Building 'Mad Max' vehicles for Ukraine's fighters

Building 'Mad Max' vehicles for Ukraine's fighters

Buggies built to order are used by Ukrainian forces to carry weapons and the wounded
Buggies built to order are used by Ukrainian forces to carry weapons and the wounded. Photo: Sergei SUPINSKY / AFP
Source: AFP

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With angular welded frames, huge wheels and teeth painted on the front grille, the one-off buggies being built to order for Ukrainian forces on the battlefield resemble props from the "Mad Max" films.

Tough and durable, buggies can speed over the roughest terrain, carrying weapons and the wounded -- and are in demand.

Ukraine faces a challenge to transport its thousands of troops and evacuate the wounded because vehicles on the front line may only last a matter of weeks.

These buggies are made by a company set up by 29-year-old Musa, who asked to use a pseudonym for safety concerns because his family lives in Russian-annexed Crimea.

A doctor by training, he launched the business to help supply Ukrainian battalions, who use public donations to buy them.

At an industrial site in the capital Kyiv, Musa and his team were busy building the frame of a buggy from metal pipes.

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The buggy company is named  Dracarys, a nod to to the fire-breathing dragons in 'Game of Thrones'
The buggy company is named Dracarys, a nod to to the fire-breathing dragons in 'Game of Thrones'. Photo: Sergei SUPINSKY / AFP
Source: AFP

He revved up another finished vehicle for a hair-raising ride.

Driving it up and down steps, it accelerated powerfully before braking just as it seemed about to crash into a wall.

The buggies weigh 650 kilos (0.65 tonnes) -- about half the weight of a normal car -- and sell for $6,500 each.

Musa has named the company Dracarys, a nod to the fire-breathing dragons in "Game of Thrones".

They have made "a few" of the vehicles since last summer, he said.

The buggies are assembled from a hodgepodge of engines and other parts from old secondhand cars, such as Audis and Volkswagens, without complicated electronics, making them easy to repair in the field.

"These cars, there are so many of them in Ukraine and they're cheap," Musa told AFP.

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The buggy he drove has added features such as plastic roll-up side windows to guard against rain and mud and a heater.

Once the finished vehicle is test-driven, it will go to a battalion called Crimea for use in reconnaissance missions.

Musa has given up medicine for now and feels he can help the war effort more through the buggies.

He is a Crimean Tatar, a Muslim group from the peninsula that largely opposed Russia's annexation and has been harshly punished.

Russians "hate freedom," he said.

"I want to (go) back to my home. I want to meet my family and it's my internal motivation to do this."

'Frankenstein vehicle'

In another workshop in Kyiv's outskirts, mechanics are also at work for the war effort -- on armoured vehicles for medical use.

The project is spearheaded by Romanian volunteer Radu Hossu, who raised funds among Romanians and Moldovans via his Facebook page.

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Romanian volunteer Radu Hossu crowdfunded a system of armoured vehicles for medical use by Ukrainian forces
Romanian volunteer Radu Hossu crowdfunded a system of armoured vehicles for medical use by Ukrainian forces. Photo: Sergei SUPINSKY / AFP
Source: AFP

It will provide state-of-the-art transportation for a medical battalion in the war-hit eastern Donetsk region.

Hossu hopes it will then be reproduced more widely.

His team is creating a complex of different-use vehicles to work in tandem, costing around $165,000.

They include a hybrid of a Ford truck and a Soviet Gaz chassis that will become an extraction vehicle to remove wounded soldiers from frontline areas even under fire.

It will be heavily armoured, with huge wheels.

"This is basically a Frankenstein vehicle -- it doesn't exist on the planet," Hossu said.

A Polish bus has been rebuilt as a mobile hospital where medics can immediately do complex operations.

Next, a former food truck is being converted into a medics' sleep and wash area.

And a towable boat will be able to evacuate the wounded by water.

Hossu, a former political consultant, has named the project after Oleg Gubal, a Ukrainian soldier who died en route to hospital.

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He knew Gubal personally and wants to stop other families experiencing such grief.

"If something like this would have existed... I'm not saying Oleg would be alive, but it would have been a chance for him to survive," Hossu said.

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Source: AFP

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