artwork on Mike Cossey's Niva.
The only bonnet up all weekend was the Fiat engined Niva.
UPDATE :: Jan 2016
With summer arriving I caught up with some long deferred jobs needed for summer — replaced the outer casing of the heater which had semi burnt out and had a noisy bearing, and put a cut-off tap on the feed hose to the heater (so that the hot water to heater can be fully cut off when it's warm outside). —And I found the Niva's sunglasses holders :lol:
Spotted this twin while in holiday in Christchurch Sadly it's rusty and apparently not going to be saved.
UPDATE :: December 2015
Took the Niva on the Hospice Charity Cruise. Professor Elemental liked this picture when I posted it on Facebook :)
UPDATE :: November 2015
My "nest" for Punkfest weekend in Christchurch. The black-out blinds are made from some core-flute plastic (old 'for sale' real estate signs) hacked out a couple of days before, and attached to the window with some cheap stick-on velcro (too cheap as it turned out, it eventually unstuck in the hot sun of Tasman Bay). Cheap, effective, and relatively easy to use (they store neatly upright behind the rear seat).
Excuse the crappy internal spray-paint job - I ran out of time :lol:
It was so comfortable I slept through my favorite Kiwi punk band who did a surprise set on Sunday afternoon :lol: :(
UPDATE :: September 2015
Dusted the Niva off for a Spring drive.
UPDATE :: October 2015
Took the Niva on a Mates' Car Cruise (an all encompassing event for car enthusiasts).
UPDATE :: September 2015
Dunedin Autospectacular car show — almost certainly the first ever Lada display at an Autospectacular. The Land Rover Club pinched our allocated site so we were cramped into a smaller and awkward site. None the less, there was a surprising amount of interest in the Nivas, from older blokes — and young people, many of whom have never heard of Ladas, let alone seen one, these days. The sign was acquired from a buddy who works at a workshop where the dealer used to be in the '80s.
UPDATE :: October-ish 2015
Lada Niva New Zealand first ever meet. We meet up and looked at Shannon's Niva and his hoard of spares, and took Nick and my Nivas for a quick play in a nearby braided river.
UPDATE :: June 2015
I finally found the problem with the Lada carburetor; it was from a Lada which had had head work down and was modified for better performance — the accelerator jet had been drilled out to increase its size, however it was drilled on an angle that squirted into the side of the carburetor body instead of atomising the fuel.
Serpentine winter trip — only one Niva on this trip, I didn't get stuck once (mostly due to letting others in our crew trail-blaze through the drifts first :lol: ), and even had to give RealNivaMan's Isuzu a wee tow :lol:.
Much amusement was had when we let a group of mostly expensive looking Hiluxes with giant balloon tyres (worth more each than my truck) and chains etc, past so we didn't hold them up — only to be delayed by them taking epically long to get through 10 to 20 metres we'd probably have just driven through. Sadly the pictures don't show the best of the scenery or action — too busy driving as always :lol:
UPDATE :: May 2015
Did a much overdue clean out of the crap that gathers behind the panel which sits behind the front wheel, and re-did the preventative rust-proofing.
And to save wearing out my mud tyres while I sort out some new 16" daily tyres, I briefly changed to my bling Suzuki 15" rims and road tyres...
Had to use the old Hot Rodder's trick of using tin-foil, vinegar, and Autosol to revive these :lol:
...when I noticed something amiss in the rear end.
...so it was well dark by the time everything was sorted . Not the best time for a shot of blinging rims. Ahh well, off for a curry.
UPDATE :: April 2015
Took it on some gentle explorations around Ramrock Road. The Weber DCD gave better power than the faulty Lada carburetor, but still lacking a little power up hills when in the lower RPM range, also it stalled at low speed on a not-that-steep bit of hill [update: though didn't stall at all when I later tested on a steep-ish climb it was known to go up fine with the Lada carburetor; perhaps just some tuning issues].
This is the third left-inner CV boot that's destroyed itself in not much mileage! My original died, a brand new genuine Lada replacement boot died exactly the same way in a few months (with little or no off-road driving iirc), and now this — which is a complete CV, shaft, and boot from a different Niva and which lived happily in that Niva for years - until it was put in my Niva at the end of last year, and the CV commits suicide for no apparent reason. Grrr.
Any ideas on the cause, or a fix? I have a coil lift in the front, and no problems with the right-hand CV boot at all; looking at pictures it looks like the left may sit very slightly higher than the right of my Niva, but I can't imagine lift would be causing this issue.
Forum discussion seems to point to grease being the issue, but I'm not sure that I re-greased the complete CV we put in, so it's too much of a coincidence it dies exactly the same way.
New project - a used Warn M6000 in need of some love. Looks like it'll fit pretty good, now to overhaul it and design a mount. Test fit to see if there is indeed room:
UPDATE :: March 2015
Took it on a trip to Big Hut and Rock & Pillar Range (off the Dunstan Trail), other than some issues with the Bosch electronics and the Weber DCD (since sorted, the what-we-think-is-the-power-valve was loose - how held in with some kneed-it :lol: ) it went well off-road with no other issues, and managed 300km on a tank despite the power-valve issue, improper mixture setting, and a heavy right foot :lol:
UPDATE :: March 2015
I've been chasing the lost horse-power we noticed at the trial.
Manifold bolts were slightly loose, potentially creating pesky vacuum leaks.
However, the Lada carburetor needs a service, so while I'm sorting those issues I thought I'd throw on the Weber DCD (the forerunner to the DGAV, generally thought to be better made; this particular one has a vacuum operated secondary) that I was running on my last engine.
Weber DCD in place on the Lada manifold. It went on fine, I've used fibre spacer blocks, and a heat-shield (off a Ford Sierra) as I found Webers to suffer from heat soak on my last engine.
Now if only I had a air-box to fit the DCD (which is different from the DGAVs I've had fitted in the past)...
My temporary ghetto-fab solution...
It started first crank, but I can't get it to idle without some hunting. Even so, it certainly is more powerful that the sick Lada carburetor — though I'm not convinced by the vacuum secondary, it can lose power in some critical situations.
I also replaced the diaphragm in the fuel pump for good measure, and removed the the secondary filter I had between the pump and carb to ensure a good supply of fuel.
And we checked the electronic ignition module was doing the correct outputs.
UPDATE :: March 2015
Removed all the holiday and expedition gear, popped some decent tow-hooks on (that have been waiting to be put on since 2006 :lol: ), packed some minimal essential spares, and put the mud tyres on — ready to try my first crack at a 4x4 trial, the LROCO 2015 Ironman 4x4 Trial.
Result — nothing broken (except possibly my hand). And I only nearly rolled it once. —Plus we scored heaps of points ;) :lol:
Avoided the rougher 2 or 3 hazards where there was a good chance of rolling, and on many others was quickly nailed by a combination of my lack of practice, my tiny 27" tyres and their under-steering nature as well as very greasy mud/clay on many hazards which emphasized this, and occasional near significant power loss from the carburetor issue. Also not helped by there being very few entries in the Standard class so we couldn't watch anyone one else do those courses first. It did better than expected in the sloppy rutted stuff, and we did manage two zero scores at the first attempt on the forest hazards.
Photos Copyright (C) Beck Ladbrook 2015
We didn't do most of the afternoon runs as I did something to my hand which became increasingly painful to even change gear and impossible to grip the steering wheel properly — which without power-steering made the tight turns which we weren't really making that well in the first place not worth even trying. The two hazards we did re-try we did worse than in the morning session :lol: - and this was when I got it teetering on two wheels...
Copyright (C) Beck Ladbrook 2015
More pictures at Baxter's Niva Site - the Temple of Niva Facebook album
UPDATE :: April 2015
I took all my broken rear door locks to the locksmith in the hope they could make one that works, which they could; although it had to be a different key to the front doors.
UPDATE :: Jan 2015
We put the electronic distributor (a BOSCH Hall Effect one from an Australian Niva) on the new motor, and after some head scratching dramas getting it in the right position it runs much better (though there's still some carburetor issues that need sorted). Just need to pop some new opened-up plugs in, and a coil that's meant for an electronic ignition which I should be doing while it's sunny instead of updating this page - wait, maybe not, it sounds like thunder outside despite being 30-something C degrees...
UPDATE :: Jan 2015
Looking at my holiday pictures reminded me we hadn't refitted the sump-guard since the engine swap, so I took the opportunity to make a double sump-guard.
UPDATE :: Jan 2015
Having spent little time tuning the Niva it preformed badly on holiday — slow top speed and thirsty. On getting back home and spending time on it we discovered why - the foam air-filter had turned to dust and the carburetor's emulsion tubes were half blocked with this dust, the timing was about 15 degrees out, plus the plugs, points and a few valves were not correctly gapped — of course being a Niva it didn't complain and just kept going :lol:
A new air-filter and a bit of a tune-up have seen a return of some power (love that old Colourtune btw :) ) .
I also discovered that the rear arm mounts on the axles arms were making contact with the new dampers when on articulation (luckily only superficial damage), so I've spaced the bottoms of the dampers rearwards with some washers. Seems ok now, but haven't tested on full articulation yet.
I also popped a couple of washers between the bracket that the brake regulator-valve's arm pivots on and the body, in order to lower the arm (ie lift the activation point) to compensate a little for the lift. The brake pedal feel seems to have slightly improved after this, making me wonder if the issues are related to the lift. I think I'll try extending the linkage between the arm and the axle as is popular with Russian lifts.
