At $8,990, Will This 1991 LuAZ 969M Give You the Lolz?

Photo: Craigslist
Nice Price Or Crack PipeIs this used car a good deal? You decide!

Today’s Nice Price or Crack Pipe LuAZ is one of the quirkiest things ever to come out of the Soviet automotive industry. Let’s see if this weird little grey market import’s price is low enough that you wouldn’t feel like a Soviet Blockhead for buying it.

Unlike the Nick Cage/John Travolta face swap in the eponymously named movie, Face/Off, engine swaps aren’t always a recipe for a good time. Yesterday’s 2008 Jeep Wrangler Sahara had an engine swap—for a mighty 392 Crate V8 to be exact. We won’t get to know if it’s any fun at all however, since its substantial $36,000 asking price fell in a n equally sizable 87 percent Crack Pipe loss.


There are two reasons why people swap engines in cars— first if there’s something fatally wrong with the current mill, or second, if it’s just not cutting the mustard any more.

The diminutive MeMZ-969A powering today’s 1991 LuAZ 969M seems to still be up to the task, but with a meager 40 horsepower on tap, it could be a candidate for the latter option.

That would be a crying’ shame, though. The number of air-cooled V4 engines in the world is just too low in my opinion, and that’s just what this one happens to be.


That unique mill sits in the 969M’s nose and powers all four wheels through a four-speed manual transmission, two-speed transfer case, and portal axles that grant the tiny truck more than a foot of ground clearance. Hell there’s even a little step welded to the frame to help you get in, even though it’s not all that much of a climb.

Everything’s wrapped up in a tidy but kind of weird-looking Jeep-like body that rides high on its tires and features decent approach and departure angles at the ends.


The 969 started life in the 1960s as a product of the Ukrainian car maker, ZAZ. LuAZ assumed production beginning in 1971 and developed the model through a few iterations for a good 20 years more. It’s hard to say how many were built in that time, but according to this one’s seller, it’s one of only four here in the U.S..


That’s pretty rare, and of course requires a special buyer to appreciate a car for with such a unique nature and compensate demands. One of those demands will be parts availability. Of course once that’s solved there are plenty of YouTube videos explaining how to actually work on the beast. By the way, how’s your Russian?

The other main issue here is the little truck’s performance limitations. The top speed on the 969M is about sixty miles per hour, and getting there takes so long it can be timed using glacial ablation. Then there’s the whole driving a Russian car in the U.S. thing. Lord knows having any connection to Russia in this day and age can lead to narrow-eyed suspicions.


Of course, with all that taken into account there’s also the car itself to contemplate. That actually seems to be the easiest part of the equation.


The mustard yellow paint may not be the most attractive hue, but it at least seems reasonably tidy. You will find a good bit of chipping and surface rust on the rear gate, but it’s not too bad. or unexpected. The BMW M badge back there is a bit of a laugh too. Fourteen-inch Mitsubishi wheels underpin and while they don’t look untoward, they do seem to have a different offset from the factory units so any potential new owner might wish to inquire as to the status of the originals.

The interior features four individual seats, the front two in red and the ones back in black. Floorboards are uncovered metal and the only nod to luxury here is a fabric top that should keep the weather out… maybe.


The engine compartment appears clean and well sorted, however access is limited as the hood does open forward. Seeing as it’s air-cooled, the truck comes with a gas heater for cabin comfort. There’s also a funky lamp attached to the firewall for all those late-night maintenance maneuvers. Servo-assisted front disc brakes are another update on these LuAZ-built editions.


The truck was obviously a private import, and as such requires certain get-out-of-jail-free paperwork to ensure its stay. It does meet the Federal Government’s 25-year rule for safety and emissions avoidance, and the seller says it comes with a North Carolina title and plates.


What might such a rare and weird vehicle run you? The asking is $8,990, and you can bet that will be an investment in exclusivity. The seller says that strangely enough there are two in North Carolina, including this one. The two others are apparently in Washington State and Massachusetts, respectively.

What do you think, is $8,990 a fair Price for so unique a Ukrainian? Or, is that just too much to pay for that kind of exclusivity?


You decide!


Wilmington, NC Craigslist, or go here if the ad disappears.

H/T to FauxShizzle for the hookup!

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About the author

Rob Emslie

Rob Emslie is a contributing writer for Jalopnik. He has too many cars, and not enough time to work on them all.