Cohort Classic: GAZ 13 Chaika – Imitation Is The Sincerest Form Of Flattery

GAZ Chayka f

(first posted 3/7/2013)    That the Russians were big fans of Packard’s designs is indisputable. The famous ZIS-110 was a heavily cribbed 1942 Packard Super (the story of Packard sending its body dies for the 180 to Russia has long been debunked). Its successor, the ZIL-111 drew its inspiration from the same 1955 Packard as does this Chaika, a “smaller” limo for the less well connected party bosses. Somehow, to me they do look more “Russian” than a Cadillac clone would have, or am I just under the spell of these cars? So when DeeTwoAr posted some very detailed shots of a Chaika at the Cohort, they quickly found their way here.

GAZ Chyaka sidee

Compared to the top-line ZIL, equivalent to the Patrician, the Chaika was more like a Clipper: smaller, and decidedly more modest in its ornamentation, right down to the dog-dish hubcaps on this one. They didn’t all come with those, but it rather adds to the appeal. And of course, there’s other American design genes there too; it’s almost like a cross between a Packard and a Checker, with a bit of Mercury thrown in for good measure.

GAZ Chayka int

I’ve seen plenty of shots of Chaikas, but never their interiors. Although it has some differences, it too looks very much inspired by the ’55 Packard instrument panel. I’m particular fond of this vintage American big-car design, and this Chaika is growing on me.

GAZ Chyaka r int

Nikita Kruschev, who never did fully escape his small-town ways, was known to prefer the more modest Chaika over the ZIL, and kept one at his dacha.

GAZ Chyaka engine

That sure looks familiar. The Chaika had a 5.5 L (335 cubic inch) V8 with some 190 hp, teamed up to an automatic said to be similar to a Fordomatic, operated by push buttons. I wonder what the engine resembles? Has anyone ever torn one apart to see which American V8 inspired it? Packard’s new 1955 V8? It should not come as a surprise to know that the Chaika M13 arrived in 1958, three years after the ’55 Packard. As did the big ZIL.

GAZ Chyaka r

Here’s the rear end, but the two lower corner sections of the bumper are missing. The exhausts run out through their tips, like some American cars of the times. Perhaps they were damaged from that, and are being re-chromed.

GAZ Chaika-front

While it’s nice to see the interior and the engine, DeeTwoAr didn’t post a good shot of the whole front end, so I’m borrowing this one from wikipedia. It’s rather necessary to make the Chaika picture complete.