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A repair garage in Ukraine that used to work on your typical daily drivers made an about-face after Russia invaded almost a year ago. It is no longer doing that type of work. Now, it cranks out once broken down and old pickups and busses, now fitted with armaments, rocket launchers, and armor for Ukraine’s military.  

How are civilian vehicles used for the Ukraine military?

Mechanics work with a pickup trucks in a auto repair shop | SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP via Getty

“We are not a wealthy country, and the state cannot provide all our soldiers with armored four-wheel-drive vehicles, so pickups are a compromise,” Anton Senenko, a volunteer coordinating efforts, told Agence France-Presse. A lot of the vehicles are donated with plans for installing Russian weapons captured by Ukrainian troops. They also need them for drone or soldier transportation to the front lines. 

“It turned out that there are people working at our shop who know how weapons work,” another former repair garage owner Oleksandr Fedchenko said. Heavy Russian machine guns and rocket launchers from trucks and tanks are much of what is taken.  

Ukraine war
Ukrainian soldiers scavenge an abandoned Russian T-90A tank | YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP via Getty

Ukraine never had a large fleet of military vehicles, so there was little time or money to build it up. Some come from inside the country through fundraisers held by Ukrainian volunteers. Others come from neighboring Poland, Latvia, and Estonia, according to the Kyiv Post.

“We don’t just change lubricants and filters, we fully prepare the entire machine for the harsh conditions in which it will work on the front line,” Senenko said. Requests come in from the military, which the garage tries to fulfill. There was a time when two-wheel drive trucks could do the job. But as the fighting moved into the rougher areas, four-wheel drive vehicles became mandatory. 

How many military vehicles have this garage finished?

Ukraine war
A volunteer reconditions a machine gun, taken from the Russian army | ARIS MESSINIS/AFP via Getty

Because of the military equipment, specialists oversee the work and help answer questions. Mechanics are also instructing on mounting and setting up StarLink satellite dishes. 

In the summer and fall, green paint is the preferred finish. For fall and winter, black or gray blends into the environment better. Around 50 vehicles of various specifications have left the garage for battle on the eastern front. 

Repair of old GAZ-66 off-road trucks on the premises of a service station in Kyiv | Volodymyr Tarasov / Ukrinform/Future Publishing via Getty

Soldiers arrive to pick up their vehicles once informed of their completion. Some, like a 2002 Toyota Hiace van donated from Norway, needed brakes and engine repairs. All of them usually get at least oil and fluid changes and other small service needs. “Very often, there are breakdowns with cars in peacetime. But in wartime, such a breakdown can lead to a tragedy,” said Senenko.

“We will remake those weapons so that the barrels will be directed to the enemy’s side, but not ours,” Fedchenko said. “This is our contribution to the victory,” garage owner Ruslan Kulagin told AFP.


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