UralVagonZavod turns a Soviet VAZ-2104 car into military buggy

Uralvagonzavod’s Vityaz, a subsidiary of the company renowned for its military engineering skills, is surprisingly shifting toward modifying civilian automobiles. The focus is on the iconic Soviet-era VAZ-2104, which is also known in the Western Hemisphere as the Lada. This unique development was announced on Uralvagonzavod’s official Telegram channel. 

UralVagonZavod turns a Soviet VAZ-2104 car into military buggy
Photo credit: Telegram

“In an effort to persistently innovate the Russian auto industry, Vityaz of Uralvagonzavod has applied its expertise to refurbishing the Lada, customizing it to meet the exact requirements of the country’s armed forces,” read the publication on Telegram. 

“Be assured, that this revamped vehicle will be dispatched to a unit that comprises both full-time military personnel and volunteers from Ishimbay and the surrounding regions of Bashkortostan. Before this initiative, our engineers at Vityaz successfully enhanced the performance of the Niva’s off-road vehicles. We always undertake the tasks assigned to the frontlines with the highest degree of dedication and responsibility. We take immense pride in supporting our fellow citizens and contributing significantly to our country’s march towards victory!” the announcement on Uralvagonzavod’s Telegram concluded.

UralVagonZavod turns a Soviet VAZ-2104 car into military buggy
Photo credit: Reddit

Open Golf cart style

Events unfolding on the Ukrainian front hold a remarkable overlap with the recent re-modification of the VAZ-2104. Reports pinpoint the emergence of Russian troops maneuvering in vehicles akin to golf buggies near the battle lines — likely a strategy adopted in the wake of substantial vehicular losses in the war. Notably, one video showcases a Russian armored convoy, containing several Desertcross 1000-3 all-terrain vehicles, initiating an offensive on Ukrainian positions in Donetsk, as documented by Forbes.  

Forbes proposes that these vehicles were predominantly used to transport infantry to the front line. Disturbing footage depicts these unprotected transports being targeted by drone-launched explosives and rounds. The video concludes with unsettling images of the damaged vehicles, abandoned amid mud and rubble.  

The storyline extends in another video revealing a similarly defenseless vehicle falling victim to an anti-tank mine. Additional photographic evidence exposes numerous all-terrain vehicles deserted in a field. It is worth noting that Forbes journalist, David Ax, highlighted the absolute absence of armor and armaments in these vehicles — attributes more fitted for a farm or construction site rather than a war zone. In his words, “It reeks of recklessness, if not outright madness, to deploy an open, unarmored all-terrain vehicle — a machine akin to a heavy-duty golf cart — into combat, a paltry quarter-mile from the front line.”

VAZ-2104

The compact yet robust VAZ-2104, alternatively known as the Lada Riva, was produced by the Russian automotive company—AvtoVAZ. Debuted somewhere in the vibrant ’80s, this car is noted for its strong capabilities and its plain, no-frills design. With a length of 4180 mm and a width of 1610 mm, and standing at a height of 1440 mm, the car offers ample space for its passengers and a generous storage room. 

UralVagonZavod turns a Soviet VAZ-2104 car into military buggy
Photo credit: Reddit

Underneath its streamlined bonnet lies a 1.5-liter quad-core powerhouse capable of generating approximately 72 horsepower. Distinguished by its superior reliability and simplicity of maintenance, this carbureted engine is a pride of the VAZ-2104. Being a rear-wheel-drive car, it provides significant traction and stability, which is ideal for encountering the challenging driving conditions often associated with Russia.  

You have the choice of a four- or five-speed manual transmission model, depending on your preference. These gearboxes are highly durable and allow the driver considerable control over the vehicle. Ensuring both comfort and durability, the VAZ-2104 features an independent front suspension with coil springs, supported by a rear live axle with leaf springs. 

In terms of performance, the VAZ-2104 does not disappoint. It can reach a top speed of roughly 140 km/h, an impressive figure for its class and era. In summary, the VAZ-2104 is proof of the ideal combination of effectiveness and durability. While it may not have flashy features or high-end performance, it provides a dependable ride—from daily commutes to spontaneous point A to B trips.

Converting a car into a buggy

It remains unclear what modifications the VAZ-2104 is currently undergoing, according to the Russian company. Nevertheless, here at BulgarianMilitary.com, we’re going to guide you through the process. Transitioning from a civilian vehicle to a fortified military buggy requires numerous enhancements to increase its robustness, off-road capabilities, and survival rate in hostile territories. These enhancements often involve modifications to the vehicle’s suspension, shock absorbers, tires, and bodywork.

In the first place, it’s vital to improve the suspension to a sturdy off-road option. This upgrade will enable the car to handle jagged terrains and absorb shock from obstacles. Increasing the suspension height would also be beneficial, as it provides additional clearance from the ground, protecting the car from potential damage from rocks and debris.

Buggy vehicles sporting roof-mounted ATGM face Russian tanks
Photo: Twitter

The next step involves the shock absorbers. It’s crucial to replace the existing ones with performance-optimized variants explicitly designed for off-road use. These absorbers should exhibit a high damping ratio—this helps in absorbing energy from bumps and jumps, reduces strain on the car’s structure, and improves handling on rough terrains.

Tires and bodies are also being upgraded

Enhancing the vehicle’s maneuverability in diverse terrains such as mud, sand, and rocks, immediately necessitates the switch from regular tires to either all-terrain or muddy variations. These tires boast deeper, aggressive treads, providing superior traction. They are typically larger and wider than conventional varieties, significantly increasing ground clearance and ensuring improved stability. 

Buggy vehicles sporting roof-mounted ATGM face Russian tanks
Photo: Twitter

Modifying the vehicle body is an essential part of preparing it for military use. Armor installation should be considered to protect against small arms fire and shrapnel damage. Additionally, including a roll cage is crucial to safeguard occupants during a rollover. It’s also important to paint the vehicle with a camouflage pattern to seamlessly blend with its surroundings. 

Lastly, the vehicle’s drivetrain deserves some attention. Enhancements to power and torque may be necessary for the engine to accommodate the added weight and harsh conditions. Strengthening the transmission and drivetrain is also key to withstanding the increased stress.

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