Dear Friends!
LADA Moscow wishes to celebrate the 40th anniversary of NIVA with you! - The iconic car of VAZ factory which is beloved by enthusiasts all over the world! We wish your cars to be your best friends for at least next 40 years!=)

We have an interesting story about NIVA for you and the historic "The Birth of the Legend" issued by LADA. Hope you like them!

Initially, VAZ planned to produce about 660,000 cars on three assembly lines, and of course engine manufacturing capacity had a great effect on this number. While the factory was preparing to launch a series of new SUV (Sport Utility Vehicle) it became obvious that there was a shortage of factory VAZ-2106 engines for the "Niva". The solution was very simple, – it was necessary to either increase the production of the VAZ engines, (which no money was available for) or to use a third party manufacturer's engines. The Automotive Ministry insisted on the second option, in particular, selection and use of the engine UZAM-412, which was used in little "Moskvich-2140" vehicles.

In 1975, with the active pressure from above, work on mating the UZAM-412 engine to VAZ-2121 (Niva) began. Here's how it is described by V. Kotlyarov in the book "I See the Goal. Notes of the Commander" (Togliatti. 2001, printing of THESIS, OAO "AVTOVAZ"): 

"Designers were trying to compose the installation of a new (for us) engine in the engine compartment of the "Niva". It turned out that the engine... just could not fit. First, because it was longer than the VAZ one, in addition, we had our gearbox, (the Moskvich one was refused immediately and flatly) which to connect to the engine required a special adapter that ate much of the space. 
We squeezed to fit the motor in but had no success...I decided to do a special body with an elongated front. This was rather quickly made, the VAZ-2121M (Moskvich).”

VAZ-2121М on tests 
We were all quite annoyed with this nonsense, but decided to comply with maximum objectivity, in order not to be accused of bias. 
First, both engines in the same configuration were put on scales. Of course, the engine of "Moskvich" was much heavier. We knew about this well beforehand, but decided to operate only with concrete facts which speak for themselves, excluding any emotions at all. Then we put both motors on the test bench. Here our VAZ-2101 engine convincingly won on all counts. Then the UZAM engine was mounted on the body with an elongated front . Everything else in this "NIVA" was left as is.

The car was tested just as it should be, and we began to examine her (car is SHE in Russian), like any other experimental design. Without getting into boring technical details, let's just say that quite quickly it became clear — our car is clearly not from this engine! And this is not a reservation, it is generally said that the engine does not fit the car. But here the will of fate, the engine was set as a cornerstone, everything else was tried to work around it. 
I remember that after the test was finished, when everything became clear, we went in this "Mosniva" (which we called “Mos’ka”) on the Peninsula Kopylovo, where it was thoroughly jumped on the sandy ramps and dunes — it was already completely not sorry."

Excerpts from the Report on factory tests of VAZ-2121М (with the engine "Moskvich-412") from December 28, 1975 (approved by chief designer of the March 11, 1976): 

"The car was produced by an experimental shop UGK in November 1975. The tests were conducted in November-December 1975. 

The main design revisions of the car 2121М to accommodate the M412 engine: 
1. Increased front overhang on 65mm because of the greater length of the motor "M-412". 
2. Due to the fact that the engine "M-412" carburetor and air filter are located on the left side, the spare wheel cannot be placed under the hood. The spare wheel moved inside the trunk. 
3. Gearbox VAZ-2121 is connected to the engine via an adapter. 
4. Changes associated with features of the engine "M-412", also affected on steering, cooling system, etc.

Changes were made to the engine: 
1. To improve the engine exhaust emission a VAZ-2101 carburetor was installed using an adaptor.
2. A special engine oil sump was made to accommodate the 4x4 front axle. 
3. Installed clutch VAZ-2121 led to a change of a clutch bearing (VAZ-2101). 
4. Alternator Г-250Ж replaced by Г-221 (VAZ-2101) to maintain the VAZ system of alternator control. 
5. Due to the application of VAZ style engine control devices, required installation of adapters for mounting the sensors (coolant temperature and oil pressure) to the engine. 

1. Increases the length of the car by 65 mm and its weight by 17.5 kg. 
2. Moving the spare wheel in the trunk worsens the weight distribution and significantly reduces the trunk capacity. 
3. The need to change many parts and components results in the alteration of the whole front of the car. 
4. Increases the load on the right front wheel (33.5 kg more than the left) due to the inclined arrangement of the engine. This in particular leads to poor handling of the vehicle during braking, as well additional body roll of the car. 
5. Reduced specific power of the engine – 43 HP/t instead of 51.6 HP/t. This leads to reduced speed and acceleration. 
6. On exhaust gas emissions noted an increased content of hydrocarbons – by a factor of 2. 
7. Indicators of noise are almost identical. 

8. Marked deterioration starting qualities of the engine: M-412 runs at temperatures down to -15°C, the VAZ engine confidently starts at temperatures down to -25°C 
9. The efficiency of the cooling system is not sufficient. It requires the introduction of cooling ducts. 
10. Off-road Practicality in General is deteriorated due to reduced off-road approach angle, lower specific engine power and body of the engine oil filter is located in a hazardous area. 
11. During the tests (60 hours running on the stand and mileage 3600 km) M-412 engines observed two cases of failure of spark plugs, and, in one case this was accompanied by a burnt through piston. 

Installing the engine "Moskvich-412" in the car VAZ-2121 requires significant design changes that degrade the core performance parameters of the vehicle and, therefore, inappropriate."

In addition to the above quote remains to say that in November 1975 two such cars were produced, both from the spares from the test cars of the third experimental series. Veterans recall that on the hood of the "Mos’ka" there was a small hump all because of the "Moskvich" engine (in the photo it is not visible – in all likelihood, the hood had no apparent stamping, but simply was made from the greater curvature).

Thanks to Nikolay Aleev and Sergey Dobrov for information, and Darren Lynch for assistance with translation.


Tags NIVA, 40, anniversary