GAZ - VOLGA

The GAZ (Gorkovsky Avtomobilny Zavod, "Gorky Automotive Factory") is the second Russian factory about production, and also one of the oldest (founded in the early '30). In Europe somebody can remember the Gaz-69, seen also in the Western countries before the UAZ-469. In Russia, the GAZ (especially the "M-21/M-24 Volga" models) was, typically, the mid-luxury car, used by officials of the Communist Party (PCUS) and others; for the highest functions of the Soviet state (presidents, ministers, etc.), the car was the GAZ "Chaika", or the ZIL (see the page).

 

The beginnings (and some racing prototype)

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The GAZ was founded in 1932, with the help of...the Americans (click here  to read the agreement signed by the Russians and the Americans)! This because the Americans given technological help to the Russians during the first Soviet five-years developement plan. As a matter of facts, the first model, the GAZ "A" (above, first pic), was a...Ford "A", therefore a "clone" of the American car. During that period, the GAZ starts also the trucks production; the factory grows up, and begins to be one of the greatest Soviet plants. In the second pic, one of the engineers of the factory, Andrei Aleksandrovich Lipgart (to the left in the pic)

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Among the models produced during the years '30, the GAZ "M-1" (above) is the most important model, because it's the first Russian car intended specifically for the national roads, although it remains, technically, a Ford "clone". For the first time in the Russian history, the suspensions are hydraulic, with new shock absorbers (not the mechanical shock absorbers of the previous models). This model was realized with four or six cylinders engines, and was enough reliable: several "M-1" are still existant, sometime even used daily! 

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From these cars, also interesting prototypes were obtained. In the first and second pics above, the GAZ "Aero", realized in the 1934 by the designer Aleksei Osipovich. Although the very interesting design, it was equipped with the normal engine from the "A" model, 38 hp, and only 106 km/h (48 hp with aluminium head). The pics are courtesy of Andrei Nikitin, grandson of the designer. In the 1936, always on the base of the "A" model, a racing car was obtained (third pic), with a coachwork similar to a rocket and with a max speed of 112 km/h (slightly slow also for the years '30s)! In the 1937, A. Girelja realized the car in the fourth pic, the GAZ "A-Sport", always based on the "A" model, 50 hp, 130 km/h: substantially, it was still a self-made car, not very advanced, and still too slow for a racing car. 

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But, in short time, new racing cars were realized, with improved performances: the GAZ "TSAKS" (first and second pics above), designed in the 1937 by V.Tsipulin, always derived from the "M-1" (therefore with a six-cylinders engine, 3300 cc, 50 hp, 135 km/h), and, in the third pic, the GAZ "GL-1" (1938), with the same engine, but with 60 hp, 150 km/h. The "GL-1" was equipped also with a fairing on the driver's seat (fourth pic), and the speed was improved up to 162 km/h. Substantially, these cars were still far from the best Western realizations...anyway, a progress of 30 km/h in one year was good!

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At the end of the years '30s, in order to realize a newer car, some prototype was realized (first and second pics above), with very aerodynamic shapes, similar to the Czechoslovakian Tatra, but the war stopped the project. However, this work was useful for the new GAZ car launched in the 1946: the "M-20 Pobjeda" (third, fourth and fifth pics above). It's a 2100 four-cylinders (the engine derives from the six-cylinder of the "M-1"), with side valves, produced until 1958. The car, although a good reliability, was quite slow, even considering the period (52 hp, 105 km/h), but it has some interesting feature, as the very aerodynamic "hatchback" coachwork: the declared Cx was even of 0,31, better than several modern cars (although this data is probably theorical, but not far from the reality)! Moreover, the comfort was quite good (with new forward indipendent suspensions); indeed, this car was still reserved to the medium and high levels of the "nomenklatura", and not to the common people!  

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There were also some prototypes of van derived from the Pobjeda, realized in the early '50s (four pics above). The project, called "NAMI-013" (the NAMI was a Russian research institute), was very interesting, with the forward drive and the engine placed behind, always 2100, four cylinders, but with a modified head (mixed system, side and overhead valves together), for a max power of 63 hp, 113 km/h. The engine, for the first time in the history of the Russian cars, was also equipped with an automatic transmission. Ok, the look was not fascinating...but the concept was substantially the same of several modern machines. But, during the tests, the car was a real disaster: the engine had problems of overheating, moreover an incredible mistake in the project of the steering system maked necessary to turn the steering wheel in the direction opposite to the steering of the car!!!! Because of this..."distraction", the project was stopped: a pity. 

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Quite interesting also the little car in the three pics above: the GAZ "18". It was realized in 1958, for a perspective production destined especially to the invalids of the Second Worldwide War; the engine was a twin-cylinder 500 cc, with automatic transmission. It remained as prototype; now it's in the factory's museum. 

 

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From the slow and heavy "Pobjeda", even some aerodynamic prototypes were obtained! In the first and second pics above, two exemplars of "Pobjeda Sport" (1951 and 1955) with aerodynamic shapes, powered by the same engine of the normal "Pobjeda", but increased to 2500 cc, and equipped (on the several versions) with aluminium head, high-compression pistons, twin-spark ignition and supercharger, for a max power of 105 hp and a max speed (quite low...) of 165 km/h on the later versions. Same mechanical part for the car in the third pic, strangely called GAZ "Torpedo", equipped -differently from the "Pobjeda Sport"- with a specific tubular skeleton in duraluminium: the speed was increased to 190 km/h, thanks to the improved weight and aerodynamic.