Also discovered the cause of the wonky steering - play in the pitman arm. Not looking forward to removing it.
UPDATE :: Dec-Jan 2015
Took the Niva for a camping holiday in Canterbury (in the South Island of New Zealand) with partner and dog - and a bit of off-roading thrown in.
I'd like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has given me help with the Niva — parts, labour, advice, drive-way space, deals, tolerance, etc — thank you greatly all :)
I didn't do any challenging off-roading (as I have no decent electric winch and aren't allowed to do heavy work like using my stupidly heavy Tirfor-type winch), but preformed well off-road and the LSD allows it to go further than it normally would, and most importantly you can approach stuff more gently (ie you no longer need to throw it through things).
Numerous small repairs - all mostly due to my lack of any preparation after it's been sitting for so long; nothing that stopped it going or wasn't easily fixed (leaking heater tap, lost accelerator cable to pedal clip, loose exhaust bolts, etc). And due to the longer dampers the rear coils now come out of their seats on full articulation; will need to add a little lift or some retainers at some point.
Only real dramas were the Niva's lack of storage capacity for both camping for two plus dog and off-road equipment (I originally planed to take 4 mud tyres as well!), and the roof-rack fell off and nearly broke the windscreen after an unexpected off-road dip was taken too fast.
Oh, and I noticed that my transfer-case gets quite hot on long motorway journeys, if that means anything to anyone? (So much so that it's almost painful to hold your hand on the metal shifters; yes, checked the oil level and it's good, a little over filled even).
More holiday pictures and information in Baxter's Niva Site - the Temple of Niva Facebook albums
UPDATE :: December 2014
In my brief preparation time before holidaying we replaced the window winder and swapped the differentials — instead of tuning and making the Niva reliable after it's years sitting unloved.
The plan was to fit the 4.3 differentials from a 4-speed Niva I had obtained recently with the Detroit Locker I picked up in 2011. However, the 4.3 rear crown-wheel had rusted slightly and thus is sadly not reliable to fit, so we swapped in a spare standard 4.1 in the front (and finally replaced the CV boot) and fitted the Detroit in the rear with the 4.1 it came fitted to.
I also fitted some longer dampers (believed to be out of lifted Nissan Terrano/Pathfinder WD21) in the rear to finally get the most out of my Hoodoo lift. As they have larger diameter bodies than the Lada dampers this required spacing the tops forward slightly with some washers (and also spacing the bottoms back a little as we later discovered).
UPDATE :: December 2014
Right, time to sort the differentials and get a new WOF for some summer holiday fun. Did some more minor body and paint work - I even treated it to some proper colour matched paint, so it now has a few less shades of "desert camouflage". Removed the front diff's rear bracket (so it wouldn't be obvious one of the studs was broken) and tightened the remaining two — and it passed the WOF test (after adjusting the rear brake balance, which to be fair was indeed well out). Also replaced the alternator's suspect external regulator with a Bosch RE55 — and solved the electric problems I'd been having (I wonder if I fried the old regulator when I accidentally shorted out the alternator's output after the engine swap?).
Roadworthy again. Finally. :) FYI this cafe in Dunedin was just named New Zealand's best - I was of course over the road eating a tofu burger at the Farmers Market :)
UPDATE :: July 2014
Took it for a gentle play off-road to celebrate the WOF — and promptly snapped the front diff's rear mounting bolt. Yes, we forgot to tighten these important bolts up after the engine swap three and a half years ago! Ahh well, a good excuse to get the Detroit Locker fitted to the 4.3 diff and swap the 4.3s in. And the loose diff probably explains some of the vibes we've been unable to get rid of with transfer-case-gearbox alignment :lol:
Snapped rear stud on my original 4.1. It's going to be extra fun to remove, as it now also has an easy-out broken off in it.
UPDATE :: June 2014
Some body work to fix the minor rust that has re-appeared while sitting for the last year or three.
A bit of spit and polish and it's all coming together.
I also went to a different WOF place that uses a rolling road instead of the Tapley (G-force meter) to test the brakes - and it passed (without any fails)! I have no idea how, as while they do stop the car, the pedal pressure is not inspiring.
UPDATE :: May 2014
Allowed to drive again, and I finally managed to pick up a set of 4.3 differentials from a 4-speed Niva, and a bunch of other spares (including a 4-speed gearbox complete with mount and cross-member).
During the dramas re-kiting the front calipers I bought another set of calipers off a Niva with an apparently a rock solid pedal. Unfortunately the seller hammered them out without bothering to remove the pins - and managed to smash part of one caliper off. Luckily a buddy with an exhaust shop is a pretty good welder. However, while these calipers improved things a little, they also didn't give a satisfactory firm pedal. I think my brakes are jinxed.
And annoyingly the 5th gear on the SKF equipped gearbox seems to have died while the Niva has been sitting in interment. Typical.
UPDATE :: Most of 2013
I've forgotten the exact flow of events, but the brake problem proved unsolvable despite new parts and advice from both the NZ and UK parts dealers and lada.co.uk forum members. We previously discovered that clamping the hoses to the front calipers gave a firm pedal, however a secondhand set of calipers didn't improve things, nor did replacing seals, nor did replacing the seals and pistons (it visibly leaked the first time!). In November I had a massive heart-attack. Luckily I was revived — and resolved to also complete the Niva's resurrection...
UPDATE :: February 2013
After some further miscommunication with the parts dealer to slow things down I finally have enough front seals for all the front calipers, awaiting fitting to see if this cures the brake problem.
UPDATE :: January 2013
Replaced the top-right ball-joint, and fitted a secondhand handbrake cable, and replaced a manky rear brake hose we noticed - only WOF fail was the handbrake cable (we had replaced) catching on the top arms (which is what all Nivas do when the cable is fixed to the axles as per the factory), and a soggy brake pedal. Not bad for sitting for another year!
So we replaced both rear cylinders, front brake pads, some more circular shaped drums on the back, pressure bleed the brakes, checked a bunch of stuff — and the pedal is still soggy.
Whilst trying to solve the soggy pedal issue I inadvertently (hangover blamed) snapped one of the pins that hold the rear shoes in place without noticing, causing the rear shoes to become detached from the backing plate and the cylinder to pop open; result — total loss of both foot and hand brakes whilst driving up the street next to the second steepest street in the world, and a lot of wrecked brake parts. Cock-sucker.
This amateur damage was repaired after some poor communication from the parts dealer delayed things, and we eventually managed to trace the soggy pedal problem to the front calipers. While the dealer is usually pretty good, one thing I find annoying about Lada ownership in New Zealand is not having over-the-counter availability, though having shied away from modern vehicle ownership I should be used to this :lol:
UPDATE :: January 2012
Some minor rust work, new headlight and fixed earth contacts, replaced the rusty chewed screws in the grill and headlights with stainless ones, and after a total drama to find new bleed nipples locally, a brake bleed in preparation for a WOF test. Failed on handbrake cable (which snapped as we parked at the WOF garage :lol: ) and a ball-joint.
UPDATE :: August 2011
Better weather and the piece of the seat bracket we missed when welding up the floor is now also repaired. Almost time to put the interior back together, another CV boot, and take it for a WOF/MOT and see what's died whilst sitting for nearly a year.
UPDATE :: July 2011
Motivation returned and I discovered the tuning problem — the condenser wasn't screwed down firmly — meaning the spark was very weak under load. Doh! Easily fixed in seconds, no idea how we missed this months ago when we suspected the distributor. Replaced the broken bonnet cable with a well-lubed second-hand one. On with re-fitting the interior and prep for a WOF. Shame spare time and weather are not on my side.
UPDATE :: May 2011
Finally some spare time, good weather and motivation coinciding — went to pop the battery out to charge. And bonnet catch cable snapped. Two hours later battery out and on charge. Motivation gone.
UPDATE :: April 2011
Niva still sitting unloved on the street, and won't be ready in time for the Otago Rally to resume its role in the Service Park. But I did pick this up in my months of Niva inactivity:
It's a Detroit Locker converted in Australia for a Niva. Detroit Lockers are possibly not ideal unless you use your Niva almost totally off-road (ideally I'd prefer a manual locker, or even a proper LSD, but they're on menus I can't afford to eat from :) ). Further, depending on the model Detroit Lockers can engage with a bang which is not only noisy but probably not good for axles, or driving on ice for that matter. But one of Andy's customers had one of these in his Niva and no reported axle issues. UPDATE: A buddy looked over my Detroit and said he was pretty sure it was the later model (the "Soft Locker") one that doesn't engage with a bang (also the number on it probably is the same as a Detroit spine reference for a Nissan 160 diff).
On the bad-news front my buddy with a 2l Fiat DOHC converted for a Niva sold it without giving me a heads up :( :( On the up side I've found that the Weber on Lancia Delta turbos are designed for blow-through, so supercharging thoughts are entering my head again; but just getting it running and road worthy would be a good start.
UPDATE :: March 2011
Nothing to report; Niva is sitting unloved on the street awaiting spare time to sort why it's not running properly.
UPDATE :: Mid January 2011
Niva finally back at home. But not running at all well with a mystery tuning problem, the rebuilt gearbox sounds like it might be a box of bolts, and there's a new and worse vibe in the gearbox-transfer-case area (hopefully just alignment). As it's already taken up most of my holidays with the below dramas, so it'll have to wait until I have the time - and motivation- to sort it. And I don't even want to think about the WOF test.
