On Saturday, 18th of July, the parking lot in front of the GAZ Educational Center and Museum building in Nizhny Novgorod became the scene of a small car show dedicated to the 45th anniversary of the GAZ-24 Volga, organized by GAZ-24.COM club and the Gorky Automotive Plant. GAZ seems to be the only automotive manufacturer in present day Russia to take its history seriously, or at least to have some desire to capitalize on it – this is not the first time it partakes in classic car events related to its cars. This one was unfortunately not as well organized as the 55th anniversary of GAZ-21 in 2011, but still worth paying a visit.
The choice of date is in fact rather questionable: July 15th, 1970 was the day when the last GAZ-21 Volga rolled off the production line, whereas the GAZ-24 had been assembled on a separate line from the end of 1969, and made its international debut at the Leipzig Trade Fair in April, 1970. But, of course, most such dates were chosen more or less arbitrarily.
Yours truly and other members of the Gorky Retro Garage classic car club gathered in the parking lot of O’Key Hypermarket in the Avtozavod (Car Plant) city district. As my Volga GAZ-21 didn’t have insurance and my 2009 Ford Mondeo didn’t fit the theme of the show well, I accompanied my friend Eugene and his girlfriend in their metallic yellow GAZ-3110 (on the left of the photo).
Some of the show participants arrived there, too. Eugene explained the driver of this black Volga from Kirov where he could find a car-wash to remove the road dust and grime from the unmolested original paint of his car.
However, soon enough we were informed that the meeting point had been relocated to the parking lot in front of the GAZ Museum which was one kilometer away from the hypermarket, so we moved along.
No one guessed to count the exact number of cars in attendance, but it is estimated to be no less than half-a-hundred, including various non-GAZ-24 Volgas that joined the show. The club members from Moscow, joined by several cars from other cities of the Western Russia on their way, paraded through the streets of Nizhny Novgorod in a single procession and lined up in front of the GAZ Museum building. The city greeted them with blue skies and excellent weather. The cars coming from the opposite direction arrived one by one within the next hour or two.
Unfortunately, the cars were parked so tightly that it was difficult to have a closer look or take a good individual shot.
This is a replica taxicab, quite true-to-life actually:
While most GAZ-24 cabs were pale Reseda Green or yellow, other light colors could be encountered as well, including white. The only major flaw of this replica is the presence of a radio antenna which was absent on cabs, but there were exceptions, too.
GAZ-24-12 station wagon was produced in much smaller numbers than the sedan and is becoming increasingly hard to find. Only one such car was present that day.
These two cars standing side-by-side represent the evolution of the GAZ-24 along its long production run. The car on the left is an early 1970s model, while the one on the right in metallic gray is a post-1985 GAZ-24-10. The latter came all the way from Belarus, while the former is from Kaluga.
A rare GAZ-31013 powered by ZMZ-503 5.5-liter aluminum V8 was one of attention getters, it was next to impossible to get a good shot of the engine bay because whenever the hood was up a crowd of spectators gathered in front of it, completely blocking the view. Only after the meeting at the Museum the crowd started to dissolve, providing a good chance to take some last shots while the owners were making some last minute repairs before leaving.
As you can see, the V8 was a tight fit in the Volga’s body shell. The alternator is hanging in just several millimeters from the inner fender, and the replacement of spark plugs is a headache. With 195 hp (net) and 412 N·m of torque, it is not a muscle car, but still lively enough. An even rarer ZMZ-505 version equipped with two 4-barrel carburettors boasted all of 220 hp. Both versions consumed leaded 95 octane gas in enormous quantities.
The red Volga GAZ-3102 is powered by a swapped in Toyota JZ engine:
That seems to be a sensible alternative to the heavy, gas-guzzling carburetted V8, but still a heresy in the eyes of GAZ purists !
Several GAZ-21 Volgas were also present. For some reason, I strongly dislike wide whitewall tires (port-a-walls in this particular case) on this model. My personal theory is that the problem is in the combination of white sidewall and white wheel disk which just doesn’t work for me.
Back in the day port-a-walls were popular aftermarket accessories on these cars, as you can see on this frame from a 1976 movie. At least, here they are combined with polished aluminum trim rings.
