Home » These Are The Cars Those Fearless Ukrainians Drove Straight Through A Minefield

These Are The Cars Those Fearless Ukrainians Drove Straight Through A Minefield


I suspect by now almost everyone has seen the remarkable video of iron-gonad’d Ukrainian motorists driving through an orderly grid of deadly landmines, slowly and carefully, but notably without the uncontrollable sobbing and shrieking and violent pants-shitting that would be the go-to of nearly everyone else I’ve ever met, myself included, in a similar situation. Everyone who watched it likely had the same question in mind: Do I need to see a doctor to have my sphincter surgically unclenched? Really, the question you should be asking is: “What are these cars that these fearless people drive?” That’s the first thing that came to our minds here at The Autopian.

In case you somehow haven’t seen the video yet, here it is:

Holy shit, right? Did you see the one with the trailer? Have you ever driven with an empty trailer? They feel about as stable and controllable as dragging a coked-up toddler behind you through the candy section of a grocery store; this Ukrainian was towing that trailer through a literal fucking minefield.

Sure, there looks to be enough room and a straight, if diagonal path through those mines, but the nerves you need to have to even give this a go are absolutely impressive.

So, if you find people with steely nerves role models and wish to emulate them, why not follow their automotive example? Everyone’s been showing these videos of daring driving, but so far, nobody has properly identified the cars! Let’s solve that.

Here’s what the three cars shown in that video are:

Screen captures of three Ukrainian drivers traversing a minefield

Ironically because it was thanks to Russia that all of this misery is happening in the first place, two of the three cars are Russian, specifically the VAZ-2108, also known as the Lada Samara. AvtoZAZ in Zaporizhia, Ukraine also built these, so these could be from the Zaporozets plant, famous for the charming rear-engined ZAZ-965 and ZAZ-969.

The Samara was the first modern front-wheel drive car built in the Soviet Union, starting in 1984, and as inspiration designers and engineers were looking at Western European cars like the Volkswagen Golf, Renault 9 (which we saw in AMC dealers in America as the Alliance and Encore), Volvo 340, and others. The result was a modern, but kind of Soviet-clunky/robust FWD hatchback.

Early ones had that strange, not-fooling-anybody closed-off upper grille, but the one in the video appears to be a 1993 one, which had the all-black grille.

The car with the trailer is a Samara 2, which came out in 1997 and featured a facelifted front end with new lights, grille, and all of that, in prime, worn-soap late ’90s style. Behind the new face was an updated 1500cc engine and a gearbox with a decadent fifth gear, like what a Czar would have, or something.

The third car in the video is a Hyundai Tucson from 2006, and of all the cars, those are likely most familiar to our American readers.

In Hyundai’s native South Korea, the 2006 Tucson was positioned more as a car to navigate the metaphorical minefields of looking fantastic while breaking up with someone in a really public, dramatic way, as opposed to just driving through a literal minefield, as seen in this commercial:

I feel like she should have done the ring drop in the restaurant too, maybe into the new girl’s drink, or something?

That doesn’t matter now, though–I’m sure everyone in that commercial has moved on to new, fulfilling relationships. What matters is that if you want to seem like you have the neutron-star-hard balls/ovaries of a Ukrainian driving through a minefield, get yourself a Samara or a Tucson.

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25 Responses

  1. What I really want to know is: *why* were these cars traversing these mines? Hopefully for some very important business; that’s a lot of risk.

    1. The mines were Ukrainian AFAIK – to stop Russian tank and vehicle advances. They use that specific pattern of placement as tanks and large-wheeled vehicles cannot get past them but smaller vehicles (as we can see) can!

  2. I’m thinking of the scene in finding Nemo where they get through the jelly fish. And the turtle says “You, Mini-Man, takin’ on the jellies. You’ve got serious thrill issues, dude.”

    I know it’s real life in Ukraine. I mean, damn they’ve got some courage.