Anyway, I stole the work camera for the night, so here's some pictures:
Finally home. It was towed on the road for the first time ever in my ownership — although it could still drive itself, it was so gutless towing was just plain easier to tow. Still made it up the hill outside my house by itself though. With a run up.
Here's the patched and mended wiring loom. Note the wiring has been modified so the big pink wires no longer journey from the battery, across the car, and back again for no reason. It also has some throwback type fuses on these wires that would have prevented the original fry-up had VAZ thought to fuse them. And please excuse the grimey and oily under-bonnet - that was one of the reasons the previous motor was removed :).
Unfortunately we ran out of time to tidy all the wiring up that had to be ripped out.
Here's the new and much thicker diameter bolts that now hold the gearbox and transfer-case in place. Hopefully the threads on these bolts won't become cheese-like as the Lada originals were with the amount of times a Lada 'box needs to come in-and-out. Brand new gearbox rubber mount.
On the inside I have added a decent bit of plate (probably about 5mm thick) to help spread the load and avoid the floor ripping around the bolts as Nivas can do here — one rip on mine was so bad it went from the bolt hole to the (now misshapen) drain hole in the picture above - probably the cause of the recent 40KM vibe.
Although unlike the gearbox bolts the majority of the transfer-case bolts had thread, but they still got the same treatment. These were much more time consuming (as the front bolt holes sit under the seat mount brackets — which I didn't want to molest in any way and risk being a WOF failure). I also took the opportunity to replace the rubber bushes with a beefier looking set I had on a spares transfer-case.
Here's some 15" rims I bought a while ago and painted up for some mud tyres. They were sold as ex-Niva rims, but I think the off-set is slightly smaller than a Niva's, so I suspect they're actually Suzuki ones. However, I likely won't be using them because...
...I've since bought these SAT retreads with decent tread and already fitted to genuine dealer-fitted Niva 15" rims. I've been out off-roading with the Niva these were previously fitted to, and it owned my Niva in traction. Assuming I ever get around to getting it going properly again these should be a bit of fun.
UPDATE :: Early January 2011
Nightmare reassembly. After a handful of small problems that weren't too serious but annoyingly slowed progress considerably (eg stripped threads on the donor motor, broken studs we couldn't remove, having to buy unexpected parts from out-of-town during the holiday period, etc, etc), we hit a big problem — as we filled it with water about to drive it out from the garage, the wiring loom fried itself.
The loom melted itself under the bonnet catch mechanism meaning that almost the entire under-bonnet wiring had to be removed and repaired. Luckily the flatmate of the person whose garage it's in seems very proficient at repairing wiring quickly, competently, and neatly (thanks to Pieter).
The cause appears to be my fault entirely. When reassembling the alternator hurriedly (in my partial defense I did it literally in the dark) I didn't notice that one of the positive terminal insulators had previously been in the incorrect place. Worse, nor did I notice the second insulator fell out when I popped the rear section back on, thus creating a direct short to earth through the alternator's positive output! Schoolboy mistake. :( :(
Oddly, when we were checking over the electrics it was discovered that the distributor was missing one of the springs off the weights. So no problem, let's pinch the correct one off the distributor in my original motor - which turned out to be missing BOTH of the springs on the distributor weights! One would normally wonder had much this contributed to its sluggishness and refusal to be tuned properly, but the problems existed before that distributor was fitted.
That certainly might help explain the economy and tuning issues we had with that motor recently; but as I changed the rotor a year or so ago and I know for a fact they were both there then, I can't explain how they've vanished into thin air. Luckily I had kept my original distributor (excessive shaft play) as spares for exactly such an occasion.
On the good news front, the new gearbox and transfer-case brackets and holes seemed to be near perfectly aligned when the 'box went in, and a lot of potentially bad rust has been stopped before taking hold, replaced the drive-shafts with ones that still have seals on the slip-joints so they can retain grease. Heater tap has been replaced with one that fully opens - and closes. Best of all, the motor seems it is a good one and hasn't been effected by living in my garden for the best part of a year (ie no untoward sounds or smoke, and better oil pressure that the original), and all 5 gears appear to work!
The carburetor it's currently running is (thanks greatly to Fourdogs) a Lada carburetor that has been re-jetted and modified to open its second barrel mechanically, and a racy looking foam-and-oil type air-filter. I've also mildly ported the exhaust ports.
All going to plan, we'll remove it from its tomb tonight. :)
UPDATE :: Even Later December 2010
Brand new clutch slave cylinder now on the way as well.
UPDATE :: Later December 2010
Oh cock. The new thrust bearing I bought ages ago doesn't quite fit correctly (though I now have a spare for the Sierra 5-speed I've had stowed away to fit in my Escort for ages). New genuine Lada one now on the way. In the meantime heater valve was replaced with one that appears to actually be able to totally shut off.
UPDATE :: Even Later December 2010
Today's discovery — the flywheel is cracked! (probably due to a non-genuine clutch and some clutch-slipping towing recently). Luckily I have a spare flywheel that's being machined up as we speak.
UPDATE :: A Bit Later in December 2010
The factory gearbox and transfer-case studs weren't to hard to remove and drill out, but their heads where they were spot-welded to the floor were a challenge - an angle-grinder saw to six of them easily enough, but the remaining two lived relatively inaccessibly under the seat brackets and needed to be ground off with a drill-stone butchered so it could be dropped (into a hole we drilled in them) from above and spun with a drill from under the floor (which sounds a lot less difficult and painful that it was), the result of not hacking the seat mount to make this an easy job is a tidy factory looking set-up and no compromised seat mounts. These studs are to be replaced with larger studs that have threads made of a less cheese-like material that the originals, and also some beefy plates to spread the load so the floor doesn't inevitability rip around these studs again (pretty much the Paris-Dakar Niva mount modification).
The rips have just been mig-welded up tonight, and I took the opportunity to have the rips around the handbrake mount properly fixed (thanks greatly to Stuart). All that's left to do is grind back the welds, make the new plates, go mad with a wire-brush and rust-kill, paint, and reassemble the drive-train and interior... Oh, and then a WOF test.
UPDATE :: December 2010
Dragging on - interrupted by limited access to the garage it's stored in, limited spare time, the hopefully temporary loss of my main Niva wrangler due to sickness, the discovery of a stolen car from one of my lock-ups, the odd end-of-year hangover, the discovery of some rips and minor rust in the floor which needed welding (I don't have welding gear or ability), the PITA job of removing the original studs that hold the gearbox and transfer-case in place, and finding a time the guy with a welder can turn up.
UPDATE :: October 2010
Sick of oil spraying everywhere, an apparently un-tunable thirsty motor, no 5th gear, and a vibey & leaky drive-train, so we finally pulled the motor, 'box, and transfer-case out to replace and service. The replacement motor is out of a low mileage Niva a farmer was using for odd-jobs and hadn't been on the road in years, the gearbox is a spare one a buddy rebuilt with SKF and Fiat bits but never fitted because he wisely swapped the more robust Fiat 132 ZF style box into his Niva.
And into the oil-soaked hole goes the replacement engine...
UPDATE :: August 2010
Swapped the Weber DGAV for a Weber DCHE as all the DGAVs I own have spindle wear and can't be properly tuned. The DCHE is a a version of a DCD with a vacuum operated secondary throat, so in theory should be better off-road and for economy that a DGAV (it's basically an bigger version of the original carburetor). I haven't yet adjusted the mixture absolutely correctly, but it's currently less economical than the DGAVs, and is rubbish for towing when trying to move on any gradient, but otherwise goes ok.
Another key barrel in the rear lock broke, so I think I'll simply install a electric central-locking mechanism and not bother replacing the barrel.
I think I've found the source of the 40KPH vibe - there's some play in the transfer-case's rear output shaft [EDIT: now the transfer-case is out the play is oddly no longer evident. Perhaps I imagined it!?!].
UPDATE :: July 2010
Over 700Km round trip in the Niva - with a nasty vibe at 40kph in a city where all the traffic seems to hover around this speed, and no choke in a cold city. No problems other than shaking the exhaust manifold-to-pipe joint loose. Economy still terrible (not quite 250 KM from a tank!), and performance poor (won't push much over 100KPH at all, and very slow on hills) - but I did still pass a Pinzgauer full of squaddies. Managed to fit in a spot of muddy off-road playing, but sadly nothing serious as I only had road tyres, and no real recovery gear or nearby friends with a 4x4 (and of course that damn CV boot still needs replaced).
UPDATE :: June 2010
Obtained some decent 600-15 SAT mud tyres on Niva rims, otherwise uneventful month; haven't even really caught up with maintenance. Niva is back in daily service after the CR-X developed a nasty vibe in a hillclimb I suspect is the CVs which have been vaguely noisy for over a year.
I've given up the idea of a supercharging as I'd really need to either inject it, or custom fabricated a intake manifold; both of which would be about the same amount of work and expense as simply re-powering with 2 litre Fiat or Toyota engine.
UPDATE :: May 2010
After a good clean out, cut and polish, and ritual adjustment of the brakes the Niva has a new WOF. And it passed without any fails. Took it for a little strop to celebrate, but nothing too messy as I still need to do the damn CV boot.
UPDATE :: April 2010
The Niva was greatly missed a a fixture of the Rally of Otago's service park this year (no WOF).
As always I'm in a constant debate on the best way of getting more grunt. I'm tossing up between a Fiat swap a Japanese swap, or supercharging.
