UAZ 469b: Rough but reliable

In the early 1970s, a new off-road vehicle entered production in the Soviet Union – the UAZ 469b. It was a direct successor of the legendary small off-roader GAZ-69, the production of which was terminated in 1972. In Poland, UAZs went down in the history of the Polish army, militia, and other state services and establishments. This small off-roader gained additional fame due to its important role in securing papal pilgrimages.

UAZs were produced at the Ulyanovsk Avtomobilniy Zavod – UAZ plant from 1970 until 2007, but. three years later the vehicle returned to the assembly lines under the name hunter. Although still with a clumsy and simple design, it gains customers who need a car for all conditions.

Originally, they were equipped with a four-cylinder gasoline engine with a capacity of 2445 cc and power of 70 km, four-speed partially synchronized transmission and 4×4 drive. In the basic version, the vehicle could carry 7 people and 100 kg of cargo.

Coming back to its history in Poland, the first vehicles of this brand appeared at the turn of the 50’s and 60’s, and these were the popular “gaziks” or model 69. These cars were produced under the brand name “gaz” as well as the UAZ, and they were practically indistinguishable. Also popular “loafers” (Russian: Buchanka) (In the 70’s and 80’s the UAZs massively replaced the older and more obsolete gaziks. It was a good car, but it had a rather unusual disadvantage – the price. UAZs, like other Soviet equipment, were our allied commitment, and what was worse, the payment for them was made in the so-called transfer roubles. This caused their price to exceed their real value!

Despite this, they entered service en masse in the army, militia, fire department, foresters and other places where off-road vehicles were needed to perform tasks. The sight of UAZs is not associated well, however, due to their numerous participation in suppressing pro-independence manifestations, especially during martial law. These types of vehicles were after all one of the basic means of transport of the ZOMO troops, but they were also a platform for e.g. tear gas grenade launchers.

Papal UAZ

UAZs were equipped by many state services and, of course, by the repressive apparatus of PRL. Apart from the Zomo, they were in stock in many commissariats of the civic militia in areas less covered by the road network and simply in difficult mountainous and forest terrain. These types of vehicles were also used by e.g. famous anti-terrorist group of Dziewulski at Okęcie airport in Warsaw. After the change from militia to police in spring 1989, the inscriptions were also repainted on the old UAZs. One of the most interesting functions, this time representative, was performed by such vehicles during the pilgrimages of Pope John Paul II.

In 2011, such a UAZ ended up in the collection of the Rescue Museum in Cracow. It was specially adapted, repainted blue, and instead of a tarpaulin it had a special rack with loudspeakers. It opened the police assistance moving in front of the papamobile, and announcements were made through loudspeakers. It was driven by a policeman coordinating the security of the papal visit, and on the part of the Church by a priest moderator.

– The UAZ was a clumsy car, but extremely durable. I used such a car during my service in WOP, at that time almost every guard post in Bieszczady had one. In winter, even frosty, it had very efficient heating and one could easily drive with a tarpaulin. Due to the fact that it was relatively short, you had to use the front drive to make it more steerable. Personally, I fired the old 266 on a rigid tow with the help of UAZ, only it was necessary to weigh it down so that it did not slip. However, in summer you could forget about the comfort of driving, but when you took off the windows and tarpaulin from the door, it became an airy convertible. The disadvantages were that while driving the axles could unscrew and then the whole wheel was covered with oil. Generally, UAZ was very forgiving, and I have fond memories of it, it never let me down during service.

UAZs were also used by other services, such as the fire department or the mountain rescue service. However, Geofizyka purchased quite a large fleet of these vehicles and used them for many years. An interesting episode was the use of UAZs by sanitary transport columns. Around the time of martial law, at least several such vehicles were “donated” by the army to the ambulance service.

In Balice near Kraków, a UAZ was nicknamed “rescue”, because in winter it could get to rural or forest areas that were difficult to access. Sanitary cars based on 469b were designed and made in Military Automotive Works in Wrocław. They were specially adapted to carry patients on stretchers, by means of an elongated and elevated body. A blue rooster (electra lb-3, later lbs-5) and two-tone sirens were placed in the front of the roof.

Museum UAZ

The UAZ 469b police car was donated to the Rescue Museum in 2011 by the Regional Police Headquarters in Kraków. It is one of the most valuable exhibits, directly serving to secure the visits of Pope John Paul II to Krakow and Malopolska.

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