Monday, January 18, 2021

Lada Niva owner interview

A big thank you to @seinedudeheit!


1. Tell us about your Niva.

First I have to write something about the name - the Lada Niva is marketed as Lada Taiga in some markets since some time, because the brand 'Niva' went to GM. However, for the sake of clarity, I will continue to write about my Niva.

I bought the Niva new in Germany in 2015. I was looking for an inexpensive car that I could use for short and medium-long distances professionally, on the one hand, and a car that could handle bad roads well, on the other. The new price at that time was about 12,000 euros with necessary extras such as a trailer hitch, inner shells for the wheel arches and a radio.

The car is otherwise very simply equipped - it has no air conditioning, no central locking, window cranks, a manual 5-speed transmission. The all-wheel drive is permanent with a locking center differential and a -not too long- off-road reduction. It is prone to corrosion, so I had a wax sealant done, which is why the car tends to drip in the summer heat.

2. Why did you decide to buy a Niva?

There were actually two reasons for buying the Niva. One is rather pragmatic - the car was mostly used for work in the beginning, and fiscally, Germany favors inexpensive cars, even with relatively high fuel costs. The other is that I liked the Lada since my childhood and I was fascinated that you could still buy it factory new. On top of that, there was an uncertain feeling that it probably wouldn't be available to buy for much longer. The official import was stopped in 2020.

I wanted to own a car that could take us anywhere and back again without major modifications. Since the car really only inspires commiseration or enthusiasm, encounters with other drivers in the woods or in the mountains are usually very relaxed. The small size makes evasive maneuvers on narrow roads very easy.

3. What is the dealer network/support like in germany where you live?

The dealer and workshop network for the Niva is rather thin. However, there are some garages that specialize in the Niva, but they are 50-100km away from me. I therefore have the following maintenance plan: I give the car to my trusted workshop nearby for standard maintenance every year and the following year I give it to the Lada workshop further away for more specialized work.

4. What do you love about your Niva?

I love several aspects of the Niva - certainly the looks, I like that it is boxy but not aggressive. I like the size - the car is 3.80m long 1.60m wide. So you don't take too much space either in the city or offroad. Nevertheless, one has - I have removed the back seats - a lot of storage space. Even though I don't do much work on the car myself, I like the simplicity of it - you open the hood and everything is immediately visible and understandable. The spare parts for the Niva are very cheap, although the quality is sometimes questionable, and you can get them without any problems. (I wish it was the same with Citroens from the 90s).


5. What do you hate?

I don't really hate anything about the Niva - it certainly has some drawbacks, but it doesn't hide them before buying. It is quite noisy - long trips on the highway are possible but exhausting - here headphones with noise reduction help a lot. Fuel consumption is not low for a car of its size - I have never used less than 10L per 100km (about 24mpg) and I am not a very dynamic driver.

6. Are Nivas super simple to repair and maintain?

Yes, the technology is relatively simple and very well documented. I could do most of the work myself if I had a place to work on the car. Our village workshop is always very fond of the car.

7. What is the most modern technology/part of your Niva? LED lights? USB?

I left the car mostly in factory condition. I had two Hellas fitted at the time of purchase, so the lights are not an issue. From that point of view, I think that the ABS and Bosch injection is the most modern part on the Niva.

8. Do you feel safe driving it on the highway? Does it have airbags? ABS?

Highway driving is not a problem with the Niva - it doesn't have much trouble with a cruising speed of 120km/h with its 87hp. At least not as long as it doesn't get too mountainous ;-) On the flat, higher speeds are possible, but I haven't driven faster than 150km/h yet. The car is track stable even at these speeds and you don't feel unsafe. The car has ABS, but I have never activated it. It does not have airbags - I think the body structure is too soft for airbags. It has proven to be better not think about accidents when driving.

9. Do you own any other cars? If so, what are they?

I currently drive the Niva and a 2019 Prius on a daily basis - fun fact: a Niva is much less exotic in Germany than a Prius. I see Nivas almost daily, a Prius only every few weeks. In the garage there is also a 1999 Citroen XM 3.0 Exclusive automatic in green and a black 2013 Ford Transit 2.2 Diesel Westfalia with lifting roof . And some motorcycles.

10. Why do you love cars?

I have always loved cars - our family always had practical Opel Rekord station wagons, until my father bought a Citroen XM in his retirement, his (and my) favourite car that I still drive. I've always been fascinated by the fact that you can go anywhere by car at any time and yet never actually leave your familiar surroundings. That's why I love road trips more than high speeds or sporty handling.

I also love the car as a social phenomenon and as a sculpture of everyday life - in the spirit of Roland Barthes' beautiful essay about the Citroen DS.



Eating the Globe: Senegal

I finally tried Senegal for lunch today. This is dibi, which is grilled lamb with mustard and onions. Unfortunately, the meat was not very tender.

