Thursday, November 13, 2008

Climbing Curbs in Kaz'

Hey, Waldo, do you remember that episode in M*A*S*H where Klinger sends a jeep home through the mail, piece by piece? Don't be too alarmed if oversized parcels start arriving on your doorstep soon.

Behold the mighty-mite "Niva." I've seen a few of them in Canada, but they are all over the place here in Almaty, and I want one. Our Rabbit is in the shop (three weeks later) so the school gave us a loaner for the time being.

All four of us sit in it quite comfortably. Let me re-phrase that--all four of us sit in it. Comfort is not really a feature. But the kids have a great view from their bench in the back, and since there are no seat-belts, they are constantly cruising around back there. Edna said earlier that if we take a corner too quick or hit a major pothole, we sometimes hear a ‘clunk’ from the back. “You OK?” we ask. “Yeah, just my head hitting the glass.”

Wikipedia: The car is very popular in its home country. It is also popular in Canada (though withdrawn from sale in 1997 it still has a cult following) and other regions where the terrain requires a robust and tough car for a reasonable price--many Nivas imported to Australia were rejects from the European Market.

Production began in 1977 and continues today with only minor changes to the engine, rear hatch design, and interior trim levels. (You can stand beside a 77’ and not tell the difference between a 78’ or an 08’. Our friends have one and it looks like crap and it is a 2001).

The original Niva has a maximum speed of around 130 km/h (80 mph), and can cruise at 90 km/h (56 mph) while consuming petrol at a respectable 8.25 litres/100km (28.5 mpg(US)). ( I would NEVER take it past 100km. NEVER.) (Any vehicle that is as wide as it is high and long is already on the verge of rolling like a soccer ball, so don’t tempt it. At any speed.)

But there is something quite fun about them. In the morning, you get about half an inch of clutch, because it is cold. Depress the clutch pedal, force the stick in, and you are already moving, with your foot on the floor. The ensuing friction produces heat, and soon the plate expands and you have a relatively normal vehicle.

It comes with a spare tire that is located in the engine bay under the hood, and as with all Ladas, a 21 piece toolkit is also supplied for do-it-yourself roadside repairs. The latter feature is considered a useful and practical feature by off-road fans (and suburbanites as well). Oh, and you know when you have run out of gas because the gauge indicates 5/8’s full. We found out the hard way.

So, check your mailbox. On second thought, maybe I should send it to George or Al’s farm. Lada’s are not AirCare friendly.

Pax, Dave

1 comment:

deWoldeDaily said...

Yep, I remember that one. Send it on over Klinger. Hey, does that mean you are wearing dresses out there, trying to get a section 8 out of Almaty?

I'll keep my eyes open for the packages. Probably not too many parts so I could probably even put it together. Does it need special elastic bands or can I just use Canadian ones?

Cheers. Waldo