UAZ (УАЗ) (Ulyanovsky Avtomobilny Zavod, Ульяновский Автомобильный Завод, Ulyanovsk Automobile Plant) is an automobile manufacturer based in Ulyanovsk, Russia which manufactures off-road vehicles, buses and trucks. It is best known for the UAZ-469 utility vehicle, which has seen wide use as a military vehicle in the Eastern bloc and around the world. The UAZ factory started production in 1941 as part of the Soviet war effort.
War and postwar
The Ulyanovsk Automobile Plant was founded in 1941 as a direct result of the German invasion of the Soviet Union. In response to this threat, the government of Joseph Stalin ordered the evacuation of strategically crucial industrial centers to the East. By October 1941, the rapid German drive to Moscow, triggered the decision to relocate the Moscow automotive manufacturer ZIS to the Volga town of Ulyanovsk. The town, already a nascent industrial center with a sufficiently developed infrastructure and a good supply of skilled workers, would be an ideal location for the reconstituted factory. It was also safely out of reach of the German army. At that time of its founding, the plant was considered a subsidiary of ZIS. By 1942, the plant began production of artillery shells and automobiles. The first vehicle produced at the plant was the ZIS-5 three-ton truck.
In 1943, when the prospect of a German victory had become far less likely, it was decided the relocated plant would remain in Ulyanovsk and be separated administratively from ZIS, which would be rebuilt in Moscow from scratch. This was in line with the Soviet post-war policy regarding various relocated industrial operations. It was considered more efficient to leave the newly built plants as is, while the original plants, provided they survived the war were outfitted anew, frequently with captured German machinery. At the end of 1944, the production of the ZIS-5 was transferred to The Ural Automotive Plant in Miass, while the Ulyanovsk plant began producing the smaller GAZ-AA in 1947. UAZ developed a prototype 1.5-tonne truck in 1948, using the ubiquitous 50 hp (37 kW; 51 PS) 2,112 cc (129 cu in) inline four of the Pobeda; this, the UAZ-300, was never built, due to a lack of production capacity. In 1954, production was expanded to include the GAZ-69, and the first batches were assembled from GAZ parts. Two years later, the factory was not just assembling GAZ-69s from parts delivered elsewhere, but manufacturing them in their entirety.
The connection with GAZ led UAZ to be the top Soviet manufacturer of four-wheel drive vehicles.
Ulyanovskiy Avtozavod (UAZ) main entrance
The Golden Age
UAZ began its growth away from being a mere assembler in 1954, with the creation of its own design office. It was this office, responding to a request from the Red Army, that in 1955 created a forward control van project, codenamed “Forty” (resembling the contemporary Austin J2), on the GAZ 69 chassis. This became the UAZ-450, the first Soviet “cabover” truck. The prototype appeared in 1956, and was tested in both the Caucasus Mountains and Crimea. Its loaded weight was 2.7 tonnes, and it, like all the 450 series vehicles, was powered by a 62 hp (46 kW; 63 PS) low-compression 2,432 cc (148.4 cu in) inline four (based on the ubiquitous Pobeda ’s, but with an 88 mm (3.5 in) bore, rather than 82 mm (3.2 in)), and the Pobeda ’s three-speed transmission, while the transfer case, drive axles, leaf springs, and drum brakes came from the GAZ 69.
In 1958, UAZ began production of the UAZ-450 family of trucks and vans. The first model was the 450A ambulance; with room for two stretchers andfour-wheel drive, it was arguably the best in the world for use in remote areas. It was followed by the 450D drop-side pickup, which had an 800 kg (1,800 lb) payload; the 450 van, with a 750 kg (1,650 lb) payload; and the 11-seat 450V microbus. All the 450 series were capable of disconnecting the front drive axle and of reaching 56 mph (90 km/h), achieving fuel economy of 14 L/100 km (17 mpg-US; 20 mpg-imp), and of towing an 850 kg (1,870 lb) trailer.
A two-wheel drive variant of the 450 was announced on 12 December 1961, with the 450’s 2,300 mm (91 in) wheelbase and engine, as the 451 (van), 451D (drop-side pickup), 451A (ambulance), and 451B (minibus). The ambulance spawned a prototype UAZ-452GP with hydropneumatic suspension, to enable it to cross rough ground at high speed, following on the work done by Citröen on the DS19. The system proved very successful on trials, but it was rejected by the Red Army as too complicated, and so never entered production.
In 1966, the 451s were updated with a 70 hp (52 kW; 71 PS) 2,432 cc (148.4 cu in) inline four (still based on the ubiquitous Pobeda ’s), four-speed gearbox, and minor detail changes, plus a stronger chassis (and so higher payload). The models were redisignated 451M (van, with an 800 kg (1,800 lb) payload) and 451DM (pickup, with a 1,000 kg (2,200 lb) payload). Maximum speed was 59 miles per hour (95 km/h).
