Of all the weird automotive encounters Tokyo has engineered over this eventful year, this was quite an unexpected pleasure, Mr Bond. Here is a true Brezhnev-era relic, painted in Radium green and probably able to run on straight vodka – shaken, not stirred. Good thing I had my gloves on.
Why was I wearing gloves? It’s not that cold in Tokyo, compared to many places; just a little nippy (har har). December’s funny like that. I’m still getting adjusted to winter temperatures, after having spent the better part of a decade in balmy Southeast Asia. The UAZ though, being a Russian native, can handle a winter offensive better than anyone.
This Cold Warrior was not easy to photograph, despite my best intentions and spy tactics. There was just no way to get a rear shot of the beast, for instance. Which is a pity, as that was probably the angle that had most changes made over the years. That taillight, for instance, doesn’t look like it belongs in that housing.
Quick history of the UAZ-469, just to get our bearings strait. UAZ (a.k.a the Ulyanovsk Automobile Factory, located about 700km east of Moscow, on the west bank of the Volga) was established in 1941 when truckmaker ZIS were forced to relocate away from the advancing German armies. UAZ initially only assembled other designs (ZIS and GAZ), but eventually developed their own design, the famous UAZ-450/451/452 transporter, by the mid-‘50s.
The need for a Land Rover-like vehicle to replace the GAZ-69 was then addressed. Regular production of the UAZ-469 only got going in 1972, but the design was gestating since 1960 at least, under the worknumber 460, hence why the finished product looked dated even back in the ‘70s.
The UAZ-469 and its civilian hardtop variant 469B filled a very real need for a sturdy and affordable car-sized 4×4 made for COMECON countries – a veritable Soviet Utility Vehicle, if you will. A myriad of versions, both for military and civilian use, were made. It seems the folks at UAZ were aware that their latest creation seemed a bit behind the times. They proposed a number of modernized designs for the 469, but as was usual in the Soviet automotive world, this came to naught.
A fashionably angular re-bodied version, the UAZ-3171 (above), was also created, but never attained the original design’s enduring popularity. Even after the Iron Curtain came down, the nimble UAZ-469 (renumbered as the UAZ-3151 in 1985) stayed on its wheels. The old UMZ 71hp 2.5 litre 4-cyl. was soon replaced by a Peugeot Diesel, though some even got Italian stallions in the form of a 100hp VM turbodiesel, or even a 2-litre Fiat mill.
Is the sun is setting on the 469? It’s not entirely clear yet. Branded as the “XAHTEP” (that’s “Hunter” in Cyrillic) since 2003, the old warrior is still currently available with a choice of a 135hp 2.7 litre petrol 4-cyl. or a 114hp 2.2 litre Diesel mated to a 5-speed. Now that’s what I call giving power to the people! The power rating for the petrol engine seems higher in the 2020 brochure than it used to be in previous years, but it’s unclear why exactly.
Early model Hunters were saddled with sad plastic bumpers, but UAZ went back to the metal kind after a while, thankfully restoring that classic look. Fuel consumption (according to that 2020 brochure again) is 13.2 l/100km (17.8mpg), so one needs to have the means to quench this Cossack’s thirst. It takes quite a lot of money to drive this cheap.
I was not able to access the far side of the vehicle to take a photo of this tank’s commander’s chair, sorry to say. I was a bit distracted by the fact that there was a sticker on the window in Russian with a toll-free (or just a few rubles, surely) hotline number for any “assistance” required from UAZ. Maybe if you dial it you get a coded message, like a numbers station.
It was possible to photograph the rest of the cabin, though. The rear seat looks about as inviting as a Lubyanka basement room – and some of those had better padding than UAZ bothered with here, even. Luxury is definitely not the name of the game.
Here’s the dash that I never managed to capture, be it on microfilm or otherwise, from the 2017 brochure. Now that has changed a bit since 1972, though not fundamentally. The exterior of the 469 might look relatively untouched, but everything else has been updated – or taken over by capitalist fifth columnists, depending on your point of view.
What’s even more symbolic of the 469’s descent into bourgeois decadence is the presence of disc brakes on the front wheels. But not even that can stop the UAZ in its revolutionary zeal (ZIL?) to climb every mountain, ford every stream and conquer every Tokyo garage.
I guess UAZ probably didn’t figure the 469 would make it to the end of its fifth decade, hence the “45th anniverdary” jubilee edition. Because really, who would celebrate that? A recent press release signaled that a Czech company was developing an all-electric version of the Hunter for release in 2021, so the UAZ-469 might actually celebrate its 50th birthday, in an ionic twist.
It looks like the peculiar green, paired with the white roof, that this 469 sports is part of the Jubilee Edition’s overall package. Aside from that and the badges, it’s unclear what else said package includes, if anything. A thermos full of borscht?
