Thought I would introduce myself and the project I am about to undertake with my newly acquired 1992 Niva. Cost was 800 Australian dollars on the road.
Firstly some context. Most of the year I live on a small island in Bass Strait. It is hard to get cars here and hard to remove them. Total population is around 1200 people in an area 70km x 25. It is a harsh and rugged environment. The Island has a tar road “spine” running from one end to the other, but all other roads are either graded dirt or sandy tracks. Some of the tracks are what would be considered perfect 4wd tracks with a mixture of sand, rocks and mud.
I run a school program for kids in year 9 who come down here for 9 weeks at a time in a group of 40 and during this time they do 14 days of bush walking, lots of surfing, snorkeling and outdoor based stuff. Our school is based in Ballarat in Victoria, Australia which is where my actual home is, even if I only spend about 4 weeks of the year there currently with my wife and 3 kids. This is also a fantastic place, with lots of great country within an hour, including the Grampian’s national park and the Otway ranges and Great Ocean Road. Our house is actually in Buninyong just outside of Ballarat and I have thousands of acres of bush within about 5 min of my house.
I am actually going to be running two major projects over the next couple of years. One will be setting up a landcruiser for a twelve month trip around Australia when we finish our stint on King Island. This will be a family tourer that will be aimed at getting us as a family to places like the Kimberly Ranges, Simpson Desert and Cape York. My personal project will be the Lada, which will be aimed at being set up to be the perfect vehicle for King Island, but must also be a capable lightweight expedition vehicle.
Both the vehicles will be based on a couple of principles that come from my background of doing lots of solo motorcycle touring. Basically these are:
- Form follows function – it will look good if it works good.
- Keep weight to a minimum – avoid the trap that 95% of Australian offroaders fall into.
- Mods should be based on simplifying the vehicle.
- The best form of recovery is not to get stuck.
- Any change should be based on maximizing reliability.
As I am seeing this vehicle as an alternative to an off road motorcycle, it will be very simple and I am not looking for creature comforts. As I am used to packing all that I need for an eight day hike into a single backpack. What I do want is something that is capable, reliable and simple to fix if something does go wrong. I don’t want to spend a lot of money, but I do want to have fun tinkering with something as I find it good therapy when the rest of my life is dealing with 40, 15 year olds 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for 9 weeks at a time.
Some things I am pretty committed to at this stage are:
- Foam roller paint job with killrust paint. Mission brown and white mixed by eye to get close to the original chocolate brown. I have been researching this a lot and feel it will be the perfect solution to keeping the car looking tidy while allowing easy patch ups of both dings and the rust which is inevitable when you are on an island.
- Front and rear bumpers made out of PVC pipe filled with expanding foam. These will be tough enough to deal with scrub and low speed knocks and have enough flex that they should absorb most whacks without breaking, and if they do well that will cost about 20 bucks to fix. They should actually look ok too.
- Mild lift – it has 215/75r15 tyres at the moment, but my preference is to go for 195/80r16 tyres on standard rims – I am not even stressed with 175/80 for 95% of the time.
- I am hopeful that I can find some 4.3 diffs somewhere, maybe!!
- Transfer case mod to create low low range – best way not to break things are to make sure you can control pace.
- I already have an over centre latch fitted to the rear, but will replace the front bonnet catch with two rubber bonnet latches. I think I will remove the rear lock mech completely as well as the rear wiper.
- Major tidy up of wiring with a new fuse box. Get rid of any wiring I don’t need and make it super simple.
I have established that there are at least 3 other Niva’s on the Island that are not on the road. I am going to have a look at two today. Aim is to get a store of parts from these, including gearboxes, steering boxes, transfers, diffs and any other bits and pieces that I can potentially use down the track. I have unlimited space to store stuff so can easily go for my life with this.
I will try and document my progress and will start with some pictures today of my starting point. I will also document costs in Australian dollars as I go along to give an idea of the cost of each stage.
Sorry if this a long winded introduction to the project, but I always love to get an idea of what people are actually trying to achieve with builds and why. I am thinking that given that this is a pretty international forum, that people might be a little interested in learning a bit about King Island as well.
Below is a picture of my old landcruiser swb which the lada and 80 series will be replacing, and my current work vehicle, a Holden Colorado which is essentially a Izuzu Dmax