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Russian Car Gaz "Volga" "Wolga"




The first car with the "Volga" name, was launched in the 1956: it was the "M-21". Although it was smaller than the unapproachable limousines, the "M-21" remained a dream for the 99% of the Russians! Differently from the "Pobeda", the performances are "almost" decent (130 km/h), with an improved engine, boosted up to 75 hp, and with an improved lubrification. The coachwork is more pleasant, but, sure, not original (with a typically "american" style). The early versions were equipped with a strange greasing system: a pedal, pressed by the driver, provides to grease the suspensions and other parts. Only defect: the grease in excess is poured...on the road. Today, this is a funny technical feature, but it was quite intelligent and useful for that period!

Other versions were realized: the station-wagon (called "M-22"), the automatic-gearbox version, and also some exemplar with the V8 engine taken from the "Tchaika" limousines (for the KGB and the GAI). The production of the "M-21" was stopped in the 1970, after 14 years and 640.000 produced units, replaced by the "M-24" generation, still today in production.

In the 1968, the GAZ "Volga M-24" cames into production. The engine is the traditional 4-cylinders, boosted up to 2500 cc. and 98 hp, 145 km/h. The coachwork has a more "european" style, with a more simple front part, however it's inspired to some Ford realizations of the period. This car, called in Russia "barzha" (that means "great boat"...), is the most produced in the GAZ's history, and was exported in several countries (in Europe until the '92, exactly in Belgium, with Peugeot diesel engines).

The GAZ realized also the station wagon version ("M-24 Universal"), and the cabriolet. During the '80s, a new 12-valves engine was mounted (GAZ "3102"). There was some exemplar with the V8 engine taken from the "Chaika" limousines, and even some exemplar with Wankel two-rotor engine (produced by Lada), with 210 hp. Probably, also others Wankel models were produced, with three rotors and 280 hp (!!). These types of Wankel models were used by the KGB patrols; tyres and brakes were still old-type, with diagonal-structure and drums (not disks)!

After several slight variants, in 1997 the "Volga 3110", cames into existance. It derives from the "M-24", restylized in the front and in the interior; the engine is the same, old 2500 (eight valves) of the old model. With 1600 kg and only 100 hp, the performances are ridicolous: 0-100 in 20 seconds (slower than a Fiat Panda), the max speed is 150 km/h. Now, a new 16 valevs engine 16 valves (150 hp) is available, but...it has still a threatening reliability (the previous engine is enough reliable, if well maintained). With a frequent maintenance, the "Volga" is an enough rugged car, but it's absolutely outdated and not competitive with the medium and high class cars from Europe and Japan. The last version (launched at the Moscow Show 2002) has been improved in several components, and equipped with new lights.

But the generation of the old "M-24" is destined to live still for some years: above, the new version of the "3110", launched at the Moscow Show 2003, and equipped with the same headlights of the model "3111". Therefore, although this car is 35 years old, it remains still the main product of the old factory of Nizhny Novgorod! And, considering that there is no certainty about eventual future models...

With the engine of the "Volga" cars, also a truck/minibus was realized: the RAF "Latvia", produced in the city of Riga. The early models of "Latvia" were realized in the early years '50s, and they had the engine of the GAZ "M-21", 2100 cc; they were called ERAZ "762", subsequently RAF "Latvia 977".Also... two prototypes, called RAF "8" and RAF "10"; the RAF "10" had a very pleasant style for its time...unfortunately, it never entered in production.

Since the 1976, a new model was produced, named "Latvia 2203", with the 2500 cc. unit of the GAZ "M-24". As on the previous models, the engine was positioned between the front axle (that had indipendent suspensions), directly into the cabin and between the front seats; a quite untimely solution, because the exahust gas had the tendence to go into the cabin! Considering that this vehicle was (an is currently) used especially as ambulance, probably several unlucky Russian patients were "gased" by this vehicle...Moreover, the roadholding was quite poor, like the braking, with drums on the four wheels. In the 1989, a Russian institute of design, the "NAMI", realized the prototype of a new version, but it remained as prototype. The production of the RAF "Latvia" was definitively stopped in the 1997.

The most important model by GAZ, after the difficulties post-1991: the new GAZ "3111-Volga". The coachwork of this car is very elegant, and also original. The GAZ "3111" has a 2500 cc. 16V DONS engine, 4 cylinders, 150 hp, produced by ZMZ, and rear wheel drive. The platform, indeed, is the same of the old "M-24" (although modified), with leaf spring suspensions and rear drum brakes! Anyway, all the components are improved (for example, the headlights are German, produced by Hella), and the car is equipped with air-bags, power windows, air-conditioner, ABS, adjustable steering column and seats. Also a turbodiesel licensed by Steyr-Puch, 2200 cc, direct injection, 114 hp, was planned. Finally, a very beautiful Russian car!Unfortunately, the "3111" was produced in a very limited number of exemplars, and there are not many hopes that the production will continue, due to the uncertain situation of the factory.



Another important model for the GAZ is the "Ataman", a rugged 4x4 engineered for the work and the free-time (category very requested in Russia, where the roads are a disaster). The coachwork is very old about the design, but it can be enough pleasant, with the "rude" style of the pick-up version. The SW version ("Ataman Yermak"): very "square"...but this model is more similar to a truck.

New 4x4: the "2169 Kombat", launched at the Moscow Show 2000. At first glance, it seems a new model, with a "retro" style; but the front is too similar at the old GAZ "69"...is the old model? Indeed, this car has only the look in common with the old Soviet jeep: floorpan and engine are totally new, and the coachwork is realized in fiberglass (but, for the definitive production, it will be realized in metal). The engine is a turbodiesel 2.2, 110 hp, realized under Steyr-Puch's license. Recently, also an hard-top version called "3120" was launched.

A very beautiful car: the GAZ "3106" (or "Ataman II"), a SUV in BMW "X5"-style. The transmission is all-time 4WD, the rest of the mechanical part is the same of the "3111": therefore, same engines, also diesel (but the diesel is a Steyr-Puch 2700 with 5 cylinders, 141 hp). Unfortunately, this version remained as prototype; at the Moscow Autosalon 2003, the GAZ launched a new version of the "3106", with a restyled coachwork, less original and pleasant. The engine is the 2300 16V with 150 hp. The definitive date of production is still unknown.

Moreover, the GAZ produces also military vehicles (special-purpose vehicles, tanks, etc.). It's the GAZ "2975-Tiger", the rival of the legendary American "Hummer"! Enough similar to the "Hummer" about the general layout, the "Tiger" has many of American also under the cowl: the engines are Cummins turbodiesel, six-cylinders, 180 or 215 hp (the more powerful version is capable of 150 km/h on the road, very good performance considering that the weight is 5000 kg!!!). Only Russian engine in the Tiger's engine range, a GAZ-562 with 197 hp, always turbodiesel with six-cylinders. The "Tiger" will be used especially in the African countries and in Saudi Arabia, and also a civil version will be produced, although with an high price.





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