As some of you may or may not know I currently have a Lada Niva Cossack which while I acquired it very cheaply (traded for a near dead but still running K-car) but it came with some serious needs. The biggest included no functioning brakes, smashed windshield, trashed tires and that it didn’t run. Also the small stuff like missing bits of the dash, no keys and rear seat. On the plus side the body was very solid by Lada standards. I was able to do some wiring and get it running but found out I was missing a brake piston in one of the calipers. This is where any rational person, assuming they would have bought it in the first place, would have thrown in the towel but I had a different plan. I was on the hunt for a parts car Niva but it needed to have a good windshield and decent tires. Needle in a haystack. There where a few for sale but they where all far away and most had either the tires or the windshield. Or most commonly neither. But one day and ad appeared for not one but two Nivas with one claiming to have brand new tires and a rebuilt engine. I asked the seller about the windshield and he said both where ok. Asking price was less than I’d pay for just the tires. Excellent except for the fact that they where 550kms away. I asked the seller if I bought them could I strip what I needed off the less complete one and take the better of the two. With that agreed to it was time to find a way to get it home. Our “proper” and reliable vehicle is a 2004 Nissan Quest minivan which I’d installed a trailer hitch on a few years ago and would tow 3500lbs which was getting close to 2800lbs which is the weight of a Niva. So it would have to be a dolly or tow bar. I found a tow bar locally for $60 which was much less than a dolly rental. The aluminum bumper of the Niva is not strong enough to use as a towing attachment so I fabricated a strong bumper from a big steel square tube I had from an earlier project. I cut a bit off the end of the bar to create the attachment brackets and welded those on. Already having a Niva on hand was great as I was able to pre-drill the holes to attach to the bumper supports.
Some North Alberta seen from the road
To make it there by lunch I got up at 5am and started on the drive having packed the van with tools the night before. The drive up was quite relaxed and trouble free but long. Spotted this wild 70s Pinto and Dodge van along the way. Best spot of the day was this Unimog that I found when I pulled over to check my directions.
I soon meet the seller and we went to the storage yard where the Nivas where. The red one was the better of the two and a 1991 model year. Sadly it did not have a good windshield but the other one which was a beige 1985 model did have a usable one. The tires where indeed new on the red and the beige one had already been partially stripped. I must say the seller was the best seller in the world as he spent the next four hours being eaten by mosquitoes while finishing stripping the beige one with me.
He then towed out the red one with a skid steer and then I went about hooking up the tow bar to it. That is when I realized the bumper design is slightly different on my 1995 to this earlier one. The holes where all in the same place but they where smaller. The fantastic seller to the rescue again as he lent me a cordless drill (I had a corded one but no power) to open up the holes a bit. After that I was hooked up and ready to go.
The drive started off pretty smooth. There where reported of thunder storms and tornado watches but I only encountered light rain. Fuel mileage took a bit hit of course. On the way up I managed an impressive 29mpg but that dropped to 18mpg on the return trip. I made one stop in Red Deer at the Donut Mill which sells the best cream filled donuts.
The first hiccup occurred when going through a construction zone a person in front of me hit a cone which went flying into me. It turned out that it cut my towing light wires. I say turned out because I discovered I had no towing lights when the police pulled me over right in front of my house at almost midnight. Luckily since I was home I got off with a warning – thank you officer! The second hiccup was that possibly in the same construction zone one of the tires seems to have developed a flat. At some point an exhaust hanger broke at the rear and the exhaust occasionally dragged. But 1080 kms or so later I had survived in one piece minus the flat.