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'Heroes of Their Time': top Russian car maker's automotive marvels

On display at the GUM shopping center in Moscow is the one-of-a-kind exhibit, “Heroes of Their Time”, dedicated to the 80th anniversary of the Gorky Automobile Plant (GAZ), one of Russia’s leading car manufacturers.
By Olga Sokolova, special to RBTH
On display at the GUM shopping center in Moscow is the one-of-a-kind exhibit, “Heroes of Their Time”, dedicated to the 80th anniversary of the Gorky Automobile Plant (GAZ), one of Russia’s leading car manufacturers.
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Olga Sokolova

On display at the GUM shopping center in Moscow is the one-of-a-kind exhibit, “Heroes of Their Time”, dedicated to the 80th anniversary of the Gorky Automobile Plant (GAZ), one of Russia’s leading car manufacturers.
The exhibit’s location is no coincidence. The car manufacturing branch of the State Institute for Design of New Metallurgic Plants (Gipromez) was situated in GUM’s building at the end of the 1920s, long before the plant first appeared.

Olga Sokolova

The exhibit’s location is no coincidence. The car manufacturing branch of the State Institute for Design of New Metallurgic Plants (Gipromez) was situated in GUM’s building at the end of the 1920s, long before the plant first appeared.
The exhibit consists of 11 stages that display GAZ’s major milestones: from laying the foundations of the future auto giant’s plant in Nizhny Novgorod to its latest brainchild—the GAZel NEXT light commercial truck which started manufacturing at the beginning of 2013.

Olga Sokolova

The exhibit consists of 11 stages that display GAZ’s major milestones: from laying the foundations of the future auto giant’s plant in Nizhny Novgorod to its latest brainchild—the GAZel NEXT light commercial truck which started manufacturing at the beginning of 2013.
The GAZ 4 pick-up truck, released from 1933 to 1936, was the company’s first vehicle. In its essence, it was a continuation of the development of the GAZ-A, the first domestically-manufactured automobile in Russia, which was created on the basis of the Ford A. The vehicle was equipped with a 40-horse power gas engine which allowed it to reach speeds of up to 90 km/hr and transport up to 400 kg of cargo. Over 5 thousand GAZ-4s were released during its manufacture, most of which were used by the Red Army.

Olga Sokolova

The GAZ 4 pick-up truck, released from 1933 to 1936, was the company’s first vehicle. In its essence, it was a continuation of the development of the GAZ-A, the first domestically-manufactured automobile in Russia, which was created on the basis of the Ford A. The vehicle was equipped with a 40-horse power gas engine which allowed it to reach speeds of up to 90 km/hr and transport up to 400 kg of cargo. Over 5 thousand GAZ-4s were released during its manufacture, most of which were used by the Red Army.
The next unique GAZ pick-up truck on display at the exhibit is the famous GAZ-M-415, which was manufactured from 1939 to 1941. In 1936, the vehicles participated in the famous Pamir auto race, covering a distance of 12,300 km, 2,300 km of which were off-road. The automobile is equipped with a 50-horse power engine that allows it to reach speeds of up to 105 km/hr.

Olga Sokolova

The next unique GAZ pick-up truck on display at the exhibit is the famous GAZ-M-415, which was manufactured from 1939 to 1941. In 1936, the vehicles participated in the famous Pamir auto race, covering a distance of 12,300 km, 2,300 km of which were off-road. The automobile is equipped with a 50-horse power engine that allows it to reach speeds of up to 105 km/hr.
Without a doubt, one of the exhibit’s most original components is the GAZ-GL-1 (the “Racing Lipgart”). It was the first Soviet sports car and the fastest car in the Soviet Union at the time. Arkady Nikolayev set a Soviet speed record on the GAZ-GL-1, reaching a speed of 161.87 km/hr.

