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Russia's legendary Lada Niva turns 40, celebrates with special editions

This chip off the old Bloc still looks surprisingly modern.

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Chris Paukert
Lada Niva turns 40
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Lada's Niva still looks surprisingly modern, doesn't it? It may look similar to today's car-based crossovers, but this 40-year-old icon built by Russia's AvtoVAZ is a body-on-frame beast with legendary off-road ability.

Today, the model is simply known as the Lada 4x4.

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While lots of bits like its lights, bumpers and grille have been changed, the Niva's rugged and plainspoken aesthetic remains gloriously intact.

Fortieth-anniversary models will be available in beige, gray-blue, red, terracotta and white paint, along with one special color: camouflage.

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Black-painted, machine-faced alloy wheels do a lot to modernize today's Lada 4x4's appearance, but most examples throughout history left AvtoVAZ's various factory gates wearing simple pressed-steel wheels.

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For its 40th anniversary, this Soviet-era superstar will be available in Edition and 40th Anniversary trims. Just 1977 examples of these special models will be built, a nice nod to the year the vehicle entered production.

Interior changes include "eco-leather" seats and steering wheel (presumably cows were not harmed in the making of this upholstery), as well as revamped instruments and 40th anniversary logos.

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You may have never seen one Stateside, but around 2.5 million examples of the Niva/Lada 4x4 have been built, and they've been sold in over 100 countries worldwide.

In total, over 530,000 examples have been exported, including to countries like Japan and Canada, the latter of which received the model back in the 1980s.

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Where would any self-respecting special-edition model be without a unique badge?

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Today's Lada 4x4 assembly line doesn't look entirely dissimilar to the way the model was built 40 years ago.

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See what I mean?

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Click or swipe through the gallery for more excellent vintage photos of the Lada Niva/Lada 4x4.

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