We live in a free world, at least here in the West, that gives us 200 TV channels and the internet but also leaves us open to things like Donald Trump, modern art... and this! The Niv'Rat!
Perhaps you think that the conceiver and fabricator of this oddity should be ushered into a padded cell away from society and given some medication for his obvious mental issues. Or perhaps, like me, you would like to celebrate this insane creation as a work of art that is perhaps as out of the box as any car I've seen since the latest Mad Max movie. Frenchman (which might go some way towards an explanation) Fabrice Ravenet normally makes huge and insane American-style Rock Bouncers, which as a day job is pretty amazing, but why spend so much time and effort working on a 20-year old Lada that was due to be scrapped?
“I grew up driving Nivas,” he explains, which might either indicate child abuse or some sort of indoctrination. “I once organised a club meeting with 100 of them and I even used one as the official car for my wedding. And because the ones I owned kept breaking down so much that was how I learned how to be a mechanic, so actually you could say Nivas Are quite an important part of my life. When I found this one waiting to be destroyed I decided to not just let it be scrapped but do something interesting and unusual with it. Something without much practical reason but a tribute to where I came from and where I am now.” The first job was to strip out everything that wasn't absolutely essential… which isn't much in a Niva. Both the axles came off the underside of the bodyshell, the front wheels were toed out to a crazy angle, which is rubbish from a mechanical point of view, but gives a great look, and the rear replaced with a Ford 8.8, which is a lot tougher than anything the 1.7 Lada lump can push through it… although soon a 250bhp Mercedes motor will be going in. Presumably the gearbox with it too. The oversized rear tyres were put on for the 'dragster' look and when over inflated to rock hard psi they are easy to light up to do burnouts and doughnuts in.
But joking aside, there was actually a lot of skilled work in making this old, much derided Russian 4x4 into one of only a few a Rat Rods in Europe. Have you ever heard what a skilled job it is to chop a VW Bug's roof down? Well, it is just as difficult to do with a Lada. 18cm came out, just enough so that Fabrice doesn't need a hole to poke his head through… but it took a lot of welding. To keep the roof line looking right was a great learning experience for his new apprentice. “I wanted to create a nice look with bad clothes and now if I describe the car I would say it's done for nothing, but it's sooo cool!
Photos: Guillaume Chargeros and Robb Pritchard