What the world needs right now is a new, rugged, off-road van. Not really, but if you have always wanted one here’s your dream come true. The UAZ SGR Combi Expedition is an off-road van with proven ruggedness in the harsh environs of Russia. That’s because it is a Russian product. It has been since 1958 when the 450 design, dubbed “a loaf of bread” was introduced. You have got to give it to the Russians, once they make something it sticks around for what seems forever. Think of any Lada or GAZ.
The UAZ-452 Bukhanka van can be configured as a 4×4 minibus with 6 to 11 seats and still lots of cargo space. It’s also used as a remote ambulance in many locals. But, what we’re interested in is the Combi Expedition.
The UAZ SGR Combi Expedition vans might be Russian, but they roll on BFGs
The Expedition comes with front and rear heavy-duty bumpers with the front bumper featuring a winch. A roof storage platform is ideal for carrying extra gear and it’s convenient with the ladder attached to the back. Rolling stock is 225/75R16 BF Goodrich all-terrain hoops. There’s even a full-length skid-plate for some serious off-road trekking.
A 111 hp 2.7-liter four-cylinder pulls the Expedition SGR to new frontiers. It rides between front seat occupants much like the hippie vans of the 1960s and 1970s. A nice, warm lump of noise and smells to keep you company. Power is transferred through a five-speed manual trans with a two-speed transfer case. There are no other transmissions available, but we like the idea of a manual off-road van. As for the 111 hp-not so much.
A locking diff and Spicer axles provide part-time four-wheel-drive when you need it, otherwise, the SGR is rear wheel-driven.
The UAZ SGR Combi Expedition vans are bleak as heck inside
When it comes to the interior it’s spartan as heck. But the Russians know what’s important. The front seats are both heated and water repellant. It’s how you roll when you’re waist-deep in snow and slush.
All of this off-road glory can be yours for 974,900 rubles. That’s about $15,500 currently. That’s a steal. You even get a choice of colors. There’s the stunning bright orange or for a more sophisticated look, there’s olive drab green. They’re both fetching and we’d be hard-pressed to have to decide.
You can buy a UAZ SGR Combi Expedition van but you can’t bring it to the US
The biggest problem comes with driving it in the US. You could buy it, but you can’t drive it here. Without any federal certification for emissions or safety, you’re out of luck. But we do see a whole new enterprise forming from the need for this van.
You could import 25-year old or older UAZ-452 vans and then refurbish them. While you’re at it you could swap out the stomach-pump engine for something domestic and more powerful. An LS swap maybe?
If you could import 25 year-plus UAZ vans what condition might they come in
The only problem might come with the condition the van might be in. In case you didn’t know Russian winters are brutal. These may not survive for over 25 years from those conditions combined with the Russian’s rather casual approach to assembly and engineering. But, it’s an idea anyway.
If you do take up a venture like this let us know. It’s bound to happen-it’s just too good of an idea not to bear fruit.