Unfortunately, I was not able to take part in this year’s show myself because my Volga has shown her temper once again and burst a cooling system hose. The event was not particularly spectacular – for the most part it was just the usual set of old Soviet cars, but with several curious additions. For the start, you can see the latest acquisition of our local classic car club – a GAZ-53 medium truck, powered by a 4.2 liter aluminum V8 derived from the GAZ Chayka engine. They used to be everywhere during my childhood, but now it is not a common sight.
The aptly named M-20 Pobeda [Poh-bed-ah] – Victory – you don’t see a lot of these stodgy looking, but sturdily built cars any more, as well. But this particular one is still used as a daily driver by its elderly owner.
The grille denotes it as an early car produced between 1946 and 1955, most probably after 1949. It still has the original flathead four – essentially a pre-war Chrysler Flathead Six with two cylinders sawed off. The dark blue color is very characteristic of this model, and it seems to be the original nitrocellulose-based paint, with a lot of local repairs.
GAZ-21 Volgas were especially abundant, as usual. This model has evolved from a more or less mundane everyday transportation into an object of a cult following during the last two decades. It was built essentially on the same platform as the Pobeda (with the exception of the all-new engine), but the styling was a vast improvement, if not especially modern for its time (1957-1970).
A lot of these cars were produced for sale in export markets outside of the Soviet Union; this particular wagon was sold in Finland. Many of these export cars returned home later. This one has been fully restored in 2014-2015 and resprayed into the original dark green color.
This GAZ-24 Volga is beautifully restored, not a factory color, but looks great. Judging by the lack of bumper guards and other details, it was built sometime between 1973 and 1977. And the black one on the right is a later model, also in a very good shape.
The second generation Moskvich was the first small car developed in the USSR completely from scratch. It enjoyed a moderate success on export markets, there is even a semi-legend about a shipment of these cars bound for the United States, but canceled because of the Cuban Missile Crisis of October, 1962. I seriously doubt it had any chances stateside, though, because, just as many European economy cars of its time, it was by far too sluggish for America’s high-speed highways and interstates – much more suitable for a bumpy dirt road to a dacha with its 15″ wheels.
This particular car is a late version produced in 1962-64 and designated Moskvich-403. Two-tone paint was available on this model from factory, but not this particular color combo – factory schemes were all dark top / light bottom, so it is kind of reversed.
A Moskvich-408 De Luxe, as denoted by the quad headlights, built between 1964 and sometime around 1967. Most of the De Luxes were bound for the export markets, but the narrow rocker panel moldings mark it as a domestic market car – export versions had wider moldings fixed on the doors. During the 1960s the road system in Central Russia improved drastically, hence the smaller 13″ wheels. The styling is also much sleeker, with some Italian overtones.
And this is a version for the kids, produced by the same Lenin’s Komsomol Car Plant in Moscow. These pedal powered kid cars may cost as much as a real Mossie these days.
A station wagon version. Rectangular headlights sourced from GDR were used in 1969-1975 by the Moscow plant, and the Izhevsk plant, which produced these cars as well, had to make do with the round ones.
The latest version of this car, the Moskvich-2140, was produced between 1976 and 1988. Not a bad car by itself, it was largely unpopular because of its outdated design.
ZAZ-968A – my father owned a car just like this one in mid-1980s, but his Zappo was baby blue.
GAZ-67 was the Soviet answer to the Jeep, albeit not quite as successful. All-wheel drive, powered by the licensed Ford model B engine.
And this car looks like an original postwar Willys Jeep. I don’t know this particular model, maybe someone will recognize it?
Everyone likes American “muscle cars”… even if they only have a small block under the hood, like this 2-gen Camaro.
The real gem of the show was this 1937 BMW 321. If every car has a story, I’d really like to listen to the story of this one! Was it bought new by some Soviet engineer during his assignment in Germany before the war, or taken as a war trophy by the Red Army in 1945, or? Unfortunately I didn’t have the chance to speak with the owner.
