Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The Lada Niva is a four wheel drive vehicle built by AutoVAZ in Russia, where it is very popular. It is also popular in Canada, Australia, South America and Europe and any other places where the terrain requires a robust and tough car.
Production of VAZ 2121 began in 1977 and still carries through with only minor changes to the engine, rear hatch design, and interior trim levels. In basic form, the Niva had a carbureted 1.6 L overhead cam four cylinder engine producing 54 kW (72 hp) and 126 Nm (93 ft.lb), a 4 or 5 speed manual transmission, and full-time 4WD. There were no hubs and the transfercase could be locked on the fly. The Niva could cruise at 130 km/h (80 mph) while consuming gasoline at a respectable 8.25 L/100km (28.5 mpg(US)) and towing capacity was rated for up to 860 kg (1900 lb). A 1.7 L engine was introduced later in production, as was fuel injection supplied by General Motors. Coil springs were located at each of the four wheels, and suspension was independent in front, whereas the rear axle was a 5 link live-type, with ratios between 3.90 and 4.30 depending on the model and market. Ground clearance was good at 235 mm (9.25 in) and water 510 mm (20 in) deep could be negotiated.
The brakes (disc front, drum rear) were servo-assisted dual-circuit style and the clutch was hydraulic. The turning circle, at 36.25' was adequate, while the center of gravity was exceptional. An upgraded trim level was known as Cossack model, exhibiting a sunroof, roof racks, running boards, and alloy wheels. Cargo space was 0.48 m3 (17 ft3), or 1.33 m3 (47 ft3) with the rear seats folded down. A spare tire was located, of all places, in the engine bay under the hood, and like all Lada's, a 21 piece toolkit was also supplied for do-it-yourself roadside repairs. The latter feature, while laughable by some, may be considered a useful and practical feature by others, and one that more automakers would be wise to offer.
Transmanche-Link, the consortium of companies organized to construct the Channel Tunnel between England and France, used a fleet of 45 Nivas to aid in the enormous project. Each Niva accumulated in excess of 70,000 offroad kilometres during its employment, and after construction ceased in 1993 the fleet was sold off to a local dealer.
A co-operation between AutoVAZ and General Motors has resulted in the Chevrolet Niva, also known as VAZ 2123, with a different body and 1.7 L engine with fuel injection. Although the body and the interiors are new, it's still based on the old VAZ 2121 engine and transmission.
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