My buddy who owns a Volmex popped into town the other day and I've been bugging for the Weber jet sizes from the Volmex so I can adapt them for a super-charged Niva - when he pointed out that being suck-through the settings can essentially remain standard (ie air/fuel at the already correct ratio will be sucked through rather than having to stuff around tuning jet settings like a blown through). This is a very good point that will make super-charging much easier than I had thought.
I have found a cheap low mileage Toyota 3S-F carburetor motor a buddy I bumped into in the service park has lying around that will possibly fit the Niva-to-Toyota-2C diesel bell-housing I have; so that's also still a possibility.
I also found how to clean the alloy corrosion out of the Weber 32-36's passages - phosphoric acid. Worked a treat. However, the accelerator jet pump still isn't pumping so the blockage wasn't the issue. Hmmmm.
UPDATE :: March 2010
I found specs from someone who used a wide-band to determine the optimum setting for a 32-36 DGAV on a 1600 Lada saloon and I jetted my good 332-36 close to these specs. However, after fitting I discovered the 32-36 has a mystery blockage in the very tiny passage in the accelerator pump diaphragm housing that I can not shift — so the choke-less 32-32 is back on it (but has unfortunately developed some spindle wear so can't be set to idle properly).
I have used an adjustable Redline lever arm kit so I can now get full throttle, replaced its F50 emulsion tubes with F66s, converted it to plastic floats (more reliable as they can't puncture and sink, and they're less bouncy off-road), and re-surfaced the base to get rid of vacuum leaks. The F66s certainly seem to solve bogging while pulling off, but foolishly I only used a single fibre spacer block so now it has hot fuel issues (ie run-on, and won't start easily once hot). Easily fixed, but the WOF test is due in a week or so and will be the top priority.
UPDATE :: February 2010
Niva's back home, and I now have all the bits I need to freshen the 32-36 and sort a linkage length so it gets full throttle, but without acting like a light switch. If only I had the time... :(
UPDATE :: January 2010
The mighty Niva is currently being loaned out to a certain Fiva owner as his daily while he fixes his Fiat DOHC head. The wet choke is now set up on the 32-32 and reportedly works fine, but I have ordered some bits to freshen up the 32-36 DGAV I want to try. Sadly summer holidays have run out so I probably won't get a chance to pop the spare 1600 in soon; more time to set it up properly though I guess.
UPDATE :: December 2009
Fitted another 40-40 DFA Weber, this one with a choke fitted. However, as we couldn't get the wet choke to work properly in time for the holidays so I swapped back to another 32-32 DGAV. Also fixed a couple of vacuum leaks. Runs nice and smoothly, power is ok (though sadly not as good as the DFA of course), exact economy unknown yet, though seems just as thirsty as before.
Fixed the broken seat rail, and added a length of 5mm steel to stop it bending and breaking the rail top again (it's the second or third time I've replaced this rail!).
Broke the spares Niva RealNivaMan and I were given by a farmer. The 1600 motor seems in pretty good condition (it had what appears to be less than 60,000 genuine km on it and is likely to re-power my Niva), and grabbed bits of RNM's collection he was biffing out - so my garage is now full to the brim of Niva bits (and the bones of a Fiat swap - less the head).
UPDATE :: November 2009
Developed bad bogging on partial throttle and loss of power on hills after recovering a Toyota Surf and ragging it on a corrugated road. After much fruitless swapping of carburetors, fuel pump, and the entire ignition system, the problem appears to have been nothing more than a wiring issue causing poor spark :lol:
Since I had the carburetor off I'm currently trying a Weber 40-40 DFA. The 40-40 is a synchronous opening monster I had on a quick Kent powered hill-climb Escort years ago. I've always wondered if the Niva would handle its flow without running like total arse -and it seems to be somewhat managing it (there is some fluffing, and it doesn't seem to handle low-vacuum conditions like slowly climbing a steep hill, but it hasn't been set up properly yet). Certainly a big power improvement now it's got some spark and tons of mixture.
Fitted a hybrid of aftermarket side mirrors so I've got large mirrors on standard looking mounts (I think the fold-away mounts that come with the large off-road mirrors look wrong on a Niva; plus I hate drilling into the body if I can avoid it). The larger mirrors are about 100 times safer for lane changes as you can actually see what's beside you (unlike the letterbox slot originals), and you can see all the things you're likely to hit while reversing.
UPDATE :: October 2009
The good news: When to check the timing and discovered potentially
why it's been gutless for the last year or so - the vacuum to the distributor
was being shared with the oil breather vacuum feed, and hence no noticeable
vacuum was getting to the distributor. :roll: :lol:
Easily sorted, and runs notably better, but still down on power from what it should be; mind you it's probably due for a decent tune by now anyway.
The bad news: The brand new CV boot has already perished and ripped for no known reason (which is a right pita as it means I can't take it anywhere mucky until it's sorted :( ). Indicator indicator light on the dash has died (and later self-healed itself as only a Lada can), and a lower ball-joint in the front is slightly 'sticky' (makes a small ping heading upwards from full travel down, but no play etc; re-greased it and no better).
UPDATE :: September 2009
New top-left ball-joint, seat rail fixed, surface rust removed (it's slowly becoming a stealthy kind of camouflage with various shades of beige; Light Kashmir this time), negative camber backed off (see below), brand new brake regulator valve, and RealNivaMan's spare calipers fitted - and it finally has a new WOF. It seems the crappy brake pedal feel may have been caused by the calipers all along, so they'll be in for a re-kit.
Currently I'm running noticeable negative camber on the front rather than factory slightly positive setting, and I've had my castor pulled back (ie positive) a lot (it was miles out) — and the steering's improved dramatically. It has great turn-in, and is notably lighter. I'll see how the tyres wear though as I suspect I have slightly too much negative. Update, at the last WOF it didn't have enough self-correcting (odd, as positive caster should have improved self-correcting), so I've backed the camber off (and a little of the caster) in case it was doing something odd.
UPDATE :: August 2009
Baxter's Niva is still sitting unloved at a mate's place. :(
UPDATE :: July 2009
Niva is out of daily use: WOF test has produced a long list of fails. Mostly all minor but annoying stuff. :(
UPDATE :: even later May 2009
Niva is being used as a daily again — it's winter.
I stumbled across some shots of myself and the mighty Niva from a D-Scene (a local newspaper) article last year:
UPDATE :: later May 2009
Took the Niva down to watch some 4WD trials in Clinton. Through the sleet and bitter cold on the way home all was good until we smelt a burning smell we optimistically passed off as farm mud on the exhaust - and then the heater died. As did the wipers and headlights. :( Being a Lada mobility was not effected of course, and it still made it home despite its electrical issues. :)
The weather's been so bad it was a week until I found a common wire (pin 30 and INT on the ignition barrel), INT had been overloaded and melted the barrel so things didn't connect as they should. Luckily RealNivaMan had a spare from a saloon he'd been hoarding, so all's tickey-boo again. Though I'm not sure what caused it to overload in the first place (my only guess was that I once left my wipers on and they jammed on the dry windscreen) so I'll try and avoid cold, wet and dark evenings for the immediate future. :)
Here's a picture of a very modified Niva from the trials that was one of the more capable entries. It's a very hybrid truck: old Subaru motor, upside down Suzuki transfer-case, front axle is 'Zuk with Niva hubs fabricated on, air lockers made from Niva/'Zuk bits, etc, etc..
UPDATE :: May 2009
Took the Niva on a jaunt down the south-east coast (of New Zealand's South Island). It returned 340km from a very full tank so economy's improved (but probably should be better); this included many twisty hills where it was at high revs in 2nd or 3rd most of the time. And the beach drive below where it was at max RPM in 1st and occasionally 2nd for near 2km (before I braved driving lower down on the beach where the sand is firmer and doesn't suck as nearly as much power).
The jaunt ended at Curio Bay, which is the southern most tip of mainland New Zealand, so unless there's a Niva on Stewart Island it would have been the southern most Niva in NZ; and unless there's an old Niva at Russia's Antarctic base it would have been the southern most Niva in the world... Anyway, off to the DIY high pressure water cleaning station to get rid of the salty sand.
Replaced the vacuum feed for the engines PVC that's been vented to the atmosphere for ages, and ditched the dodgy valve in the line between the carburetor and the distributor. No difference in power.
Had another fiddle with the rear brakes and got them better, but still not as they should be. I re-inspected the rear brake delay valve, and water has been getting in so it's seized — a new one is on order.
Gearbox is definitely too overfilled — since the top-up an occasional smell of sulphur wafts in when it's warm. Ahh well, hopefully shan't be long before it's apart anyway. Also I might try a wider multi-grade next time as 2nd synchromesh only reliably works when the 'box is hot after long hard driving.
UPDATE :: April 2009
Adjusted rear brakes and handbrake. Pedal pressure is still a little soggy though. Adjusted the clutch and fixed its broken return spring; which explains why it's felt like arse for ages.
And as the Niva is now able to be accommodation for two on a weekend trip far away - I converted the rear seat into a bed:
I didn't like any of the Russian methods as there needs to be a 2" or so gap between the lower and upper squabs when they're flat, that's not accounted for in their method. So I simply put 2" long leather straps between the upper and lower squabs where they're supposed to be hinged, here's how.
It folds down a treat - and still seems to lock properly into place properly in the passenger position (though the base of the upper squab now sits an inch or so back from where it's supposed to be), I gave it a damn good shaking and it appears as rigid as the flimsy original.
A proper solution would be to use some metal extensions fabricated from 2" angle section, and relocate the top mounting plates that clip the seat back (as the extensions would move the upper squab up an inch or 2). And this is what I'll do if there's any hint of the straps being a problem.