I also could not find out if it still had the original engine (it sounded a bit too modern for that), but the chassis is all original, with transverse leaf spring independent front suspension and rack-and-pinion steering. It is a wonderful piece of old Germanic engineering, and a gorgeous restoration, too. Just look at these mirror-like reflections on its doors. I’ve never been into prewar cars, but now I’m starting to appreciate their timeless elegance and peculiar construction details.
Not only cars were exhibited at the show. This is a Tula 200M motoroller (scooter), a close relative of the West German Glas Goggo-Roller TA200. In the USSR scooters never achieved the same level of popularity as in Western Europe, mostly because of their inability to cope with the typical Soviet road conditions – full-size motorcycles were much more usable. These vintage machines are dirt cheap today, but that is going to change soon, so its a good investment.
And these Jawa motorcycles from Czechoslovakia are already a collector’s item. This one is completely restored and equipped with a Velorex sidecar, somewhat not typical for this model.
The event took place near the Victory Park, with its military vehicles exhibition. By far the most popular among the public was this IS-3, well known today to gamers as a Tier VIII heavy tank in the World of Tanks online game.
Several WW2-period cars and trucks were also present, including this GAZ-AA 1.5 ton truck…
…and this GAZ-67, with its peculiar, but not very reliable front suspension on double quarter-elliptic leaf springs.
Cool pictures. I like the styling of the older Russian cars. Correct me if I am wrong. I read that GAZ Volgas was for the party elite, while oridinary people drove Ladas and Moskvichs.
Simply put, it was the Soviet Checker – 60% or more of these cars were purchased by the taxi service right off the assembly line. Half of the rest were purchased by other fleet buyers and used as company cars, rental cars, etc.
Until perhaps mid-1970s it was quite difficult for an individual owner to buy a brand new one, e.g. in the late 1950s the purchase included a check by the financial police (OBKhSS) – where did you get the money, comrade ? However, there was a number of “written-off” taxicabs on the used car market, usually bought by the same taxi drivers who worked on them. By mid-1980s, imported cars (Volvo, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Tatra) were becoming the norm for the elite, and buying a Volga was just a question of money.
Party elite usually didn’t have personal cars because they used take-home cars, complete with drivers. “Ordinary people” usually didn’t have cars – and mostly not because they couldn’t buy one, but because they didn’t feel the need to. Owning a car was seen as troublesome (maintenance, insurance, fuel, getting parts, etc.).
Among the people who I or my family new, one Volga owner was a test pilot (wasn’t happy about it, the car was too heavy for him to push if stuck in mud, he had a spinal cord injury from an emergency landing), the other was a military doctor, and our neighbors, a family of champion parachute jumpers, had a Volga wagon since late 1970s which they used to travel with all of their parachute gear (they still own it, I’ve seen it on one of their recent photos). The first owner of one of my Volgas was a professor of the Lobachevsky University, he bought it new in 1983. The owner of another one bought it new in 1965 when he worked on an oil processing plant, later becoming its director (didn’t use it much, preferred a company car). That’s all pretty much typical cases.
Thanks for the explanation. Found someone made a Volga replica built on BMW mechanicals. Looks sharp, especially from the back.
It appears ZiL was the choice of the party elite. Makes sense since these are cars that look like they are designed to be driven in, rather than driven.
Great overview of a car show that very few Americans will get to see, Stanislav. It was especially interesting to read your observations about how the collector market for certain vehicles is moving. Jawa motorcycles, I knew about and thought would eventually be sought after in Russia because of their history of being high quality machines. Tula scooters, I have never seen or even heard of before, and their rising collectiblity is an interesting development. My guess is that although not many people owned them and have memories of them, they benefit from the worldwide interest in Vespas and scooters in general and in Russia have the additional cachet of being seen as “ours.”