After all of the cars had arrived, the owners and some of the spectators followed into the GAZ Museum (entry was free that day). The exhibition was of little interest at the time, as we were given a unique chance to communicate with the honored guests of the show – the three men who stood at the cradle of the Volga back in the 1960s.
Vladimir Nosakov was among the team of designers that styled the car. He is also widely acknowledged as the creator of the GAZelle brand. Today he is an Associate Professor of the Minin University of Pedagogy, where he teaches classes in automotive design and maintenance. Vladimir told us about his work in the GAZ Design Studio and showed some of the sketches of the car he and his comrades had made.
While his own concept, designated M-27, had been rejected as too old-fashioned for mid-1960s, he took an active part in the creation of the Volga’s exterior in cooperation with the winning team of Leonid Tsikolenko and Nikolay Kireyev.
Leopold Kalmanson (in the center of the photo in the Museum) was responsible for transmission and driveline engineering, including in the development of both 4-speed manual and 3-speed automatic transmissions for the Volga. His story was mostly dedicated to the GAZ automatic transmission, which as he admitted was mostly a reverse-engineered Fordomatic, and the reasons of its early demise on mass-produced GAZ cars.
Vladimir Reutov worked on the car’s package layout, which according to him was not an easy task as for the first time in GAZ’s history it was designed to be equipped with no less than four different types of engines – a 2.5-liter I4, a 3-liter V6, a 5.5-liter V8 and several Peugeot-sourced diesels, all having different shape and external dimensions – and three types of transmission. He also told us that initially the second generation Volga was to have a body-on-frame construction, with a lightweight X-frame, much like that used in the Chayka GAZ-13 which was the newest GAZ car at the time. However, this concept was soon abandoned (I didn’t have the time to ask whether they did know about the X-frame controversy raging in the USA at the same time).
The meeting lasted for more than an hour, and afterwards the spectators could ask their questions to the guests or roam throughout the exhibit. Photographing in the Museum was challenging at the very least because of dim lighting and a lot of people swarming around cars, so instead I’ll post some of the photos I’ve taken there several years ago – just the most interesting of the exhibits.
GAZ-A was the first car produced by the Gorky plant, essentially a 1929 Ford Model A. The M-1 (on the left) followed in 1936, based on the Ford 40A, but with a lot of local modifications including all-new suspension with longitudinal setup replacing Ford’s trademark transverse leaf springs, which were deemed too fragile for Russian roads.
This tiny two-seater named GAZ-18 was designed in 1954 for people with disabilities, especially for the war veterans. It is remarkable as perhaps the smallest car in the world at the time equipped with fully automatic transmission, complete with torque converter, planetary gearset and hydraulic control system.
This experimental 3-liter V6 was designed for the GAZ-24, but never got into mass production, which caused eternal grief to the Volga fans.
No, that is not an alien flying saucer shot down by a Soviet anti-aircraft missile – just the sad remains of an all-terrain vehicle named GAZ-16, developed and built by GAZ in conjunction with the Aircraft Plant #21 which is located in another district of the city. It was a combination of an air-cushion vehicle and a motorcar powered by a 195-hp V8, later substituted with a 390 hp gas turbine. Here it is in its glory days, looking like something Luke Skywalker would’ve used for daily commute on Tatuine:
The designers hoped that it would be equally good both on and off-road, but in fact it proved to be very gas-thirsty, as well as noisy and expensive
and lacked a slot for an astromech droid, so the project was abandoned.
Finally, Volga GAZ-3105 was essentially the last car designed by the plant from the ground up, to date. It was produced in small numbers in the 1990s, but never caught on, mostly due to very high price – basically no one wanted a Volga for the same price as a Mercedes-Benz. The distinctive feature of this early prototype is that most of the side glass is fixed in place – only small lower sub-panes roll up and down for ventilation. That’s something like the “window-within-a-window” design used on the Subaru SVX. Production cars lacked this feature, having normal roll up side windows.
More on the GAZ 24:
GAZ 24 Volga: The Near-Immortal B-Body of Russia by Robert Kim