Toped the gearbox oil up (it leaks) by driving the passenger side (RHD) up on two tyres with the other side in the gutter. It got on an alarming angle (well to the neighbors anyway :) ) and I suspect I actually managed to well overfill the box as there's a good whiff of EP oil when thrashing it up hills and 2nd gear synchromesh is often almost nonexistent. Hopefully I'll be motivated enough to fix the whole 'box in the not too distant future.
Anyway, here's a picky of my interior showing by 'bling bling' chequer-plate (c/o RNM) and my accessory lighter plugs. I bought a cheap 3-way extension (even in '70s black plastic to suit the Niva interior), wired and mounted them permanently into the the dash so now I have 4 lighter sockets in total, 3 of which are shallow modern type; great for for running multiple toys; eg MP3 player, pump up a tyre, hand-held light, cell-phone charger, coffee pot, if only I could find a 12 volt electric samovar...In-line fuses are your friend though.
UPDATE :: March 2009
CV boot sorted. And the Niva is back in daily use at the mo'. Nasty transmission vibe though, that isn't caused by alignment. Looking forward to some spare time to pop the back of the 'box off fix 5th and sort the vibe...
UPDATE :: February 2009
Ironically it hasn't turned a wheel since returning home from its successful WOF test. I started fixing some deferred maintenance, starting with the CV boot replacement. No problems, after a bit of frustration working out how it comes apart and doing it in situ, job done no worries.
No worries that is until I'd put it back together and cleaning up afterwards - when a large ball-bearing covered in nice fresh grease casually rolled out of the stack of rags I'd been using... Feck! Oh the bright side at least I found it before I drove it and destroyed the CV.
UPDATE :: January 2009
Had the cross-member welded up, and adjusted the rear brakes (came up pretty good too), and gave it a half hearted wash & wax for the WOF test and crossed my fingers...
And it passed - first time! Here's hoping the hours and dollars spent on it are finally paying off.
Still a few odds and sods to do though: sort the mystery transmission vibe (very likely the 'box and transfer-case mounts), replace a ripped CV boot, lube the drive-shafts, find a new window winder, and finally replace the 5th gear fork / fix the 'boxes oil leak / weld rip in the floor under a 'box mount.
And I'm half looking out for a cheap supercharger for a winter project.
Top of Flagstaff, 2009
When for a wee play the day before the WOF test, and the Niva performed well, going everywhere the Surf and other Niva did (except a brief section with a nasty diff-height rock I choose to avoid - the other Niva did it, but later discovered his custom front diff mount was bent). The Niva trundled over most bits the Surf was thrashed up and over, and was the only car not not to suffer some kind of damage.
RealNivaMan about to bend his front diff-mount on a rock.
UPDATE :: January 2009
Nice plate welded in for the steering-box, that should be the last I see of that problem.
Got a decent steering-alignment done afterwards, including getting the castor set properly (which was miles out) and a slight bit of negative camber instead of the factory's slight positive. The steering has dramatically improved - no more lurching wildly when it hits a bump, and it's actually got some turn-in, and is notably a bit lighter. The rear axle is still out, but should be easy enough to sort - when I make it adjustable (with a file :) ).
Window winder has broken again :roll: and I've found a large crack in the gearbox mount (which I hope is the mysterious source of vibrations we've failed to find). I'll sort this for the WOF which expires in a few days... So fingers crossed for me please... With any luck there shouldn't be too much to do other than the 6 monthly brake adjust - so I might finally get some time to fit a 5th gear and snorkel...
UPDATE :: December 2008
Still sitting at a mate's exhaust shop waiting for the steering-box fix. Still, other than leaking oil on his floor, nothing's broken this month. :)
However, it's six monthly WOF test looms...
UPDATE :: October 2008
I've loaned the Niva to a buddy while he's working on installing a Fiat 132 ZF-style gearbox in his Fiat DOHC powered Niva.
Electronic distributor fitted; it didn't solve the power or economy problems I'd hoped it might, but it does run a lot smoother at high RPMs, and of course should be considerably more water resistant (the main reason for fitting it). Window winder cable fixed by my ZF installer buddy, but its cable is a bit naff and will probably break at the least convenient time (ie when I need a locking car).
More concerning, the steering box mount has re-cracked so it's booked in to be fixed properly with a plate. Gearbox is still leaking like a sieve & transfer-case still a bit vibey, but I have the bits necessary to get 5th gear back and do the seal and hopefully sort the vibes at the same time.
I've collected most of the bits to make a snorkel, have be given yet another roof-rack that's not exactly what I want, and have a lead on some 4.3 diff heads.
UPDATE :: July 2008
WOF issued after a new tie-rod end, 3 new brakes hoses, 2 new rear brake cylinders, repair to crack in the floor under the handbrake, driver's seat replaced, and a couple of other odds and sods. Brakes are still not to my satisfaction and will need further investigation, but hey they passed.
How many different shades of beige, er I mean Desert Sand / Simpson Beige, can you spot? I've named the colour scheme "Desert Camouflage".
What I do when I'm not at work or groveling around under a
UPDATE :: June 2008
New brake master cylinder fitted, brakes improved but still no where near 100%. Oil's still leaking out the 'box. Window winder's still broken. Still gets axle tramp on up-hill corners. On the plus side I've finally found a set of the dealer fitted 15" ROH rims (ie with the correct off-set for a Niva).
As usual used the Niva for service-park manager duties at the
Rally of Otago, but with some Soviet
style graphics this time:
UPDATE :: Late April 2008
I think I've finally found the source of the Niva's new found thirst - when we were re-setting up the carburetor I noticed I'd used the float measurements for plastic floats instead of brass floats (36.5/44.5 vs 41/49.5). Oops. And the main jets appeared to be the wrong way around! All ultrasonically cleaned and put back together properly. Fingers crossed it's back to 300 plus KM from a tank.
I've also finally got the heater-tap cable connected and working, but it still blows partially warm air when set to 'cold' despite the tap being at the end of its travel, so I think I'll still install a hardware store tap under the bonnet when I find a suitable one.
On the bad side: the driver's window winder has broken again, the grease system in the drive shafts no longer forces grease into the spines, the rear seal in the gearbox is leaking, and I'm fairly sure the brake master-cylinder needs replaced. All easily fixed; with the luxury of time...
UPDATE :: April 2008
Replaced the front dampers with good ones off the 'spares' Niva and the handling is about 100 times better. So much so I'm sure with good dampers the removal of the anti-roll bar probably wouldn't have produced the terrible handling it originally did. They also seem to reasonably complement the super stiff coils I currently have. So now I'm debating going back to the stock coils with the Hoodoo2 lift or staying with the firm coils; it really depends on the articulation it gets with the firm coils. Decent dampers also sorted the problem of one side sitting slightly higher than the other.
I've also had most everything tunable in the engine tuned in the pursuit of better fuel economy, and it's going better than ever - though economy still seems to suck.
Went off-roading over the Dunstan Trail with another Niva and a modified Daihatsu (the one extracting me in the picky below, though it's been massively modified since that shot). We didn't get to play much as the Daihatsu buried itself deeply in some very sticky lake-bed mud. We managed to shift it only a couple of meters using a snatch strap (Nivaman broke one in the process!), but eventually it had to be snatched by a more powerful and heavier 4WD using 2 snatch straps.
The Styx River? - This really might be the end of the known world...
UPDATE :: March 2008
I was impressed with more free articulation from removing the antiroll-bar, but not so happy with the crappy road holding from removing it. I'm trying some firmer 33cm front coils; result — much firmer, which suits my driving style. They road holding has improved and the lift is good, but I suspect they're so firm it's potentially less articulation than with the antiroll-bar. EDIT: I later discovered the dampers were shot and wheel castor was wildly out, fixing these helped considerably, but handling is still not as sharp as with the anti-rollbar.
I have had some economy issues - 230kms from a tank — so after a bit of fettling (half the carburetor was loose!) and checking the points, plugs, timing, and valves it now runs like a dream and it's so quiet I think I've stalled it half the time.
I'm also trying running my front tyres at 38psi after Andy from Lada Parts Australia suggested 40. The handling is much better (probably too stiff in combination with my present super-stiff coils) and if feels like there's less drag (eg better economy). Much lighter steering, and hence I assume less wear and tear on ball-joints, steering gear etc. So if there's no centre tyre wear I'll be sticking with this.
I replaced the rubber seal on the gearbox shifter as it looked like the leak was coming from there. However, it's still leaking so either the rear seal needs done, or the synthetic oil is indeed too thin for the seals. Meh, I'll probably just fit another 'box - maybe even one with 5 working gears... :)
UPDATE :: January 2008
Have finally got a WOF and did the Hoodoo2 prototype lift - pictures here, discussion here.Yay and yay! Just need to find a set of 22" dampers for the rear - and then see how much arch needs to be trimmed to fit the tractor tyres under... :)
I took the opportunity to remove the front anti-rollbar for some extra articulation. Combined with the lift this has made it a great vehicle over lumpy bumpy off-road stuff, but it is very rolly-polly at any speed on the road (probably needs firmer coils).
I've also swapped out the mineral Valvoline GL5 for some Redline MT-90 GL4 gearbox oil. As with the synthetic Valvoline GL5 I tried there was bronzy contamination in the old Valvoline mineral. May well have been crap that was already in the 'box, but Valvoline is off my xmas card list when it comes to Nivas. The Redline looked alarmingly watery when I poured it in, but it seems to run very nicely and the 2nd gear synchromesh even partially returned after a few days.