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  In the pic above, instead, a symbol of the "Russian pride": the incredible GAZ turbo-jet prototype realized in the 1954 by A. Smolin in order to win the absolute record of max speed about the cars (held by the Americans, 694 km/h). The turbine engine was derived even from a jet MIG-17, with a power of 2700 hp on the aeronautical version!!! The machine was tested by the driver M. Metelev, with the obligation to not exceed the 300 km/h (waiting for better tyres for the high speeds), but it was surely capable of much more than 300 km/h...unfortunately, logistic problems (and also an accident, although not grave) stopped the challenge. A shame! 

 

The 4x4 of the Red Army

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Already in the 1938, caused by the war, the GAZ started the production of 4x4 vehicles: the first model was the GAZ "61", inspired, like the following GAZ "64" (above, first pic; in the second pic, an armored version), to the american "Bantam". In the 1943, the GAZ "67" cames into production (third pic), with several improvements (another fuel tank under the driver seat, for example): the car, in off-road, was even better than Willys, Bantam and Ford, but was less reliable; the fuel consumption was very high (in hard conditions, half liter of fuel per km!!!), the brakes were weack and hard to repair.

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Indeed, contemporarily to the GAZ "64", the "NATI" research institute realized another 4x4, remained at the stage of prototype: the NATI "AR" (three pic above). Realized in the 1941-42 by F.Andronovu, this off-road vehcile competed with the GAZ "64" to be choosen as official 4x4 of the Red Army. Like the GAZ "64", the engine was the same of the GAZ "M-1", but equipped with two carburettors taken from the KIM "10" car (the first model produced by Moskvitch), that improved the power from 50 to 57 hp. The prototypes of the GAZ "64" and of the NATI "AR" were submitted to Stalin, and the GAZ model was choosen. It's quite strange: the NATI "AR" seems to have a design more modern that the GAZ...but the decisions of Stalin were hard to refuse!

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In the 1953, the new 4x4 GAZ "69" (or "Kozlov", that means "goat" in Russian) cames into existance (first and second pics above). Projected by Grigory Moiseevich Vasserman, this vehicle was totally new, but always with an engine with side valves, 2100 cc, 55 hp. This engine is the same of the GAZ "Pobjeda" sedans. As the previous 4x4, it was equipped also with two fuel-tanks: 47 liters under the floorpan, and 28 liters under the driver's seat. Moreover, the transmission (rear wheel drive, with connecting of the 4x4 drive throught a manual lever) have an interesting feature: the 4-reduced speeds of the transfer box (for the high gradient) can be connected only with the 4x4 transmission (not with the only rear wheel drive), to avoid an excessive sollecitation on the rear axle. Also an amphibious version was realized: the "46-MAV" (third pic above), capable of a max speed of 9 km/h in the water. 

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Above, some curious images of the GAZ "69", with the driver -"equipped" with moustaches and busby- that courts a beautiful countrywoman! During the time, the production of GAZ "69" was transferred to the city of Ulyanovsk, and the well-known UAZ starts the production with this model. The "Goat" equipped several army in all the world (not only in the Eastern countries): Africa, Mongolia, Cuba and Afghanistan (several exemplars of "Goat" -with the newer UAZ "469"- were seen in TV, during the recent USA attack against the Afghanistan). 

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 The assistant of Grigory Moiseevich (the engineer of the GAZ "69"), Vitaly Andreevicha Gracheva, realized, in the 1955, even a 4x4 variant of the "Pobjeda", the "M-72" (first picture, above), with chassis GAZ "69"! A real SUV "ante-litteram"...In the second and third pics, the "M-73" pick-up, always with 4x4 transmission.

 

The limousines

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In May, 1948 the GAZ factory (called, during that period, "ZIM", Zavodi Imeni Molotova, in honour of Molotov, the Foreign Affairs Minister) received the governmental task for development of a six-seater car, to place it in a intermediate position between prestigious ZIS-110 and the smaller "Victory". For all works, including release of a pre-production series, the term fixed by the Governement was of only 29 months (incredible for a Russian car...). Therefore, it was necessary to copy the similar foreign machine (the American "Buick"), or to create a new project, taking several components available at a factory, first of all, the engine. Finally, in the 1950 (exactly in time!), the GAZ "12-ZIM" (four pics above) was launched. It was equipped with the lenghtned floorpan from the "Pobjeda", with a six-cylinders engine (90 hp, 3500 cc) derivated from the "M-1" model. 

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Anyway, this car keeps a radical American layout: above, the pics shows clearly this inspiration. This car was a real dream for the Russian "common people", with a rich equipment (also a 3-band radioreceiver) and especially an unbelievable level of construction, differently from the other Russian cars: the GAZ "12 ZIM" can run over 550 mm of water on the ground, without a drop of water in the interior; there is also an anti-dust joint on the doors, outstanding feature for that period! 

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Also in the '60s and '70s, the American inspirations remains: in the four pics above, the GAZ "Chaika M-13" (very similar to the ZIL "111"), in the normal, cabrio and station-wagon versions. "Chaika" stands for "seagull" in russian; this car was substantially inspired to the American Packard, with a big-displacement V8 engine, with central camshaft. The "Chaika-13" was often used by the KGB: therefore, i think that the image of that car in the mind of the Russians was enough worrysome!

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In the four pics above, instead, the following "Chaika 14" (limousine and cabrio versions), launched in the 1977. The big V8 engine (5500 cc.) reach a power of 220 hp, for 175 km/h of max speed...ok, it's a very low speed considering the high power of the engine, but the car is long 6, 11 meters, and it has a weight of 2600 kg!! Indeed, it's even lighter than the ZIL, that has a weight of...3400 kg (!!!!!). The GAZ limo were used only by the most important Eastern personalities: presidents as Breznev, Andropov and Kruscev, but also non-politicians, as Yuri Gagarin. These cars shows that the Soviet technology was advanced, although copied...but it was reserved to the very few Russians!!

Click HERE for the second page about the GAZ cars

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