  3. The one towing the trailer is the one that gets me. Keeping track of where four wheels are going is hard enough, but six? And imagine if you had to back up and adjust your course.

    1. That was my thought as well. Sure, driving over these in a car would be nerve racking as hell, but with a trailer?! The pucker factor increases to the point of creating a permanent seal.

  4. Why, do you think, did the Russians just drop those mines on the surface where they were so easily noticed and later kicked out of the way? I could see making a barrier that tank drivers would have to get out and move, exposing themselves to fire… but this still seems too easy. Poor training? Laziness? Just tired of lugging them around? Or are the grunts in the Russian army not that convinced of their cause? I know no one really knows, it just seems odd.

    1. Minefields as well as all obstacles(tank ditches, barbed wire entanglements, etc.) are only as effective if they are covered by observation backed up by direct or indirect fire- in other words if there isn’t something like a tank, infantry fighting vehicle or artillery/mortars ready to shot at whomever is contemplating crossing said obstacle- the obstacle is of little value.

      I think the Russian got to a point where they couldn’t go any further put up that hasty minefield up, over watched it till they figured out they needed to pull back and didn’t bother removing the mines when they left. Why? that is how they role – brute force and ignorance.

    2. Remember if you’re speeding along in a Russian tank at night with whatever poor lighting they have (and likely even less as they’d be trying to run with LESS lighting at night to hide themselves, you’re not going to see these until you’re already on top of them and there ain’t no way you’re going to stop a tank that fast before they’re already under your treads…

    3. Combination of just trying to slow down some tanks rather than stop civilian cars, and also the Russians being really quite bad at war. They weren’t going to slow down anyone very much—the triggers on these are quite stiff so in an emergency it’s *relatively* safe to just pick them up and move them out of the way—and nobody was staying behind to create an ambush. A lot of things Russia has done in this stupid fucking war have been fairly nonsensical, which is good because if they were doing a better job they’d likely have won weeks ago.

  5. If you really wanted to gamble, a technique that has worked in the past is driving over them at speed:

    “It was discovered that these light vehicles could ride through anti-tank minefields without detonating the mines when driven at speeds over 100 km/h.”
    From: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technical_(vehicle)

    Granted, that was in 1987, so the design might have changed.

    As for kicking or moving the mines, many mines are equipped with anti-removal/anti-tamper devices that will detonate the mine if it is lifted out of place or jostled. Of course, the soldiers dealing with those have more knowledge on that than I do sitting behind a keyboard.

  6. Those Samaras are actually not terrible cars, despite their simple looks.
    They were quite modern compared to their predecessor RWD Ladas.
    The interior plastics and general build quality is still terrible, but they are fairly comfortable, less noisy and handle okay.
    Oh, and they also have decent ground clearance, almost like a Subaru Outback, making them quite capable on crappy Eastern Block dirt roads.

  7. A few of you have the grasp on anti-vehicle mines (Noah and Halftrack). I’d be surprised if any of these have anti-handling devices though as they seem more set in a hurry. No tilt triggers either. It takes about 130 kg to get the trigger to do its job and yes, you can pick them up and put them somewhere “safe”. All armies leave this garbage behind…

    The problem with these is the shockwave. It will kill or injure you at up to 100 meters/ 300 feet.

  8. not knowing much about landmines except from MS Minesweeper, why not throw something at them like a book or a block of wood or a water balloon from a safe distance to set off the mine before driving over them.

    1. Because then there would be no road to drive on. The land mine will create a huge hole. These really are to prevent tank movement or military truck, not citizens in cars, the the grid pattern that the cars can “easily” navigate and circumvent.

    2. There are essentially two types of mines. Anti-personal mines, and then these which are anti-vehicle mines. Anti-vehicle mines require a significant amount of weight to detonate so even chucking large rocks at it probably wouldn’t do the trick. And this says nothing of the shrapnel or creating a large hole in the road. If these mines were not equipped with anti-handling devices, they could safely be kicked to the side of road. But that’s a pretty big if!

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