I attached some angle iron (from an old washing line :) ) along the length of each lower rear suspension arm on both my Niva and RealNivaMan's to protect these exposed arms from being bent (WOF test failure) by rocks etc.
On the what's-broken-this-month front: Despite new brake-pads and a good bleed the brake pedal is spongy and no amount of adjusting the rears seems to make a great difference, and the handbrake backs off after a couple of days. The gearbox rubber mount has been found to be the cause of transmission vibes that refused to go away with multiple attempts to align the transfer-case and gearbox. And another transfer-case 'gland' and the gearbox 'gland' have developed slow leaks.
Yes it's a steep street -- this is outside my Niva buddy's house which is one or two streets over from the steepest street in the world .
UPDATE :: December 2007
When for a couple of strops in Nivaman's 2l Fiat DOHC powered Niva and was very impressed. Not only does it have performance to accelerate up hills in 4th gear, but it feels like it could climb anything - we certainly found the limit of the angle the Weber likes to operate at. :)
Anyway, I finally have word my Niva's been welding is done, which leaves me only a day or 2 'spare' to get it sorted for its WOF/MOT before the xmas break... Then bring on the long awaited Hoodoo2 lift and a third gearbox... :)
Update: Plenty done today - many minor body touch ups, washer motor replaced, rear wiper installed, rear interior cargo hooks installed, metal window winders. Only the rear brake pads to replace and spot more paint, and it's off to find somewhere that'll do a WOF on xmas eve...
UPDATE :: November 2007
Nothing broken this month either!
But then that's expected since it's been sitting at a buddy's welding shop all month waiting for the chassis crack to be repaired....
UPDATE :: September 2007
Plenty done this month, but no WOF.
I finally though it was about time to remove the synthetic oil from the gearbox due to a number of people having concerns about synthetic oils dissolving stuff, and in the vain hope the 5th gear pop-out might be caused by the hi-po oil. Sure enough, there was plenty of bronze in the oil. However, it was GL5 spec synthetic and any deterioration of the yellow metal is probably more to do with it being a GL5 than synthetic. Note high-sulphur GL5 is NOT advised for gearboxes like Ladas with yellow metals; GL4 or low-sulphur GL5 is preferable.
However, I replaced it with EPX (ie heavy duty EP oil for differentials) by mistake, and you'd expect the synchromeshs didn't work. Ooops, no problem, I popped in the correct weight 80W-90 mineral oil (though still a nasty GL5) and it was better, but it still has a very poor synchromesh in 2nd gear. Shame, as this gearbox was perfect on the 75W-90 synthetic :( Ahh well, the 'box will hopefully be swapped out for one with a working 5th gear in the not to distant future.
In a pre-WOF inspection I discovered it needed the steering-box adjusted, a new ball-joint, and wheel bearing. All that needs done now is the rear brake pads that are sitting on the back seat, and the steering box chassis crack re-welded.
Oh, and I finally got the steering alignment done and it handles 20 times better. It's now on some 205/80-16s ATs. And popped my own transfer-case back in instead of the loner from Nivaman.
So roll on WOF test and Hoodoo2 lift...
UPDATE :: August 2007
Wow — nothing still nothing else broken. Must be finally sorted (other than 5th gear!). Mind you it's recently been retired to my secondary car and is only used in weekends and extreme weather days. :)
Finally got around to having the drive-line greased — and the usual timing chain adjustment. It now runs a bit quieter; in fact so quiet that I'm imagining hearing all sorts of new noises.
WOF is due soon, so I'm sure there'll be odds and sods to do though. I've been doing some body-work tidying in the brief bits between the rain in preparation. And have some nice new-ish 205-16 tyres.
Once the WOF is sorted (fingers crossed nothing big), next on the cards is Hoodoo's experimental front lift rings (in the post as I write, yay! ), and swap my own transfer-case back in (I'm borrowing RealNivaMan's at the mo').
UPDATE :: May 2007
Wow — nothing broken this month! Well, nothing yet. Actually the handbrake won't stay adjusted, so I guess that counts.
The new gearbox is in at last. The good news is that it's from a local diesel-from-new Niva and has lovely SKF bearings in it - and synchromesh into 2nd still works; yay! However, the bad news is that 5th gear doesn't. Well it does work, but keeps hopping out. Damn, still don't have a car I can really trust out of town. :(
I also had the chassis fracture under the steering-box welded up nice and solid. So other than 5th geat it's all up and go at the mo' and seems to be running well.
I took it off-roading with some guys in Jappers and 'Nivaman' from Difflock. It did a lot better than I expected in the deep ruts — nothing like having people around to recover you to give you confidence to give it a go :). 'Nivaman' tried most of the hazards the others did and didn't get stuck once. I, on the other hand, let the team down and got easily stuck in a couple of slippery places, and avoided another couple.
Yep, so stuck it took two Jappers to pull me out:
To be fair, the others had modern aggressive mud tyres and I'm running SAT style tyres on the back and original Lada mud tyres on the front, so I have a slight traction disadvantage (and as I noticed only many years later — these rear SATs were directional, so odds are I had them on backwards :lol: ).
All the same, I'm of course greatly looking forward to the next venture out, and hopefully — if I can find some spare time away from adjusting the handbrake and replacing broken plastic fittings all the time — I'll have some tow-hooks and lift sorted and, fingers crossed, I'll be able to fit the tractor tyres after a wee lift...
Speaking of lifts, I have assembled all the bits needed for a Hoodoo rear lift (except some longer shocks - but I have an idea on how to retain my nice new standard length gas shocks), and a coil lift in the front. However, the coils measured up to be insanely long in a wishbone set-up (5cm longer than desired; ie 10cm longer than stock!), so back to the drawing board for now.
UPDATE :: March 2007
Not much news as work and motorsport etc, etc, has been very busy over the last couple of months; hence I paid someone to tune a car and do a bit of maintenance for what I'm sure is the first time in my life. They did spot why I had trouble setting the points by sight — the distributor was stuffed. So stuffed I'm surprised the car ran at all. It wasn't just the shaft play, there were broken electrical bits as well - but here's a good reminder for you to check the wee pad in your distributor has been lubed lately.
Luckily a secondhand distributor was on an online auction site (local trader as well) and turned out to be in tip-top order. It was also spotted the slipper pad was stuffed — well absent to be more accurate — luckily I had the brand new one still sitting beside my computer from when I first got the Niva and suspected this was an issue. All running nice and smooth, but a little rich as my carburetor's jets are probably slightly too large.
Gearbox is unbelievably still running! A Niva may be frequently broken, but never broken down.
Also it seems to be getting quieter, though that's probably either due to me getting more deafened by it — or due to metal filings inside slowly smoothing off the rough bits inside :). It does get quite hot if it does any distance (ie almost too hot to touch comfortably after about half an hour!) and seep oil from the shifter boot so I don't trust it at all out of town, but I'm very impressed by it's ability to just keep on going.
UPDATE :: February 2007
Fitted headlight-guards and played with some roof spotlights (un-wired as yet of course):
UPDATE :: January 2007
The Good News: I now have a farm jack, and a very beefy looking Tirfor type hand-winch. It's a Honko Super Til S-35, which is a Japanese made Tirfor type winch that is rated 3 ton lift, 5 ton pull. It has a beefy 16mm cable instead of the usual 11mm and is seriously heavy.
And the Good News continues : I also most of what's needed for a 2" lift, bits for a very DIY snorkel, a roof-rack with lights (un-wired yet of course), and some bigger sized side-mirrors (also unfitted as yet of course), a spare transfer-case, a hand crank and proper Lada tool kit...
But the Bad News: I no longer have a 5th gear. And 4th is sounding decidedly iffy as well.
Typically it failed late at night, far from home and almost in the middle of no where. The gearbox locked up after slowing from the motorway into a 50kph zone and leapt out of fourth. The box was totally locked and refused to move more than a meter or so without an awful binding up sound. Luckily I also tried reverse, which must have cleared whatever broken bits were floating about, and thankfully it moved. Also typically for a Niva, despite being broken - it still got me home (albeit carefully nursed all the way - about 60KM - in 2nd gear).
I had a wee fiddle (Lada's have a handy inspection plate on the underside of the gearbox), but the problem looks serious enough that the 'box will have to be removed to be repaired. Ironically the very day it failed was also the day the Lada Allen-key I'd needed to "over-fill" the gearbox oil arrived in the post. And yes, the 1.3 litres of oil that came out of the dead 'box very much suggests the low oil might have been part of the cause. A cautionary tale to those Niva owners who haven't done the gearbox "overfill" yet!
Naturally being summer holidays there's sod all Lada bits for sale locally, but I have finally managed to source a replacement 'box in apparently good condition from deepest Southland. So there's my next couple of weekends taken up - Damn it, I had been planning to get some rock-sliders made from our old washing line, some control arm guards from the same old washing line, and look at sorting a front sump/diff guard. Ahh well, at least I'll be mobile again soon-ish, and as a bonus the replacement 'box has a 2C Toyota bell-housing — which just might be handy in the future.
And while we're on the topic of bad news and typical Niva problems I thought were fine on mine: I've also noticed there's the beginnings of a crack under the steering-box which I must get attended too once the gearbox is sorted.
