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The History of Ural

The Ural story starts in 1939, during the USSR’s pre-World War II planning. Despite the Molotov/ von Ribbentrop Pact, the Soviet Union knew it would soon go to war against Adolf Hitler, the dictator of the German Reich. Joseph Stalin ordered the Soviet military to prepare for all areas of war preparation, including the ground forces that would defend the Russian motherland against invading German Panzers, group troops and Special Forces. Having seen the effects of the Blitzkrieg against the Polish Army, mobilization of its own forces was of paramount importance to the USSR.

Defence planners held a number of meetings to discuss which motorcycle model was most suitable for the Red Army, as the models used in their military conflict with Finland did not work satisfactorily. The technology was outdated and manufacturing quality was poor.

The official version of the Ural history reads, that after long discussions and debate, the planners decided that the BMW R71 motorcycle was the closest match to the Red Army’s requirements. Five machines were then covertly purchased through intermediaries in neutral Sweden and smuggled to Russia. Soviet engineers in Moscow then dismantled the 5 BMW’s and copied every detail of the design. They made moulds and dies to produce their own engines and gearboxes. Early in 1942, the first prototypes of the M-72 motorcycles were shown to Stalin, who immediately approved production.

A more likely story however, is that the BMW factory actually supplied the design drawings and casting moulds. As a direct result of the Molotov/ von Ribbentrop Pact, technology transfer had taken place in different areas in support of their Soviet “friends”. Soviet engineers toured German aircraft factories, and even the Opel Kadett was given to the Russians just prior to the war. In 1941, the Germans began producing the BMW R75, and supplying the Soviets with the superseded R71 may have seemed a good idea at the time.

In Moscow, they soon began producing the Russian M-72 sidecar motorcycle on a large scale. However, the Soviet military strategists became worried that the Moscow factory was within easy reach of German bombers, and they chose the small trading town of Irbit, located in the foothills of the Ural Mountain range. The only suitable building in the town was a brewery, which they soon converted into research and development headquarters, and on October 25 1942, the first M-72’s were sent into battle. In the course of WWII, 9799 M-72 motorcycles were delivered to the front for reconnaissance and mobile troops.

After WWII, the factory was renovated and upgraded and in 1950, the 30,000th motorcycle was produced. In the late 50’s, a plant in the Ukraine took over the production of Urals for military use, and the Irbit Motorcycle Works (IMZ) began to build Urals for domestic civilian use. They began exporting Urals in 1953, mainly to developing countries. In 1960, the plant was turned over to full non-military production.

In November 1992, the State-owned factory was transferred into Uralmoto Joint Stock Company, a private entity. In early 1998, Ural was bought by private interests. New ownership brought new management, fresh ideas, updated technology and modernized design and production techniques.

Ural is the only Russian manufacturer of large capacity motorcycles, and one of very few manufacturers of sidecar motorcycles in the world. Over 3.2 million Urals have been built since the first M-72 rolled off the assembly lines.

The story is far from over……….

General information:

The Irbit motorcycle plant is located in Irbit, which is a small town behind The Ural Mountains in Siberia. Since 1939 this plant has been building sidecar motorcycles, and is one of very few factories which are producing factory ready sidecar motorcycles. Basically our models are all equipped with a 750 cc engine. But as individual as our Motorcycles are, as individual are our Ural-drivers.