Sunday, March 27, 2016

1979-2001 UAZ-452



"THE FOUR WHEEL DRIVE WORKHORSE"

Quite a few vehicles on Cuban roads are way too mousy to turn heads, and yet you can't really miss them either, as they are virtually all over the place. Most of them are of Russian provenance, and here's one of them.

A true Methuselah of Russia's automotive production, the UAZ-452 is still being produced today, which makes it a bit difficult to determine the exact age of our pictured car. Most likely, it arrived on the island before 1989 when the dissolution of the Soviet Union triggered the periodo especial, the economic crisis that strangles Cuba still today. Anyhow, the simple side mirrors hint at a pre-2001 model, while the orange indicator lights and rectangular rear lights (not shown, but we know) hint at a car that was built after 1979. They were the highlights of the first substantial "facelift", a quarter century after the very first UAZ-450 series van was assembled by Ulyanovsky Avtomobilny Zavod back in 1955.

The pictured 4x4 version UAZ-452 was added in 1965. It was based on the GAZ-69 Jeep (driving in the background), and initially powered by the engine of the GAZ M21 Volga, which made driving the heavy 4x4 quite an anemic affair. Nonetheless, the UAZ-452 became soon popular among the Russian comrades because its simple construction, while not offering much comfort, made it so utterly reliable. In the so-called "bread loaf" you traveled slowly, but at least you arrived. Over the years, the UAZ-452 spawned a myriad of versions, suitable for most transport needs and climates of the vast territory of the Soviet Union.

This virtual indestructibility didn't pass unnoticed, and subsequently the export became a steady source of income for UAZ. Eventually these cars were exported to nearly 100 countries worldwide, with the vast majority being, of course, shipped to socialist countries, including Cuba.

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