Russian UAZ just came up with the toughest overlander van
Founded in 1941, Russia’s Ulyanovsk Automobile Plant (UAZ) made a name for itself by building 4x4s that will work in the most punishing environments, including the frozen swamps of the tundra. Teaching Lada Nivas a lesson or two in basic off-roading, the short-wheelbase UAZ-469 that’s known today as the Hunter has been around since 1971.
However, for a real Cold War icon on four wheels, look no further than the UAZ-452 “Bukhanka” van. Known in Russia as the “a loaf of bread,” the 452 originates from 1958’s 450 design and is still available as a 4×4 minibus with 6–11 seats, a van with plenty of cargo room for all your crucial radio equipment, a pickup chassis for farming, or even as an remote ambulance.
Now, as Motor 1 discovered, UAZ came up with an even more impressive 452 variant called the SGR Combi Expedition. “Ready for everything” is how UAZ describes it, and being a six-seater van with a locking rear differential and plenty of factory upgrades, this UAZ Combi shouldn’t disappoint off-road.
Still powered by a trusty 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine producing 111 horsepower and 146 ft-lb of torque, the Combi comes with a five-speed manual and a two-speed transfer case. On top of that well-proven standard part-time 4×4 gear, the SGR Combi Expedition also has 16-inch BF Goodrich All-Terrain tires, Spicer axles from Dana, extra instrumentation and wiring preparation for satellite radio, a thick tubular skid plate protecting the oil pan and steering rack, a heavy-duty roof rack, equally beefy bumpers front and rear, an integrated winch, heated seats, and a folding table for the passengers, located above that always warm engine cover.
This old-school overlander is also sold in orange, in case olive green is not your style. Back in the day, people had the same color choices regarding Nikonos V diver cameras, which were also designed to work literally everywhere.
While hardly comparable, at times when what used to be the all-capable Geländewagen is a long-wheelbase luxury SUV with an independent front suspension, and when the Land Rover Defender is reborn as a unibody SUV based on an aluminum platform, one thing is for sure: UAZ is allowed to keep the nomad spirit alive by simply upgrading a recipe almost as old as a Jeep DJ’s. The resulting van calls for great adventures while costing the equivalent of $15,432. Quite the offer.