Today’s Nice Price or Crack Pipe Lada Niva seems a propitious counterpoint to all the talk of Russian meddling in American affairs, seeing as it was never officially imported here, the land of the SUV. Let’s see if this grey market car’s price still makes it worth the collusion.

I think enough time has passed since the debut of the first Maserati Biturbo—and all its awfulness—that any prejudice against other cars carrying V6 engines with twin snails may very well have waned.

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That didn’t help last Friday’s 2001.5 Audi S4 Avant however as, while it may have not borne the Maser taint, it was burdened with more than 200K’s worth of miles. No matter how well maintained it may have been, that’s a lot. Well, it was at least too many for its $6,500 asking, and it fell in a close but decisive 55-percent Crack Pipe loss despite plaintive comments noting recent upward mobility in Avant prices.

Have you ever heard of a place called Russia? Apparently it is an enormous Eurasian country with an economy that’s remarkably only about half the size of that of California. Not only that, but the whole place is run by a guy who it seems rides tigers bareback while hunting actual bears.

I mention the shit GDP and tough-guy oligarch as introduction to today’s 1980 Lada Niva 4X4, which is Russia’s best known and remarkably representative off-roader.

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The Niva was conceived as the later day Russian equivalent of the Citroën 2CV. By that I mean it was intended as a car that rural buyers—farmers, gulag administrators, etc.—could both afford and find practical.

Prescient of modern day crossovers popular in the West, the Niva featured four-wheel drive married to a small four cylinder engine all wrapped in unit-body construction. The model is the product of the Russian Automaker, AvtoVAZ and debuted way back in 1977. Quite remarkably it’s still being sold in its home market and a couple of others to this very day.

One market where the Russian 4x4 never made a dent was that of the U.S.. Other than Vodka and cold war watches, U.S. consumers don’t really give a shit about Russian-made products. Sure, we used the country’s cast-off rocket engines to send zero-G mustache combs to Chris Hadfield up on the I.S.S.. But consumer 4x4s? That’s another story.

There must be some stories behind this 1980 Lada Niva. It’s in America after all. And it’s not just in America, it’s in California, the strictest of all States when it comes to grey market cars. Much like last week’s Citroën CX, it’s claimed to have all its papers. Also much like that French sedan, I have no idea how that’s possible in Jerry Brown’s backyard. Still, the ad claims that it cost NINE GRAND to import here, like that’s supposed to impress us.

More impressive are the gargantuan wheels and tires that make the already diminutive car looks like something that should say TONKA on the tailgate. Those wheels are just not right—Jeep, maybe?—and the increased rolling radius probably doesn’t do the little 72-horse 1.6-litre four any favors either. A four-speed manual and three-diff (center locking) completes the drivetrain.

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The ad says that the suspension is all new on this Niva, but doesn’t go into detail as to how that was accomplished. The paint is also a fresh respray and geez, like seemingly 95% of these things, it’s painted in refrigerator white. It should also be noted that the rain gutters on the Niva are amazing, extending all the way down the rear-most pillar in what looks like the automotive equivalent of a comb-over.

That’s pretty much it for the description, which is too bad since this a car that engenders a multitude of questions. Mileage? Who knows? Is it licensed in California, which is notoriously unfriendly to non-compliant cars? That’s on a need-to-know basis. Why is it in a junkyard? Is that some sort of artistic photoshoot locale, or is that the seller’s business?

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Whatever’s going on with this funky relic of the Brezhnev era, it’s going to cost someone $7,600 to have it going on with them.

You now need to take a moment and vote on whether or not that price accurately reflects this Niva’s value as it’s presented in its ad. Does it come across as worth that $7,600 asking? Or, does that price have you saying nyet, comrade?

You decide!

Los Angeles, CA Craigslist, or go here if the ad disappears.

H/T to Teevo for the hookup!

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