The story of UAZ-452 «Loaf of Bread» started after WWII, when the Soviet government had led to the belief, that army needed not only good morale but also a good supply. And they are strangely depends on each other… After all, soldiers wanted to eat, to have warm clothes, equipment, and even some medicine. Soldiers even preferred to be evacuated from the battlefield and so on. Strange thoughts for communists, but still…
Nice Russian roads usually are over before they begin, so a need in a good transport minibus with four-wheel drive became obvious. As a result, Ulyanovsk Car Factory or just UAZ received a special task to design such vehicle.
At those times, UAZ was quite good in producing GAZ-69, another iconic car of the Soviet era. Comprehensive inception, elaboration, and construction were not popular in the 50's, when authorities and people (с) really needed something. So UAZ just used GAZ-69 as a base for a new Russian military van without any hesitation.
All best ideas are very simple… Designers just take a flat frame, add the engine and other necessary details from GAZ-69, and then they placed a wagon there. Robust. Simple. Cheap. Resulted minivan was impressive! For a VERY affordable price, people (and army!) could get some kind of a mobile shed – a wagon with four wheels. What an amazing invention of Soviet genius! With such a minivan you can steal (or, as it usually happens, just find and take away) almost 800 kg of goods and chattels!
In 50's, UAZ started to produce such a Wonder of the Soviet automobile industry. In 60's, the vehicle got some face lifting which finally made it «a loaf of bread». Years passed by, but the van was so amazingly good, that its look did not change at all for the last 50+ years… I envy. Really!
Oppositely, engineers were so concerned about having state-of-art engine and other devices that they added fifth speed to its mechanical gearbox (as you can guess, it was several years ago). They even provided the driver with a soft new hydraulic booster! We've bought our van in 2012, so it still has only 4 speeds and no booster… Unfortunately, the design engineers also considerably worsened the engine: now it cannot use any liquid as a fuel except Au-92. Moreover, modern UAZ jeep has Euro-5 engine that allows it to drive into the center of Berlin (which is not so urgent comparing to WWII times…) Combining with the Russian-quality gasoline, some parts of the engine turns into small nuclear reactor on a regularly basis.
Why it's so popular? Combined with four-wheel drive, «Loaf of bread» was born to endure any off-road condition! It can drive through 40-cm snow cover and get over the loaded URAL tracks. Nine men can be comfortably seated inside this van – and nine men can push it out of any mire! What a unique cross-country ability for a minivan!Why it's still being produced today (does a duck swim?)
There is NO and there will be NO equivalent in the world. So cheap, so robust, so simple. Targeted audience (local rednecks, hunters and other anglers…) are happy about it! As a bonus, UAZ package was completed with a total… no, absolute invisibility for a road police. Even yellow bumper and front mirrors didn't change it. The single exception is a girl driving the van (even in this case, road police doesn't check the documents, just watches the strange girl).
What about the last advantage, in case of some fatal problems with the van, you can… change the van for a new one? No, guys, it's not the iPhone! You can just settle pigs and chickens there!