The LUAZ, literally "Lutskiy Automobilny Zavod", was founded in 1967 in the city of Lutsk, in Ukraina (several Eastern factories started the activity in late years '60). It's an automotive factory of small dimensions, with the specific task, in the general plan of the Soviet production, of the production of small-displacement jeeps.
The main model produced by LUAZ was the "969-M" (best know as "Volin"), in the opening pic. The first version of this car ("969-A", in the two pics above), of the 1965, was produced by the ZAZ. But, some year after, the ZAZ abandoned that production, transferred to the new factory of Lutsk: the LUAZ. The engine of the "969-A" derives from the little sedan ZAZ "965": V4 OHV, 900 cc., air cooled, with only 30 hp. But, differently from the ZAZ "965", the position of the engine was forward the front axle, with front wheel drive, and the rear wheels operating through a mechanical shift; the gearbox was 4 speeds + reducer. From this vehicle, various versions were obtained; very interesting is the "967" amphibious, reserved exclusively to the Soviet Army (third and fourth pics).
In the 1979, the production of the "969-A" was stopped, and the "969-M Volin" (three photos above) cames into existance. The front part was modified, the engine was increased to 1200 cc, but the power grows of only 4 hp (34). However, the torque was improved. The "Volin" was imported in Italy in the late '80s, by the official importer Martorelli: the weack ZAZ engine was replaced by a Ford 1100 (the same of the "Fiesta"). Many people, making an evident error, considers it as a phantomatic, little UAZ (between UAZ and LUAZ there is only a "L" as difference...)
The "Volin" (above, other versions, also an ambulance) remains the same until the early '90s, when the air-cooled V4 was definitively abandoned; a new Russian ZAZ 1100 engine, water cooled, 53 hp, SOHC, was fitted under the cowl of the "Volin" (this engine is the same of the little hatchback ZAZ "Tavria"). The official name of the vehicle is not more "969-M", but "1302". Today, the performance on the streets are very poor (100 km/h)...but, in the off-road, the "Volin" is a beast! This because the height from the ground is 28 cm (better than the UAZ 469!), and the vehicle can pass a max gradient of 90%! It's really an "ugly duckling", with the little wheels and the "nose" that looks enormous, but is beautiful like a toy of a children (although it is a real "hard" 4x4)!
The car in the three pics above, instead, was realized in the 1988-89: the LUAZ "Proto", with plastic coachwork and the same engine of the "Volin-1302", four-cylinder, liquid cooled, 53 hp. This prototype was realized in a design center in Leningrad (now S. Petersburg). The rassemblance with newer 4x4 cars (for example, the Dahiatsu "Terios") it's very surprising. Unfortunately, this vehicle never entered in production: the Lutsk's factory realized, 8 years after (!), a vehicle less modern and pleasant in the look: the "1301", (also this vehicle remained as prototype).
The "Volin" now is out of production. Some time ago, also a diesel version was presented, with a 4 in-line 1300 engine, produced by the Italian brand Lombardini. In the first, second and third pics above, the version equipped by this engine, called "Foros". The power is only 36 hp: in the off-road it's enough, especially at the low tours of engine the torque don't lacks, but on the highway, it's better to leave the desire of high performances! In the fourth pic above, a recent LUAZ amphibious vehicle: the "1901-Geolog", powered by the Lombardini Diesel engine, and equipped with six wheels!
A renewed version of the "Volin" was presented in the far 1994: in the first and second pics above, the prototype of the LUAZ "1301" (it's strange, the previous was called "1302"...the Russian burocracy!), the substitute of the "ugly duckling". The car has a totally new coachwork, but chassis and engine are substantially the sames of the current version. Also a six wheels pick-up version was realized, in the third pic above.
The "1301" is entered in batch production (with several modifications, two pics above) in the 2002...eight years after the prototype! The design -realized directly by the Lutsk's factory, differently from the "Proto" of the 1988- is quite banal, anyway it's better than the prototype...The engine is always derived from the ZAZ "Tavria", but increased to 1200 cc; also a 5-doors version will be available.
Actually, the main activity of LUAZ is the assembling under license of Lada and UAZ models, because of the end of the orders by the former Red Army. Therefore, the "ugly duckling" is not more produced, and it will be replaced by the "1301" model. I have seen only one "Volin" in my life, in the city of Otranto (South Italy), approximately in the 1990. I was lucky, because this vehicle probably will disappear also on the Russian road during the future years. Another piece of old Soviet history that disappears. Goodbye, "Ugly Duckling"!
Pics taken from http://sovauto.cjb.net , http://www.ujuja.narod.ru/ , http://www.autogallery.org.ru/gal.htm , http://luaz.narod.ru , www.vat-luaz.com.ua/