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Apr 7, 1:28 pm ET


By Khaled Yacoub Oweis

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Feeling unsafe driving a car in occupied Iraq?


Then try one of 1,497 Russian 650cc Ural motorcycles on sale now and easily adapted for urban warfare at the local welder for a little extra cost.


The once-feared Saddam Fedayeen militia and the Jerusalem Army paramilitary force ordered the Urals just before the U.S. invasion of Iraq as part of a defensive strategy that relied on high mobility but was scarcely implemented.


By the time they arrived, say officials at the state-owned General Vehicle Company, Saddam had been overthrown and the rugged combination motorcycles with sidecars had to be sold off.


"I reckon we'll see demand from Sadr city," said a salesman, referring to a Shi'ite Muslim Baghdad slum area where U.S. troops have fought deadly clashes with Iraqis.


"Weld on extra plates and a machinegun mount like the Fedayeen used to and it's ready," he said -- an ironic comment but poignant, perhaps, for U.S. forces facing an increasingly inventive guerrilla foe.


The Urals, available in any color you want as long as it is camouflage gray, are meant to appeal to the Iraqi wary of being caught in Baghdad's worsening traffic jams.


The longer you are on the road, the greater the chance of being caught up in a chance suicide attack or roadside bomb. Skirt the lines of cars and thread through the lanes in your combination and your prospects of a safe journey are better.




Ural delivered 503 machines out of a 2,000 order under the oil-for-food program before the war. One batch of the rugged off-road bikes saw action in the war, and the state company is working on marketing new arrivals, the official added.


The machines, touted as the AK-47 of motorcycles by aficionados, feature an overhead valve horizontally opposed twin cylinder engine based on pre-World War II BMW design, and drum brakes, as opposed to disks that give more stopping power.


At 4.9 million dinars ($3,500), the Urals may be beyond the pocket of the average Iraqi. But their basic nature, their military potential and ruggedness and agility could suit the more affluent customer balking at Baghdad roads.


"We're trying to persuade the interior ministry to buy them. It won't be a problem if they don't. Several have been sold to the public already. People feel safer and more mobile in them," a company official said.


Saddam Hussein's Iraq preferred to import new cars from countries it considered allies, such as Russia. The state company's warehouses are filled with Russian Volga saloons. Malaysian Protons are on the way.


Business has fallen as the state's monopoly on imports collapsed, but the Urals in particular still arouse public interest.


Among the prospective clients is one U.S. officer. "I hope they don't sell them with machineguns," the officer said. "One can buy anything in this country."

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Kinda neat little Bikes. On some models, the sidecar wheel is also a drive wheel. Must be a hoot in the snow!!



Plus, for $89.10, you can get a machine gun mount



Just what everyone needs.



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Back when I first got the Squaw Magnet, I had it at the Redwood City dealership for an engine rebuild (powdercoating problem).  While the dealership was waiting for the go ahead, they had the bike on display in their showroom rather than back in the service bay.  It generated so much interest that they started carrying Urals.  Talk about a weird combination, probably the only Indian - Ural dealership in the country.  The bikes did have their own peculiar charm.  They looked cheap but sturdy which is what they are.  Most expensive model is around $10,000.
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My buds and I found a Ural Patrol in Diwaniya Iraq, unfortunately it did not run, what a shame since it only had 88 km on it. Those Urals are built like tanks.
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  • 2 weeks later...

THe IMZ/Ural is a fun machine. I bought one back in 1999 (a 2000 yr model) for @7,500 new.


It's was assembled in Preston Washington (Ural America) out of Russian and some domestic  parts. So far I've only put gas, oil and rear tires on it. (Hacks are hard on rear tires)


If you like older machines you will probally have a blast on one. They are underpowered (by todays standards) use the old grind-a-gear BMW style trans and non-juice brakes.


The fun part is the looks you get and the fact that they are a blast to ride.(once you over come the learning curve of sidecars) They are stable enough that you can safely fly the sidecare at 50 to 60 going down the hwy. :nod:

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