In other news, I had a quick crack at fitting the Honda CR-X seats but was scuppered by the fact that I hadn't noticed that one side of the Niva's seat mount is about an inch and a half taller than the other side of the seat. Would be easily fixed by putting a length of box section between the seat and mount on the low side, but that probably wouldn't be strictly legal here. I've also had time to start tidying up some of the scrapes and dents, and made some mesh headlight guards on the bull-bars.
UPDATE :: November 2006
The big news is that after much fiddling with the Lada carburettor to get a best range of 22 mpg (mostly open road), I decided to swap it for a Weber. I choose a Weber 32/32 DGAV from the selection lying around in my garage because it was a bit smaller than the 32/36s I have from 2-litre Fords, and I suspect it's jetted for a 1600 engine as well (I seem to recall pulling it off a Datsun OHC in a scrap yard years ago). For those that don't have a 32/32 lying around I have heard that the larger 32/36 off a 2 litre Cortina/Sierra Weber can be easily re-jetted to suit by fitting slightly larger air-corrector jets (or more butcherously by drilling the originals "one drill size up").
The swap was pretty simple. The only tricky things that needed doing were to bend a brass vacuum pipe to clear the slightly modified Lada throttle cable bracket (I snapped 3 pipes before mastering it, and have since worked out that if I'd simply spaced the bracket upwards this wouldn't have been necessary), and making a lever to fit the Niva cable (adapted a part off a random Japanese carburettor ). I also took the opportunity to add some extra fibre blocks (and a heat shield off a Ford Sierra) between the carburettor and manifold to help stop heat-soak into the carburettor that can on occasion boil the petrol in the fuel bowl.
The DGAV has a water operated choke than I have bad memories of failing in many '70s Fords. Hence I have not installed the choke yet, and it seems to be fine without it. Winter (and/or when I adjust the idle down to something sensible) might change this, so I might give the 'wet' choke a try if necessary.
I haven't installed a proper air-cleaner box yet either - and have a '70s style RamFlow. At the mo' I have feed the small "crankcase fume reticulation" hose into the air filter (instead of a dedicated vacum line it had on the Lada carburettor), and the larger "gas draw-out hose" into a charcoal filter. When I set up a proper air-box both will be feed into it. The carburettor itself may also need to be altered to cope with steep climbs in the future.
Anyway - WOW! What a difference. I'm not sure what condition my Lada carb was in, but if it was reflective of Lada carbs in general the Weber is a highly recommended modification. Without even as much as checking the mixture etc, it's now got much quicker and smoother throttle response, and more power — especially on hills. Better power through the whole rev range, especially low speed (ie what's needed for off roading). A far more drivable beastie.
As a pre-WOF precaution I scrapped some rust back on the front scuttle - expecting to find horrors underneath. But no. All I found was steel — I'm not used to that after owning a succession of rusty '60s/'70s British and early '80s Japanese cars! Oh, and I finally fitted the rear seat catches. Speaking of WOF time, it must be on for the annual timing chain adjustment as well.
On another trip to Christchurch last month I also finally got to do some decent fords on Canterbury's braided rivers. Nothing to extreme mind, but all good fun. The Lada did not disgrace itself. A couple of crossings has to be done foot-to-the-boards-and-hope style, but other than the alarming effect of water slowing the vehicle to what feels like a standstill it was fine. All the same there's a couple of modifications I'd like to do to waterproof the ignition better (and of course get a decent Tirfor just in case).
I finally also got around to oil/filter change. And picked up some chrome 15" Suzuki rims for $80 with tyres. Very bling bling :lol:
UPDATE :: September 2006
After much fettling, it gives me great pleasure to present...
And here's my latest toys...
Found and fitted some un-broken window-winder handles, extra power sockets, and the Cibie Apollos. Also found 4 16" tractor tyres being sold locally (and handily on some Suzuki pattern rims); had a wee play — it seemed pretty much unstoppable. The fronts were far too big and will likely need some cutting, the rears were not as bad and I spent the rest of Sunday dollying them back to fit. I'll probably change them onto some of my spare Niva rims (the rims they came on are about 10+mm solid steel!), and currently checking legal info on a mild body-lift and cutting away the front guards.
Also treated the Niva to a new set of plugs, and now runs smoother and stronger. Must get around to a proper tune some time...
UPDATE :: August 2006
Steering smartened up considerably with an adjustment to one of the front bearings. Still feels like a ’60s truck though. Adjusted rear brake shoes and hand-brake. Refitted the rear fog-light. Several hours cleaning mud and other crap out from all sorts of places underneath. And hey presto - WOF test passed eventually!
The brakes actually bought the meter up ok, but it was noted that that the pedal could feel better. No worries, went home and bleed them - and now they feel slightly worse! Still stop the car fine, but pedal certainly feels less than average.
Attended to the rear diff leak — several housing bolts were loose! Easily fixed, topped up, some trick snake oil added, and doesn't’t seem to leak.
Transfer–case rear seal has been a bit more of a problem though as I haven’t managed to loosen the bolt that holds the flange on yet. I topped the transfer-case up, as god knows how long it’s been leaking, and must have over filled it as it’s made the leak much worse.
I have also managed to acquire some un-broken rear seat brackets, a spare steering-box, another set of 16” Niva rims, a pair of Honda CR-X seats, some grunty looking Cibie fog-lights, a pair of 10,000 lbs tow hooks, and a lovely new snatch strap. None of which I’ve fitted yet of course…
I have also picked up a Weber carburettor from a 1600 Sierra (vacuum secondary, and the jets should be about right, though the mixture screw is the wrong side and linkage in the wrong place), but am yet to work out what all its hoses do (and indeed some of the ones the Niva’s carburettor !). Plenty to do, so lucky Spring has finally arrived, as have a couple of books I bought about 4WD tracks in my area…
UPDATE :: June 2006
It seems the brand new ‘slipper’ pad currently sitting on top of my PC was not needed — a two minute job to adjust the timing chain, once I got a fine day, and hey presto - death rattle gone. Sigh of relief, as those slippers look a bitch to fit.
A new clutch master cylinder was needed though. It died on the way to have the exhaust fitted. Luckily a mechanic mate got a brand new one at a good price and fitted in about one-tenth the time it would have taken me. Big ups to Big Jake.
I have been rust proofing recently in preparation for its WOF (ie the six monthly New Zealand version of the MOT) test. Amazingly I have discovered nothing too bad at all after poking and wire-brushing underneath for a couple of days. Now all primed, fish-oiled and awaiting underbody sealer after its WOF test.
I have had a bit of electrical problems. Indeed not two days after I fixed the timing-chain and got an exhaust fitted it appears my starter is shagged. On the bright side it got me to work and back for two days in a row — a new record. Ouch, that looks like the worst starter removal I've ever seen.
Luckily an electrical mate insisted on giving it one more test before removing it. This time we used his jumper-leads and spare battery - and what do you know, both my spare batteries were duff, as were my cheap jumper-leads. So good news, it's just the battery. However, it also developed a mystery drain on the battery that flattens it overnight. So I'm currently running with a battery sitting on the front passenger foot-well with leads running out the window into the bonnet Mad Max meets Trailerpark Boys styles :lol:
Most other electrical problems seem to be caused by crappy fuse mountings. Sand, bend, fixed. A couple of new brighter bulbs and some orange paint to re-colour the amber lenses and it's all good. Now only the wind-screen washer and headlight wash-wipe which are steadfastly refusing to work.
I'll also have to change all the transmission oils soon-ish as the transfer-case and rear diff are leaking a bit. Plus I suspect it's been in water at some point in the not to distant past so it'd be wise to change all the oils anyway.
The seats are a bit of a head ache. I'd love to just ditch them in favor of some with better side bolster, but after 1990 seats that have custom mountings (as the Lada will need since nothing bolts in) must have an expensive engineer’s certificate. I’ve bullied some Nissan van headrests to fit, and sorted the front seats so they actually lock down. However, the back ones look a bit of a pain as their Heath Robinson style isn't enhanced by bits seemingly broken or missing.
The brakes still need a good bleed (hopefully that's all), and hand-brake adjusted for the WOF test, so all things going to plan I should be away for the test soon. Fingers crossed.
And finally I can start on tidying the body and doing a Weber swap...
UPDATE :: March 2006
The broken damper was replaced right away with an Australian gas shock (all that was available at the local generic parts store). I've since discovered that gas shocks fight the Niva suspension making it unstable on ruts and likely to break the mounts. Indeed it certainly does want to go alarmingly more sideways that straight ahead on corrugations.
Mind you that may have hopefully changed since I discovered that 90% of the crappy feeling suspension and steering was due to having one front tyre at 10psi and the others at 15psi. Amazing how we forget basic things. Hey, I've never owned a car with proper off-road tyres before — I swear they looked ok... :)
The ominous red warning light - turns out to be nothing to panic about too much. It’s a low brake fluid light. And I certainly planned to bleed the nothing-nothing-nothing-nothing-shite-are-these-working-at-all?-nothing-nothing-ahhh-thank-the-gods brakes some time soon anyway.
Oh, and the oil pressure problem — since the oil light snaps on and off as expected we're blaming the gauge — apparently it's a common problem on Ladas.
Off to the exhaust shop once the ‘slipper’ is fitted and chain adjusted. I’d hate to be one of the first of the police’s victims of increased boy racer law powers — in a Lada...
The Beginning :: April 2006
At the moment I am, er, in between cars. My supposedly reliable and economical Nissan diesel coach refuses to start for any explainable reason, even after months of various mechanics and electrical folk fiddling with it. And my supremely reliable Honda CR-Xs are both suffering from a case of difficult-to-fix tin worm. My original Honda is nicely rust free and really only needs a weekend or three to do an engine swap and some fettling – but that would be the easy way.
