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Adapted from something I posted on Jalopnik when a Merc driver claimed the record for the longest running production 4x4 civilian model, and then a Land Rover driver tried to claim the title…
The Land Rover almost certainly deserves some record for length of production — but not the record for the longest production of a single (ie with minimal design changes) or unchanged 4x4/SUV model. It simply isn't.
Yes, traditional looking Land Rovers were in production from 1948 until 2015. And yes, the Defender which succeeded them is indeed a direct descendant of the earlier Series 1/2/3 Land Rovers. But 20th Century Defenders have evolved to be a different vehicle to the Series — they have totally different suspension, totally different engines, a totally different drive-train, different chassis, and visually similar but different body panels. Nothing I can think of from an 80" will fit on a Defender.
You could argue that the Land Rover Series 1/2/3 are essentially the same vehicle, and I'd mostly agree. But thanks to the constant improvements made to the Series during its production run, the amount of changes between the 1948 80" and the last Series in 1985 is immense compared to the differences between the 1977 Niva and the Niva that's still in production today.
If I recall correctly, little or nothing is the same on a Series 1 and a Series 3. Whereas the Niva is still largely its original design.
Unlike the Series Land Rover the Niva not only looks the same — but it's running gear is the same; most mechnical parts from a current Niva are identical to a 1977. Unlike the Series Land Rover the Niva motor is the same (bored out 100cc and injected, but most everything else is the identical to the original 1977 motor), the suspension is the same, transfer-case, and differentials are the same (other than a ratio change, and maybe a bearing or two), and the the gearbox is the same other than having a 5th gear added. The body is largely the same (only changes have been the rear tailgate and lights), though the interior has been modernized (sort of).
But none of that actually matters for the title as the Series 1/2/3 was "only" in production 37 years, and in 2015 the Niva beat that record with 38 years of production.
Now the Mercedes's claim for the title:
Unlike the Land Rover, I suspect the G-Wagen is indeed largely still largely the same as its original design, so its whole production time does count as a genuine single model.
However, the G-Wagen was born only two years after the Niva, and as of 2016 both are still in production, so it is yet not a contender for this title — unless of course, in its original form, the G-Wagen manages to outlast Niva production. This title fight is not over yet, but...
Currently the Lada Niva is the world’s longest mass-produced civilian 4x4/SUV model* — the Niva's deliberate middle-finger-in-the-wind to planned obsolescence has seen it have a longer production run than even its Soviet planners intended it to, indeed it's outlasted the Soviet Union and is still going in a capitalist economy.
Niva Prototype - pop a grill on that and you could almost deliver it to a showroom.
1977 - the Niva is born.
Early Niva publicity picture.
1980s - gained a 5th gear; and was dressed up by sales dealers in the West.
Lost the stickers for the 1990s - new taillights, interior bought into the '80s, engine enlarged 100cc & injection an option. Radical changes :lol:
2016 Niva - new areodynamic front indicator lenses.
The world's longest running single production 4x4/SUV civilian model, and a Mercedes.
*However, if we include vans, the UAZ-452 wins the title hands down - also a survivor from the USSR the UAZ-452 entered production in 1965 and is still for sale today (2016) in much the same form.
*Likewise the UAZ-469 is also a potential contender; it was produced as a military vehicle from 1971 until 2011, with a civilian version (UAZ Hunter) still available today (2106) - though it is unclear if this is still in the same form as the original, or when the civilian version was first available (the original military version was initially not available for purchase by the public).
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