We all have a romantic image of driving on a dusty road in the American West in a beat-up old pickup truck, the kind with an AM radio and an old woven Navajo blanket over the seat. Weirdly, the modern vehicle most analogous to a 1960 Dodge Powerwagon with rusty bumpers or a 1980 Chevy Silverado with a gun rack and an old yellow dog named “Butch” may be a Russian-built Ural sidecar rig.
That’s because the Ural is based on an ancient design—the BMW R71 from before World War II, and IMZ-Ural, along with a few other companies, has been building it for 72 years. And you thought the Suzuki DR650 was old. But there’s a reason it’s been built and sold for so long besides the fact it came from a centrally planned economy—it’s not only reliable, simple and easy to repair, the extra traction offered by the selectable driven sidecar wheel offers cheap, dependable transportation no matter where you live, from Mojave to Mongolia.
To celebrate 20 years of selling Urals in the USA, IMZ-Ural unveiled this “Gaucho Rambler” limited edition version of its Patrol. It’s painted with matte “Pacific Blue” paint, complete with a decorative sunburst on the sidecar. The rig comes with pre-weathered “sunburned” canvas tonneou and saddle covers, as well as a “Journey West” blanket and carrier specially designed by Pendleton and a GSI Outdoors campfire cooking kit including red-enameled metal coffee cups so you can toss the dregs of your coffee into the fire as you gaze wistfully across the plains and say something like, “Seems like whenever I get to liking someone, they ain’t around for long.”
Mechanically, the Gaucho is the same as the Patrol. That model uses a 749cc air-cooled Boxer Twin that’s rated at 40 horsepower. The frame and chassis numbers are purpose-built for the sidecar, and there’s a lever to switch from one to two-wheel drive. Although it’s built in Russia, it uses a host of high-quality components from Germany, Japan and Italy like Brembo brake calipers, Keihin carburetors and Sachs suspension to enhance performance and reliability. All in, the rig weighs a claimed 705 pounds with the 5-gallon tank empty.
I asked Ural USA Marketing Director Jon Bekefy if the Gaucho was Ural’s way of going after the Hipsters, a group that seems to crave authenticity, eschewing technology and performance in exchange for a more “real” experience. Jon told me the Gaucho was more inspired by Ural’s cross-marketing at events catering to outdoor enthusiasts. “We’re looking for a younger market, people comfortable with the outdoors.” Ural participated with Pendleton Woolen Mills, which puts on the Pendleton Round-Up, a 100-year-old Rodeo and cowboy event held in Pendleton, Oregon. “The hipsters totally weren’t there,” Jon told me. “It was cowboys and rodeo people.”
Ural doesn’t want to pander to hipsters anway—”marketing to trends is dangerous.” Ural wants permanent customers, so it markets to “movements or shared markets” like ranchers and outdoor enthusiasts. In some ways, it seems like an odd fit, a WWII Soviet sidecar outfit living out its days as a sheepdog on a cattle ranch, but if I had to choose between driving an old Dodge or a sidecar hack, you know how I’d answer.
More Info on the Gaucho Rambler here.