Instead – I bought a Lada.
Yes, for years I’ve fancied a Niva as a recreational vehicle because of their off-road ability to embarrass more expensive 4WDs. And perhaps the fact it costs less than a year's depreciation on an expensive truck, and if you have to leave one rolled at the bottom of a cliff you haven’t lost too much dosh. Sounds like great fun. What could go wrong?
Sure, they have a reputation of being a bit – shall we say – unreliable; but surely most of their ‘60s technology running gear can be easily maintained and repaired at home, yeah? And probably with nothing more than a hammer, a swiss-army knife, and a adjustable spanner (which with nothing more, a mate and I disassembled a Triumph Herald one afternoon instead of going to Computer Science lectures in the late '80s, but that's another story... ).
So needing a daily vehicle for a few months, and perhaps retire to it recreational duties only after I sort one of the Honda CR-Xs (or optimistically even my lovely van) a Niva looked like just the ticket. Nothing too bad could go wrong with a well sorted Niva in six-or-so months or so, right?
I’ve been keeping an eye on them on the online auction site and they seem to sell for about $1500 to $2000 for a reasonable condition Niva with a WOF. So no worries, I found one for $1000 that seemed just the business:
The description said something like “1990, 5-speed, WOF, good condition body, no rust, good tyres, tidy interior, just needs timing chain tightened and new rear exhaust…”. So basically sound, with some easy-ish sorting needed. The reality when we got to Invercargill was somewhat different.
After a quick two hour trip we arrived to find a rather sad and scruffy looking Lada in the driveway. After establishing there were no other Nivas in the driveway that better fitted the description and photos on the trader site, pleasantries and cash were exchanged.
The return journey was of course an ordeal in itself.
At the petrol station we soon discovered that the oil pressure gauge reads around 0 bar at idle, and a maximum of about 3 at full noise — and full noise is literally full noise with the amount of rattle coming from the timing chain. Yes, were I not stuck in a far away town my mechanical sympathy would have parked it up there and then for further investigation. It had the ominous sound of a death rattle.
Once mobile the steering seemed impossibly heavy, even for a Lada with off-road tyres. This was especially so in one direction. Once at motorway speeds it developed into a reasonably serious lurch towards the centre line. This was ‘fun’ to contend with - along with the most un-ergonomic and impossible to find controls (including the clutch, brake and accelerator!) on a wet and dark night when you're not used to them.
In the back of my mind I’m already planning a wheel alignment, desperately hoping it’s not a worn steering-box as well. Did I mention that there is also a large and ominous red warning light with no clues as to what it’s for that either flashes on-and-off or refuses to go out?
The description also said “cruises along well happily at 100 kph”. Er, no. I struggled to get it much over 85 kph at all, though my mate did manage to get a terminal speed of around 100KPH. Lucky he was driving for a large part of the journey - as it turns out that it’s strongly recommended not to use 5th gear under 90KPH. But hey, since 1600 Nivas should do 120+ KPH – at least on paper – hopefully nothing a bit of tuning won’t sort. Hopefully.
Further, being that the vehicle was unregistered one likes to keep a low profile. However, the exhaust that was described as “…not loud enough to annoy the cops” turned out to be muffled by only a single small muffler and even in lower rev ranges would easily be more than enough to annoy the police.
Indeed it was far too loud to drive across town at 1am in the morning when we finally arrived home (from what is normally only a four hour return trip). So it was abandoned outside my mate’s place who helped drive it back. Lucky this mate has a ‘spare’ car and was very good about loaning it to me for more than the two weeks or so I thought I might be without a car. Welcome to Lada ownership I guess.
A few days later when I was up to facing the vehicle again, a quick inspection to see what was needed for the exhaust revealed a rear damper (shock-absorber) in two pieces — and the coil completely out of its seat and ‘resting’ between the chassis and the trailing arm! The break in the damper shaft was well rusted and must have been like this for some time, and the coil has done minor damage to the chassis rail where it was jammed. Feck!
Well at least that explained the handing problems :lol:
The interior was surprisingly as described and indeed ok. And the body is reasonably straight-ish for a 4x4 and seems good rust-wise (though not nearly as straight and tidy as it looked on the ‘net). And that’s the good news. Pretty much all of the good news.
I couldn’t seem to find two of the “good tyres” as per the seller's description. As they sure aren’t the two on the front which don’t even have enough tread to pass a WOF test. Indeed the seller agreed to sort this problem and went halves with me in four ok condition tyres on Niva rims.
New shocks have already been bought and fitted (well one of them anyway). I have since discovered the timing chain needs to be tightened every 10,000KMs or so on Nivas, and there are potentially fatal repercussions for the head of not doing so.
I fear my Lada might be one of those about to suffer these fatal repercussions, and indeed I’m not using it until the slipper is replaced. Hence I’ve found a place in the North Island (Gee Motors) that seems a good parts supplier, indeed a new ‘slipper’ is sitting on top of my computer awaiting a correlation of me not working, a mechanic mate having ‘spare’ time, and ideally no rain.
So it might work out good yet. But still, I’m glad to know that Fiat engines can be relatively easily fitted to Nivas. Shame though that the profusion of rusty cheap Fiats seems to have dried up here in the last few years.
Baxter's Niva at CarDomain
Sound upgrade: replace head
unit with something worth more than $1 :lol:, and replace speakers with some
removable water-proof marine ones.
Rewire accessory lighter plugs to battery (throw-back switced) and wire for bigger amperage, and mount in a permanent location.
Spare gearbox mini-overhaul: repair 5th gear selector fork and rear seal leak, maybe input bearing (status: have most bits - just need the time...).
transfer-case brace: If the vibes can't otherwise be sorted.
Lift+: maybe some thick washers under the coil base to correct the banana-ing (and gain another cm or so lift) and sort the rear coil unseating on full articulation (maybe add a little more ring lift?).
Detroit Locker: reinstall on some 4.3s (have front, need good condition rear - message me if you have one in New Zealand)
Fire extinguisher: Mount in a better place than rolling about under my seat.
Seat swap: Have various suitable seats, need some box section (size?).
Snorkel: Have most bits, need pillar clips and bonnet cut (and paint matt black); final design depends on final roof-rack design.
Bumper: design a bumper to improve approach angle on front wheels.
'Monsoon' shields: Have some, need to solve the IQ puzzle of their mounts (and remember where the "safe place" is I've stored the snap-lock plastic Ferrari parts bag they're in).
Electric radiator fans with kill switch: Have a donor fan from a Lada saloon, need thermal switch.
Reversing bright light: Have light, need to mount and wire.
Fog/driving lights: have Cibes, need to wire relay and switch.
Roof lights: Have 4, need to mount and wire once roof-rack is sorted.
Roof rack: Have 4 in bits I've plans to hybrid, but ideally I'd like a decent alloy one, big enough to take a roof tent (or perhaps, a proper roof tent to go with my existing half-rack).
Rock-sliders: Have some very heavy tube, need box section for the mounts (size, 18x24mm?).
Rear bull-bar & tyre mount: Have bits, need to have them welded up (but they are weighty, so hmmm?).
Sump/gearbox/transfer-case guard: I'll probably go for an all-in-one design if I get my hands on a suitable piece of metal.
Wheel-arch trim: Removal of more steel to fit 32" tractor tyres is a possibility, but depends on interpretation of local legislation.
Wheel-arch flares extensions: Have some off a Niva.
4.3 diff swap: Find replacement crown (or repair current if viable); may consider the "French" transfer-case crawler modification if I can't find any (or ideally both).
Roll bar: Have bar, need to work out mounts and hopefully how to make it relatively easy-in easy-out.
Cargo safety barrier: Have barrier, need to make mounts and/or work out how it works in with roll-bar.
Re-power? No firm plans as yet, but the likely destiny is diesel - either a Toyota 2C/3C diesel turbo (could be installed realitively easily if a set of engine mounts turn up, as I already have a bell-housing to convert a Lada gearbox to a Toyota 2C and I have a independent front diff mount waiting to be installed, though it'd sill have the inherent weakness of the Lada gearbox which if I'm spending money and time on a conversion I'd like to eliminate); or better a Nissan Terrano diesel and gearbox/transfer-case (much more work to install, though it'd result in a robust, reliable, and torquey Niva that is affordable to run, but the fly in the ointment is that Terrano gearbox can also be delicate so are worth a small fortune here), or whatever reliable diesel I manage to find at a reasonable price with a gearbox (the problem being most gear boxes are longer than the Lada one meaning cutting the body would be necessary, so maybe even a 'box and transfer-case from the donor, though most TC outputs are on the wrong side) that can fit. Other ideas I've flirted with are: Fiat DOHC with Japanese injection (Sadly finding a decent 2l locally for not silly money is difficult at best these days); Toyota 3F or G (which apparently bolts up to the 2C bell-housing I have); Supercharging (I love the idea as a project and also because it wouldn't necessarily have to be certified (ie could only be hooked up for off-road use), but in the real world I'm less liking this as it'd be the same power as a Fiat 2l swap, less reliable, and potentially more work to get it sorted); or a Mitsubishi 4G63, maybe with Pajero 'box and transfer-case (low rage would be too high which is a problem, body would need cut, custom mounts, etc). Diesel is hands down the winner simply because of the cost of petrol these days (and because it can tun underwater :lol: ).
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