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Ukraine's Soviet-era Luaz jeep revs back to life as die-hard EV for city couriers, berry farmers, and disabled veterans

Vadym Ignatov, owner of Europe's newest, and smallest, car manufacturer, alongside his reborn Luaz.

Skoda and Dacia thrived in the transition from communism to capitalism, while the Yugo crashed in infamy and the Trabant disappeared in a cloud of exhaust. As far as Eastern European vehicle history goes, Ukraine's boxy Luaz jeep appeared to die from neglect amid the chaos.

However, like the silent, beaten-down hero of a Rambo film, the Luaz is set for a comeback of sorts as an ultra-light, ultra-low-cost electric vehicle, thanks to the nostalgia and problem-solving acumen of a 55-year-old Ukrainian serial entrepreneur.

Vadym Ignatov, who owns a sporting goods import firm, EcoDrive magazine and several other Kyiv businesses, is giving a rebirth to the Luaz name, prompted in part by his love for the olive drab brute he learned to drive on as a teenager in the Soviet Union of Brezhnev and Gorbachev.

The Luaz, a hard-driven, easily-repaired vehicle reminiscent of the WWII-era US military jeep of MASH fame, was little known outside of Ukraine. Hundreds of thousands were made in various models but, after privatization and years of financial struggles following the collapse of Communism, the factory stopped making the Luaz after the stormy '90s. The last one rolled off the production line in 2001.

Now, Ignatov has updated it to the modern sensibilities of the neighboring European Union, shrank it, busted its top speed down to 45 km/h and adopted a tactic that could be called "guerrilla manufacturing."

He is now the newest, and smallest, carmaker in Europe, and he's looking for investors.

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