These are apparently still assembled in Azerbaijan, Cuba, Sudan, Ukraine and Vietnam, though the main source is still Russia. I’m very happy to have chanced upon this comradely contraption from the city of Lenin; it makes for a nice cap on this otherwise peculiar year. I hope to continue writing many more posts in 2021 (I certainly have a lot of goodies in store), but I might have to slow things down over the holidays. Ah, 2020 in Tokyo – what a very strange and occasionally wonderful experience that UAZ…
Very punny Dr T, though the car can’t be as tough as you make it out to be, given that this Tokyo interloper is able to be restrained by a mere geranium.
Dare I say it’s actually not unhandsome in this form? Probably daren’t. (Is, though, kind-of).
Btw, the UAZ helpline sticker also says you can call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, which in best Soviet tradition, is literal: it means you can. There’s no point and never was, but you can. (And your call will be recorded for anything other than training purposes).
Curious as to whether the thing had got front coils in newer times (it looks to have in the photo), I consulted the brochure you mentioned, and my, it IS rich seam, though more of drily witty asides than useful information.
“A front spring system guarantees good driveability and passenger comfort…” One presumes the springless version is only for hard bastards.
Meanwhile, at the rear, the suspension is “Dependent (it doesn’t say on what, good behaviour, perhaps?) on two longitudinal semi-elliptic springs with a small number of leaves”. Pity if you buy one made in the autumn, the latter could be very rustly.
It also features a closeup photo of that passenger Jesus bar, with the words “A handle, for easy getting in and out the front of the cabin”, doubtless for those who might easily mistake it for a tow bar, or a cattle-prod.
It does, however not inspire confidence in long-term reliability of the product, with the next bit on the drivetrain having the KGB-sounding motto of “It’s time to use force!” that is followed directly by “The entire engine power with a reliable five-speed gearbox is in your hands”, without stating by what mileage that occurs nor how to put it back together again.
It ends with the inspired tagline “Try UAZ Hunter”, followed thereafter by some very grim-looking folk in very surly poses who seem to imply strongly that that proposition is no longer a choice.
And this last is almost certainly how some poor mild-mannered Tokyo tourist ended up with this one, which he now tries without success to hide behind a potted plant.
Of all of the wonderfully fascinating things about this vehicle, I was particularly intrigued by the Roadside Assistance. Not quite the first phrase that comes to mind when thinking about UAZ.
Further information about UAZ’s roadside assistance program can be found (in Russian) here:
Unfortunately, for Tatra’s find, the service is only provided within the Russian Federation.
Quite wonderfully, when “translate” is selected on my computer from the brochure you’ve put up, under “Benefits of Assistance: Help on the Roads”, it says “The customer receives the support of NO SERVICES by the number of cases” , so it really doesn’t matter whether in one is in Moscow or Matsudo, their warranty slogan should be “UAZ – to you, we’re always just a number.”
(In Russian, it actually says the client receives support WITH RESTRICTIONS on the number of repeats, which is entirely less droll, but anyway).
Btw, somewhere about $10,000USD seems fairly cheeky for a machine whose tooling might just be amortised by now…
Funny, using my Translate feature, that phrase translates as “The client receives services WITHOUT LIMITATION on the number of requests” with the word ‘без’ meaning ‘without’.
Whatever the actual words, however, I suspect your translation is more honest.
Wow, some genuine CC “spy photos”. You really scored when you managed to make out the outlines of this secretive vehicle from the underbrush which it so effectively used for camouflage.
I would be concerned, however, that you walked into a trap. That it let you take up close photos rather than spraying you with poison gas or something suggests that you were used as an unwitting dupe to further someone’s nefarious agenda. Perhaps it cloned your phone while you snapped away? Do what you want, but if it were me I’d find somewhere else to stay for a few days.
“A recent press release signaled that a Czech company was developing an all-electric version of the Hunter for release in 2021, so the UAZ-469 might actually celebrate its 50th birthday, in an ionic twist.”
I saw what you did there.
What a find! I saw quite a lot of these when I visited Cuba and they are utterly charming.
A new old car, what a wonderful and obviously unexpected find! It looks quite good in that color combination and fits right in with the TLC’s, Landies, old Mitsu-Jeeps etc running around there, while being newer than almost all of them.
I can see the enduring appeal, and the fact that it wasn’t restyled is undoubtedly a major part of that. A living dinosaur.
The doors are obviously interchangeable, which makes for an odd cut for the lower section of the front door.
Paul think that it wasn’t restyled. I suspect it was never really styled. It just emerged in that shape with those shutlines.
Interestingly, there is a poster of a local politician,Yuko Fukute, in the carpark just behind the vehicle. Believe it or not, she’s a member of the Japan Communist Party (JCP).
This thing looks neat ~ if it’s anywhere near capable it’s no wonder they still make the same basic model .
$10K is a lot of money but for a new 4X4 ? no it isn’t .