Olga Sokolova

Without a doubt, one of the exhibit’s most original components is the GAZ-GL-1 (the “Racing Lipgart”). It was the first Soviet sports car and the fastest car in the Soviet Union at the time. Arkady Nikolayev set a Soviet speed record on the GAZ-GL-1, reaching a speed of 161.87 km/hr.
The next milestone for GAZ and Russia on display at the GUM exhibit is the famous GAZ-AA Polutorka. It was the first domestic cargo vehicle to be completely manufactured by conveyor-belt assembly. A multitude of various automobile technologies was developed based on the Polutorka. It is the vehicle most closely associated with World War II, during which it became one of the main means of transporting freight and people. During the blockade, it transported approximately 400 thousand tons of cargo and delivered over 1.5 million people to the “promised land”.

Olga Sokolova

The next milestone for GAZ and Russia on display at the GUM exhibit is the famous GAZ-AA Polutorka. It was the first domestic cargo vehicle to be completely manufactured by conveyor-belt assembly. A multitude of various automobile technologies was developed based on the Polutorka. It is the vehicle most closely associated with World War II, during which it became one of the main means of transporting freight and people. During the blockade, it transported approximately 400 thousand tons of cargo and delivered over 1.5 million people to the “promised land”.
GAZ and the USSR’s post-war period are connected with another legendary vehicle: the GAZ-M-20 Pobeda (Victory). It was the first “wingless” car in the world and the first convertible in the Soviet Union. Pobeda became the first mass-produced Soviet automobile to be exported to other countries. In addition, the cars were licensed for manufacture in Poland under the “Warszawa” (Warsaw) brand name. The power of Pobeda’s engine’s featured 50-52 liters of air per second and had a maximum speed of 105 km/hr.  A dark green 1950 Pobeda is on display at the exhibit.

Olga Sokolova

GAZ and the USSR’s post-war period are connected with another legendary vehicle: the GAZ-M-20 Pobeda (Victory). It was the first “wingless” car in the world and the first convertible in the Soviet Union. Pobeda became the first mass-produced Soviet automobile to be exported to other countries. In addition, the cars were licensed for manufacture in Poland under the “Warszawa” (Warsaw) brand name. The power of Pobeda’s engine’s featured 50-52 liters of air per second and had a maximum speed of 105 km/hr. A dark green 1950 Pobeda is on display at the exhibit.
The GAZ-21 Volga was a truly cult classic in all meanings of the phrase. The beginnings of its manufacturing (1956-1970) directly correspond to the period of thaw in Cold War relations and democratic changes in the Soviet Union. A wide spectrum of Soviet culture and cinema are tied to the GAZ-21 Volga. It was exported to 75 countries and continues to be manufactured to this day in some of those countries, including Cuba. The car is equipped with a 75-horse power gas engine that allows it to reach speeds of up to 130 km/hr.

Olga Sokolova

The GAZ-21 Volga was a truly cult classic in all meanings of the phrase. The beginnings of its manufacturing (1956-1970) directly correspond to the period of thaw in Cold War relations and democratic changes in the Soviet Union. A wide spectrum of Soviet culture and cinema are tied to the GAZ-21 Volga. It was exported to 75 countries and continues to be manufactured to this day in some of those countries, including Cuba. The car is equipped with a 75-horse power gas engine that allows it to reach speeds of up to 130 km/hr.
Throughout the period of its manufacture, 638,875 GAZ-21 vehicles were created at the plant. A continuation of the Volga brand is seen in the 24 and 31passenger car models. Unfortunately, GAZ does not currently manufacture Volga passenger vehicles. When asked by RBTH’s correspondent if a revival of the Volga brand is in the works, Manfred Aybek, the CEO of the Russian Machines Corporation and member of the GAZ’s Board of Directors responded with a categorical “no”. According to him, the company currently specializes in manufacturing light commercial trucks.

Olga Sokolova

Throughout the period of its manufacture, 638,875 GAZ-21 vehicles were created at the plant. A continuation of the Volga brand is seen in the 24 and 31passenger car models. Unfortunately, GAZ does not currently manufacture Volga passenger vehicles. When asked by RBTH’s correspondent if a revival of the Volga brand is in the works, Manfred Aybek, the CEO of the Russian Machines Corporation and member of the GAZ’s Board of Directors responded with a categorical “no”. According to him, the company currently specializes in manufacturing light commercial trucks.
November 12, 2013
Tags: cars, history, exhibition

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