I was surprised not to see an over-representation of GAZ-21 and GAZ-24 Volgas in the hometown of GAZ, but you may have left out most of them in order not to be repetitive.
For some odd reason vintage utilitarian vehicles really appeal to me. This goes double for Eastern Bloc ones. I much prefer the honesty of a Model T, a VW Beetle, or a Lada Niva to something that is over styled and designed for planned obsolescence.
The jeep in pic #16 is not a Willys. It looks modern to me, with some metal shapes that look more 1980s than 1940s.
The kid in pic #7 is itching to open the hood and get his hands on things, but Mom wants him to move on. He will remember this.
The secon generation Moskvich may not have been a “hit” if it were sold in the U..S., But then again, some people DID buy SuBARu 360s, At least the Moskvich is a real car!
Those latter-generation Volgas are quite attractive, or were before their ’90s facelift anyway. I’m sure there have been any variety of resto-mods performed on these cars; with some creativity, it looks like almost anything would fit.
Nice array of unusual vehicles, Jawa is a familiar brand quite rare now but common when I was younger, they were well reguarded, most of the Soviet cars we got here were the 125 Fiat style and the Niva, theyve become rare sights on the roads though Napier does still boast a Lada parts dealer they came here as payment for butter exports along with Belarus tractors.
Great post – always enjoyable to see some vehicles we have little exposure to in North America. Your commentary also provides some great insights.
Great selection Stanislav. Lovely array of exotic shapes like that Velorex sidecar. Do you have a pic of the rear of the Pobeda; interesting to see that four-door fastback configuration. I’ll take the BMW 321 or the Moskvitch 408 toy, thanks.
A wonderful show, thanks for sharing. Some of these may be very common to you but not to most of us! For once, almost nobody here has a pre-selected favorite. I think I’d take a Gaz-24 Volga if given the choice, that red one does look very nice.
Neat pics, I would gladly drive any of those. I would give a left appendage for a GAZ-13.
this is why I love this site! you learn and see things from all over the world.
I seem to remember a road test of a Pobeda in a mid 1950’s Popular Science magazine of my dads. Does this ring a bell with anyone else?
I have that issue stashed away somewhere. Can’t remember the exact date, possibly 1955 as they compared it to a current Chevy that I think was a tri-five. The reviewers found that Soviet chrome was of better quality than the equivalent found on American cars and were very impressed with the tool kit provided with the car from the factory. On the other hand, there was a photo of completely distorted vision through the rear window. The verdict was that the car was solid, but too old fashioned and not competitive and that “if Russians build rockets like they do cars, we have nothing to worry about”.
Yes, They were tested in the US. I have some pictures of the test car in US cities.
Wow, loved this coverage and photos of cars I’ve only read about in spy novels, thanks! Particularly loved seeing the GAZ-67. Am so appreciative of the international scope of CC and grateful to have this automotive “window on the world” available. Cheers!
Love the Gaz 21, and that BMW. What a gem!
The GAZ 21 and 24 Volgas are particularly handsome cars. Thanks for a great article.
Thanks for the chance to see the show. Volga wagon for me, please!
Someone drove a GAZ 21 around southern Australia about eight or nine years back. I was lucky enough to see it at the National Motor Museum at Birdwood.
I must admit it was a pleasant surprise to see how good it looked in the metal, plus it seemed to be a good quality machine- the chrome and general fittings all looked nice and solid.
Never mind the cars; IS-3 (successor was T-10) had 122mm field gun, not high-velocity but good throw weight, said able to knock German turrets off whole, & also had good HE capability against soft targets. Downsides: limited ammunition supply & slow firing rate. Soviet tanks have had tight interiors, as the reduction in armored volume mattered more to designers than crew efficiency. I heard Mongolians were chosen as crews for their shorter stature.
Heavy tanks fell out of favor by the 1960s in favor of what were then medium tanks, now Main Battle Tanks, which are now about as heavy as the old heavy tanks!
