The history of the "URAL®" brand motorcycle begins with the
Russian pre W.W.II planning. Russia knew it would soon be going to war against the
Third Reich, and Hitler. The military was ordered to gear up in all areas, including
the ground forces that would be defending the Russian "motherland" from
the invading German Panzer, ground troops, and German special forces. The German
special forces had thousands of the BMW sidecars that the German Army loved for their
maneuverability, reliability, economy and ease of maintenance. Carrying a machine
gun and soldier plus supplies, the sidecar "weapon" was feared by the otherwise
"fixed" Russian ground troops. The usefulness of the sidecar motorcycle
was beginning its legend.
Back in the old USSR, in 1939, the Russian engineers in Moscow were busily
dismantling 5 BMWs purchased from Germany through some Swedish intermediaries. The
engineers copied the BMW design in all details and made molds and dies to produce
their own engines and gearboxes in Moscow. (Incidentally, Harley-Davidson also copied
the BMW and delivered about 1,000 Harley-Davidson model XA flat-twin shaft drive
motorcycles to the US Army during World War II.) Soon a factory was set up in Moscow
producing hundreds of Russian sidecar motorcycles. At this point the rig had no name.
As the demand and function for the Russian sidecar rig spread in the military, the
strategists worried that the factory in Moscow was within easy range of German bombers.
The decision was made to move the motorcycle plant further east, out of bombing range
and into the middle of the resource rich "URAL" mountain region.
A site was chosen in the small trading town of Irbit, located on the fringe
of the Siberian plains. The only building on the site was a brewery and it soon was
converted into the first R & D building to prepare for the construction of a
massive new production complex to build the "URAL" motorcycle. Over 5,000
"URALs" as they came to be known in the military, (they still had no official
name) were produced for the Russian Army during W.W.II. They fought against the Germans
in many sectors and battles and must have mightily surprised the German sidecar gunners
when they came up against Russians riding the "look alike" and even stronger
sidecar BMW clones!
The history of the URAL® had begun with the glory of helping to defeat
the terror of Hitler's armies on the Russian and European battlegrounds.
The URAL® was built for the military only, up until the late 1950's when
another plant in the Ukraine was built to take on that job and the Irbit Motorcycle
Works (IMZ) began to concentrate on bikes for domestic consumption. The popularity
of the rigs grew steadily with the Russian people and in the 1960's the full production
of the plant was turned over to non-military production.