Ikarus Gyar (Ikarus Factory)

Ikarus, a familiar bus for many East Europeans. I used to travel on these buses when I lived in Russia and as a young boy did not even suspect that I will end up living in the country of manufacture. In fact, I didn’t even know there was a country called Hungary.

Berlin; San Francisco; Toronto

Ikarus wasn’t always making buses. In fact, originally it was called Ikarus Automobil és Repülőgépgyár Rt (Ikarus Automobile and Aircraft Factory Inc.), later Ikarus Gép- és Fémáru Rt (Ikarus Machine and Hardware Inc.) and was established in 1916 by two well-known engineers, Erney Móric and Vecsei Jenő. The company was named after Ikarus, the son of Daedalus, who fell into the sea.

In 1942 one of the locations of the Ikarus Automobil és Repülőgépgyár Rt was in fact location previously occupied by MÁG — Magyar Általános Gépgyár (Hungarian General Machine Factory), which also made aircraft and aircraft engines.

The bus business was owned by Uhry Brothers who started with a small workshop and progressed to build trucks and cars until becoming bankrupt in 1932. In 1935 the company was resurrected and began building buses for Budapest, later moving on to military equipment manufacture in 1940s. In 1944 due to increased orders from the Ministry of Defence, the Uhry Brothers started building new factory between Sashalom and Mátyásföld.

Ikarus Karosszéria- és Járműgyár (Ikarus Bodywork and Vehicle Factory), Mátyásföld, 1980s

In 1949 the Ikarus Machine and Hardware Inc. and the Uhry Brothers businesses were nationalised and merged. Ikarus Karosszéria- és Járműgyár (Ikarus Bodywork and Vehicle Factory) was born. The factory in Budapest and Székesfehérvár produced the buses that many people across Eastern and Central European countries know from childhood. The buses were not only exported to other friendly members of the Socialist camp (Algeria, Mozambique), but in fact some people maybe surprised that the Ikarus bus made it also to Canada and USA.

Ikarus Factory 2017

Nowadays Ikarus is not what it used to be. But the buses live on and the company still exists, manufacturing buses to this day. Budapest is now full of new Mercedes, Volvo and Van Hool buses these are making Ikarus buses from the 70s and 80s rarer (due to not meeting EU standards). However there is still plenty left and the bus routes I travel on sometimes use the old buses and I love it when they do.

As with Londons Routemasters, the Ikarus bus is a defining feature of Budapest and when the same fate reaches Budapest as it did London (and that time is fast approaching), I hope that there will be a Heritage Route, just like in London.

Ikarus Buses