Greetings, dear readers!
For some unclear reasons, the Lada 4x4 Vision concept, shown in 2018 at the Moscow Motor Show and really sensational, reappeared in the news agenda. And this was the reason for recalling an alternative project - perhaps not so deeply thought out, but no less spectacular and sometimes even much more original.
During its decades of existence, the Niva itself has given birth to an incredible number of modifications - the VAZ-2121 chassis turned out to be so successful. Many historians in all seriousness call it the world's first crossover, that is, an all-terrain vehicle with a monocoque body. We will leave the disputes about this to specialists in the study of dusty archives, but we ourselves will dwell, firstly, on the fact that "Niva" is really a cult car, and secondly, on one of its modifications. Modifications from among those that were confidently supplied to the countries of victorious capitalism.
It is believed that the Lada Niva California was developed in Togliatti strictly for export: for the sake of a discerning, but not very wealthy inhabitant of the American coasts, as an alternative to the various beach buggies there. However, there is also an alternative version. According to it, open modifications of "Niva" were created in the early 80s by the German representative office of AvtoVAZ under the name Deutsche Lada Automobil GmbH.
Initially, the Germans allegedly created a full-fledged convertible based on the Niva, and then a less labor-intensive version of the California, which featured some off-road surroundings, improved interior trim and, most importantly, a sliding vinyl curtain that covered the sunroof. Forgive us fans of Suzuki Jimny, the main competitor of "California" then was considered the open version of "Samurai". And so it continued, according to authoritative Western sources, until 2009.
And three years later AvtoVAZ in general and Steve Mattin in particular rolled out the monumental XRay concept, which predetermined the design of the Lada brand for decades to come. Now only the notorious "Niva" has no chance of a branded "X-face" - even "Largus" has already been promised it. But the project of total processing of the VAZ-2121 exterior did not appear yesterday.
The modern version of Lada Niva and its modifications with the rare name California, made in full accordance with the current style of the brand, but full of references to the classic "Niva", belongs to the pen of the Togliatti designer Denis Ponyatov. And this project debuted back in 2016 in Yekaterinburg at the Automania design exhibition at the local architectural academy, famous for its industrial design department.
The base model itself, in Denis's vision, received a much more dynamic silhouette with a roof slightly "piled up" to the rear pillars in the style of Range Rover Evoque, the "face" of the crossover retains the outlines of the same "X-face", but approximately to the same degree the evolution that we see on modern Mitsubishi models - with more brutal angles and much more horizontal lines. Quite suitable for an SUV, right?
With visually similar dimensions, Denis's Niva acquired five doors: the rear doors are almost above the wheels (with door handles hidden in the racks in a fashionable way), and the possibility of their integration is explained by an increase in the wheelbase by 200 mm while maintaining the shortest overhangs. The designer did not forget about the branded stampings on the sides. A nod to the legendary past is the angular grille with horizontal ribs and three decorative air intakes on each of the wide C-pillars.
But this is in general. The California version is much more interesting for the designer. Firstly, it had to be painted in brighter and more positive colors, and secondly, it should have a slightly more aggressive off-road image, and, finally, carry a transformable roof: Denis decided that part of the roof could be replaced with light panels, which could would be raised due to servo drives, partially increasing the height of the cabin. Yes, no old fashioned vinyl.
But the transformational ideas of the designer do not end there. It is possible to increase the living space of the Lada Niva California due to the "stern", which extends together with the fifth door and part of the body! In this case, the rear half of the SUV's cabin would turn into a kind of camper, where, hypothetically, one could live for some time. Strictly speaking, the idea is not new: reputable manufacturers have been experimenting with the possibility of body transformation for a long time in Europe, America and Japan. But to see this on the Soviet automobile classics is somewhat peculiar, agree?
According to unverified data, the biography of this extravagant design project was not limited to the presentation at the exhibition. Rumor has it that AvtoVAZ acquired all the rights to Lada Niva California, made a full-size model and even almost keeps Denis Ponyatov's Niva somewhere in secret laboratories, or in the storerooms of the factory museum. Unfortunately, it was not possible to find confirmation of this. An indirect proof of the opposite is the Lada 4x4 Vision concept, although sensational, but made in a completely different style (and, by the way, not so technically sophisticated: where is the retractable trunk?).
The real future of the "new" Niva "is still under seven seals, as in Togliatti they are extremely reluctant to answer such questions. The hypothesis looks as close to reality as possible, according to which a forty-year-old SUV will still be sent to a well-deserved rest, and will be replaced by something more modern on the Renault Duster chassis and, possibly, with a 1.8-liter engine from Lada Xray Don't you think that Denis Ponyatov's project has more aesthetic rights to implement than the factory prototype?
I really hope that you liked this material!
Thank you all and see you soon.