In 1966, the four-wheel drives were renumbered UAZ-452 (van), 452D (pickup), 452V (minibus), 452A and 452G (both ambulances, with different patient capacity). There was also the 452S ambulance, specially designed for Arctic conditions, with more heating capacity, double-glazed windows, and insulation; they proved able to keep a 30 °C interior temperature in -60 °C outside conditions. The 452 was able to cross 50 cm (20 in) snow and carry an 800 kg (1,800 lb) load. The 452s would go on to become a workhorse of Soviet agriculture and police, with the pickup proving a popular commercial vehicle. Export versions of the 452D were called Trekmaster when sold in Britain, but never in large numbers; there was also a version with a British-built dump body, the Tipmaster.
The 451S was a snow-crossing variant with front skis and rear tracks; it was never produced in quantity, nor was the 451S2, which had tracks at front and rear. The 452 also served as the basis for an articulated model, the 452P, that was never put into production.
In 1972 the well-regarded, but outdated, GAZ-69 was replaced by the more modern UAZ-469. This was developed from the UAZ-471 of 1958 (with four-wheel independent suspension, which proved too complex) and the UAZ 460. The UAZ-469 was a sturdy, but not-so-comfortable vehicle with the ability to overcome virtually any terrain, while also providing ease of maintenance. The 469 reached legendary status, thanks to its reliability and impressive off-road capability, even though it was not made available to the civilian market until the late 1980s, before which time it was built exclusively for police and military use, as well as heads of agricultural enterprises (kolhozes and sovhozes). A commercially-available variant was produced by the Lutzk Automotive Works.
The UAZ-469 and its modifications have gained a dedicated following because of its off-road ability, reliability and simplicity. Off-road enthusiasts welcome it as a lower-cost and better alternative to the American Jeep, British Land Rover and Japanese Land Cruiser.
After the collapse of Soviet Union, UAZ has started feeling the heat. On one hand, people were willing to buy its cars due to its high reputation; on the other hand, most preferred used imported off-road cars due to the lack of reliability of UAZ cars made in the 1990s. UAZ produced a slightly modified version of its original UAZ-469 car, UAZ Hunter, but the sales were still lacking.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, UAZ experienced many financial problems which resulted in poor quality control and cost cutting which resulted in the production of low quality UAZ automobiles compared to those made in Soviet times.
In 2004, the plant was bought by the Severstal financial group, which made many investments in the firm and had also bought the ZMA car plant in Naberezhnye Chelny.
In 2005, a new SUV-like car, UAZ Patriot, was unveiled. Extensive use of third-party parts (which finally allowed UAZ to replace its notorious transmission with a better, Korean-manufactured one), large capacity, good off-road capabilities and affordable price (<15,000 USD) predict good sales in Russia. UAZ unveils a new 4 door pickup truck.
The UAZ-469 (and its modifications) has earned a reputation as a very reliable and capable 4×4. It has gained huge popularity among off-road enthusiasts within Russia, former Soviet republics as well as Europe, Asia, South America and Africa, and is preferred by many over other legendary 4x4s such as Land Rover, Jeep and Toyota.
One of the main reasons the 469 has enjoyed such popularity is its deliberately simple design, which allows for easy maintenance and repairs. Its simplicity is a deliberate design feature for two main reasons: the requirements of the Soviet Armed Forces, as well as that most people in the Soviet Union/Russia prefer to fix their cars themselves as opposed to taking them to an authorized service stations,because of the complete lack of such stations,and later, with their appearance[beginning only from the ‘1960’s]; due to the lack of money from their miserable salaries, spare parts shortages and giant corruption at such stations.
Although the UAZ has proven to be a reliable 4×4, there have been a few problems with the car’s reliability that have slightly hurt its reputation.
The transmission of the original 469 has been known to have problems when not maintained properly (as the owners manual dictates). Another major problem within Russia has been the production of counterfeit parts made out of cheap metals. Furthermore, the 1990s (after the fall of the Soviet Union) saw a significant decline of quality in the assembly of UAZ vehicles as the company struggled to survive and could not afford to pay the salaries of its employees.
Other problems have been encountered with the modernization of the vehicle, as many of the new electrical and cosmetic parts have been of poor quality. To combat these problems, and return the reliability and dependability of UAZ vehicles to their former standards the UAZ Company has recently introduced a new Quality Control system which has reduced the number of UAZ vehicles with defects arriving in showrooms around the world.
UAZ-452 («Bukhanka», or “Breadloaf”)
1972 UAZ-469 («Bobik»)
2005 UAZ Patriot
UAZ-31514 aka UAZ Sport
Gaz 69-2 till 1970 GAZ-69
2006 UAZ-469 – redesignated UAZ-3151
2005 UAZ-469B/UAZ-31512 – civilian version of UAZ-469
2007 UAZ-31519 – modified UAZ-31514
UAZ Bars (UAZ-3159) – based on UAZ-3153
UAZ Simbir (UAZ-3162)
UAZ Hunter – modernized UAZ-469B
UAZ Patriot (UAZ-3163)
UAZ 3171/3172 – a rebodied 469 of which the 3172 was the standard version and the 3171 was the short-wheel base version. The civil version had rectangular headlights. Never entered production.
UAZ Simba 3165/3165m (4×2 or 4×4) – 8-seater minivan concept vehicle – not produced
1958 UAZ 450 UAZ-450
1966 UAZ 451 DM UAZ-451
1996 UAZ-452 of the Soviet Army Road Police UAZ-452