Almost right from the moment of driving the car of the showroom floor have I been thinking of increasing the engine power. I explored various options including turbo charging the Lada engine, fitting a Toyota diesel (with or without turbo) or even an old Bedford 2.3Litre engine which I had lying around. In the end though the choice fell on a Fiat Twin Cam engine. There were several reasons for this. Rumours had it that these engines bolted straight in, although I now know this is not true. I had read and seen several Nivas on the web which had been converted to Fiats. But the most convincing reason came after actually seeing and driving one which had been converted. After that the hunt was on to find a suitable donor car to give up its engine. It didn't take long to locate a likely candidate. In my case this was a 1982 Fiat 132. The body was looking the worst for wear, the engine still turned over but wouldn't start but as I was planning to rebuild the engine anyway I wasn't too worried about that. After some negotiating and parting with NZ$140 we towed the car home. With some minor work the engine soon burst into life and I found to my delight that it wasn't in bad shape at all considering it had done 270000km. I was tempted to just drop it into the Niva and drive it for a couple of months until I found it had two broken head bolts. After pulling the engine out and stripping it down my suspicions about the engine's condition were confirmed. Bore wear was only minimal and the bearing shells were still in good condition. An article I read recently about these engines when fitted to Fiat 124 Spiders also stated that these engines have a long lifespan. The next step was to remove the Lada engine from the Niva so I could sit the two engine blocks side by side to get some idea of what sort of work was needed to get the Fiat to fit. I knew the oilpan needed some major work to fit around the front differential. The Lada engine mounts bolt onto the Fiat block and locate everything in the right place with respect to the gearbox, although they would create an interference with the oilfilter in my case but more about that later. The gearbox bellhousing needed some minor work to fit around a waterjacket coverplate on the back of the Fiat block. Having had a look at all this it was time to fit the bare Fiat block into the Niva for the first time. Expecting to be removing and trial fitting the block many times I thought it was a good idea to make up a lifting attachment that could be easily bolted to the block rather than using chains or slings.This definitely was worth the little time and effort spent making it.
Here are two pictures of the block in place for the first time. Note that my Niva is right hand drive. This makes everything on the drivers side pretty tight as the engine is offset to that side as well.