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Lada Niva

I know there are a lot of haters and lovers of the Soviet made cars out there, try to limit your opinions on the cars as a whole or the difficulties of bringing one into the states, I’m looking for advise from people who know the cars/have worked with them.

I am currently in Armenia where every car in four is a Lada. If I want to bring the car back to the states I know it pretty much has to be 25+ years old. Is it absolutely insane to try to find an '87 Niva with lower millage (assuming the odometer hasn’t been turned back) and drive it to Western Europe (probably Portugal) and then ship it home? I don’t expect to find one that doesn’t need some mechanical work and I’m willing to put the money in towards having it checked out and fixed up. Is this an impossible scheme and would I risk breaking down somewhere in Moldova (or sooner) despite having paid for repairs?

is there an american equal ?

The Ladas that were around in Western Europe when I lived there was basically the equivalent of a Fiat 124. I have no idea what a Niva looks like - knowing how behind that part of the world was back then, it may still look like a Fiat 124. If it isn’t, I bet it is based on some other European car.
Not that it matters, because nobody here in the states has a Lada. Obtaining parts are going to be a huge issue. I would also suspect it has to pass US safety and possibly emission standards, it not being that old.

I realize you have an emotional attachment to this car but it may not make sense to bring it here.

Based on the reliability of the Yugo…I’d pass.

The only way I could see this being even remotely feasible (assuming you can get the car into the country) would be if you’re a very handy DIYer and can figure your way around various repairs that will crop up.

I’ve never worked on Ladas but have serviced a number of oddball cars over the years. It can be a tough road sometimes with parts and so on even on cars that are more common than Ladas.

Personally, I don’t have a problem with Soviet cars (would even like to have one or two of them myself) but do not be surprised or get irate if you do this and find that shops will refuse to touch it.

I owned a Lada Niva while I was a university student in Montreal ten years ago. It was a low milleage '98, but parts were hard to come by. It was a fun car to drive- a small 2-door 4x4 w/locking center diff, high/low transfer case, manual transmission, and a hole in the front bumper so you could start it with a crank. I ordered the factory manual from Europe, and ended up replacing half the engine after the timing chain tensioner snapped and ruined the valves.

You might still be able to find some running Nivas in the Western hemisphere (Canada or Costa Rica) to import into the US. However, any vehicle you want to register in the US (that wasn’t sold here) has to be over 25 years old. I would estimate costs of over $2k to bring one over from Europe (shipping and import fees).

I lived and worked in Moscow from 1992 to 1998. My first car was a Lada Zhuguli 06 and second was a Niva 4X4. I bought them both new and they were worth the same (or more) a year later since I had a year to fix everything that was wrong when they left the factory.

As someone mentioned, finding one in Canada would be easier and cheaper then shipping one from Europe. A friend here in Denver brought her car to Germany for a year recently – it cost $5,000 for shipping and related charges.

Spare parts for a Niva will only be available at your local machine shop in the US.

I tried looking, and surprisingly there are some for sale here in the US. It would seem to me to make more sense to wait and buy one here.

Don’t waste your time; Even if it was cheap to bring it over, these vehicles are unreliable, and parts hard to find.

In addition, they would never meet the North American (Canada/US) standards for emissions, crash worthiness, light and corrison resistance.

If you want a very small SUV, you might consider a Jeep Wrangler. Avoid the Unlimited, as it has an extended wheelbase. Others to consider are Isuzu Rodeo or a 2001/2003 Suzuki Vitara,