German expert Rolfe Hilmes had a fascinating juxtaposition showing how Soviet tanks have changed little in overall length despite increases in turret & gun size since WW2. The engine compartment was what shrank.
I had a few pictures taken of GAZ-21 (Volga) at the Victory Day celebration in Toronto last Sunday. Was surprised that someone brought it to Canada.
It’s kind of funny (or sad) but once you get out into the sticks in rural Russia (Southern Siberia in my case, Altai Krai), many of these “classics” are very much daily drivers for rural inhabitants, mostly older folks. GAZ 53 and Zil 130/131 is still a staple breadwinner in my grandma’s village. Izh/AZLK -412 is getting rarer but still a not unusual sight. VAZ-2101s are common on the ground, they dont’ even catch one’s eye. GAZ-24 Volgas are the same way. There are a few true old timers driven by old guys hauling potatoes to market even in Akademgorodok (prosperous college town near Novosibirsk): a Moskvitch 407 and a GAZ 21 Volga. Zaporozhets is perhaps the most rare, I’ve only seen one in regular non-car-show use out in the Altai mountain region back in 2006, they are real billygoats over rough terrain due to favorable weight distribution and ground clearance, like an old VW bug.
A truck full of firewood for 5000 rubles, some cutting and splitting required
Cousin’s friend’s driveway with a Zil131 and his early 2000s Volga 3110 (same old 70s era 24 with a big facelift/mopdernization and fuel injected engine) For “roads” like these, a soft riding Volga is just the ticket. Moskvitches ride second best IMO on their rear leaf springs. Ladas are a distant third IMO.
My great uncle’s (RIP) early 80s VAZ 2101. A bit of a noisy valvetrain but it zips along just fine!
A typical cozy home in the village of Lesnoe near Biysk, with a roof-rack equipped Izh-412 Moskvitch in the driveway. Many of my relatives in this village owned Moskvitches until about 10 years ago. They are regarded as being better offroad than Ladas owning to better ground clearance, a high-mounted distributor, and withstand overloading better with leafsprings rather than coils out back.
Finally back in Akademgorodok, a walk around the communal garage block. A pleasant surprise, an old Moskvitch 408 plodding along!
Rounding things out, here is a shot of my family’s own 1972 Zaporozhets 966B (1.2L V4 air cooled 40hp engine). My dad bought it in the mid 80s in order to be able to buy the garage (commands economy, had to prove a ‘need’), the main motivator there being the root cellar underground for storing home-canned goods.
Neat photos, both Stanislav Alexeyev and gtemnykh! I noticed that someone else was photographing his sweetie in front of the red Moskvich while you were picturing it from the side.
That BMW looks great, and don’t overlook the styling on the Volga GAZ-24 anf 403- both look pretty well execiuted and able to stand their own against some contemporary western cars
Isn’t it “Poh-bieh-dah”? Some reports from the ’50s considered it a clone (no such a word back then) of the Opel Kapitän projected for 1943.
It’s probably best rendered as “Poe-BEH-dah”, with the accent on the second syllable. The design was partially based on the Opel originally, but so much was eventually changed that it was not a clone at all. There was also some Ford influence mechanically, as GAZ had a history with Ford going back to before the war (the 1930s GAZ-A was a modified version of the Model A Ford, built with Henry’s help and approval). However, overall the Pobeda can be considered a mostly original design. Various aspects of it were copied from somewhere, but not the whole car.
too cool! i’m going to forward this to my step aunt who lives here but is from riga.
those 70s volgas are a handsome clean design. almost has a 67 ford falcon look.
surely there must be some entrepreneurs importing these gems to the states. might be an alternative to overpriced and over represented american classics.
I too see a fair bit of Falcon there!
Great pics! I remember most of these as common everyday cars from my 1970s childhood. In major cities they are now collectible, but for many rural Russians today they are still a daily reality.
THANK YOU ! .
This is great , photos and comments .