Countries tried so far:

Africa: Algeria, Burundi, DR Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda, Zimbabwe
Asia: Afghanistan, Armenia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma, Cambodia, China, East Timor, Georgia, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Lebanon, Malaysia, Maldives, Mongolia, Nepal, North Korea, Pakistan, Palestine, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Syria, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Yemen
Europe: Albania, Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, Vatican City
North America: Belize, Canada, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, St Kitts & Nevis, Trinidad & Tobago, USA
South America: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela
Oceania: Australia, Fiji, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Thunderball Movie Review

The fourth Bond film is Thunderball (1965)

Dave's review:

Thunderball is the Bond film that many instinctively refer to as the one that has too many underwater scenes. In fact, there is so much more to the film. It's got one of the best plots of any Bond film. In fact, so good that it was duplicated in Never Say Never Again. The pre credits sequence features a great fight between Bond and a villain disguised as a woman. What works against Thunderball were the massive expectations after the first three films. In particular, the main villain Largo lacks the same commanding presence as say Dr. No or Goldfinger. Claudine Auger as Domino, is one of the most stunningly beautiful Bond girls, but she is given little to do. And to make matters worse on the sexism scale, Bond basically commits sexual assault on a nurse in a rehab clinic. Well it is the 60s. Overall Thunderball is solid fun just not epic.

TT's review:

Thunderball is fun to watch and has all the elements of a great Bond flick (villain, "love" interests, action scenes, exotic locale), but it falls a bit flat. Maybe it's because they tried to cram too many things in a two hour film. My biggest gripe is the gratuitous underwater scuba shots. Who cares?!

Underwater scenes aside, Largo is my favorite villain so far. His suit, his white hair, his bronze tan, and his EYEPATCH. The set designers also deserve kudos, from the SPECTRE boardroom to the Nassau hotel rooms. It is fascinating to look at the technology of 1965. The Mustang and Continental are definitely antiquated. But how much have jet engine (Vulcan bomber) and scuba gear technologies advanced in the last 56 years?

Another observation. Fiona Vulpe was a far more interesting character than Domino. And yet Vulpe had to play second fiddle to Domino. Injustice. And I have to make a correction. Alotta Fagina's name was obviously inspired by Pussy Galore, but the Austin Powers character was definitely inspired by Fiona Vulpe.

Dave's response: Agreed regarding Fiona Vulpe. She was a highlight of the film and one of the great Bond villianesses. 

TT's response: Other than Dave's low opinion of Largo, I agree with everything else he said.

Dave's grade: B

TT''s grade: B


Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Electra Meccanica Solo EV three wheeler

I was at the outdoor mall last weekend looking for a birthday gift when I saw this. I had never heard of it before. It costs $18,000 and has a 100 mile range. There is no dealer. It's just this space at the mall. When test drives become available, they will contact me. 




Tuesday, January 05, 2021

Goldfinger Movie Review

The third Bond film is Goldfinger (1964):


Dave's review:

Goldfinger rests right at the center of the golden age of James Bond, no pun intended, This is the film that to many fans, epitomizes the franchise. It's got a little bit of everything. You have the larger than life villain, a henchmen wielding a lethal metal derby, a Bond girl with the name of Pussy Galore, and the introduction of the Aston Martin DB5. Connery is in tip top shape and appears to be having the time of his life. Unlike the first  two films, Goldfinger  features a healthy dose of humor, which some critics lament for setting the stage for the more tongue in cheek entries like Diamonds Are Forever and most of the Moore films. 

Details wise, there are so many iconic moments in this film, such as a girl painted in suffocating gold and the famous line "No Mr. Bond I expect you to die!" It is also refreshing that after Bond saves the world and engages in high level espionage in his first two outings, he is now tasked with simply trying to stop someone from stealing gold in Fort Knox, Kentucky. Goldfinger is one of the most entertaining films you'll ever see.

TT's review: 

Dr. No was too rough. From Russia was too artsy. Goldfinger might be just right. I have to watch Thunderball to refresh my memory, but Goldfinger might be my favorite Connery film. Everything is perfect-- the pudgy villain, Random Task Oddjob, the Q Branch tour, the Aston Martin DB5, the theme song. 

Having given From Russia an A+ already, grade inflation for this series might become a problem. I can't give Goldfinger A+++, so I'll just stick with the highest grade, A+. There are plenty of Bs and Cs in the future, I assure you.

I can forgive the Pussy Galore name only because it inspired the character Alotta Fagina.

Dave's response:

It's true that you can run out of accolades when describing the first three films of the series, particularly the last two in my opinion. In retrospect, Goldfinger may be the most meaningful film of all, in that it ensured the longevity of the world's most beloved secret agent. 

TT's response: 

This is the part where Siskel and Ebert agree with each other on everything.

Dave's grade: A

TT's grade: A+

Pastrami in LA

I had a mini breakdown this evening. I really, really miss eating inside a restaurant. How are you handling it?