Soviet Cars: History of the Copy-and-Paste Industry — Part 2 of 3

In early 1930s with­out any licens­ing arrange­ments the Soviet engi­neers copied the first lim­ou­sine car  for the Com­mu­nist party exec­u­tives. In 1932 six lim­ou­sines were copied off the Amer­i­can Buick 90L. How­ever,  later the fac­tory pro­duc­tion line was switched to pro­duc­ing cater­pil­lar tractors,so the lim­ou­sine busi­ness was shifted to Moscow Stalin Factory.



The car, based on the engine of the Buick and the body copied off the Cadil­lac, was given another non-poetic name, ZIS — 101.  It also had Buick radi­a­tor bars.

By the begin­ning of the Sec­ond World War there were three huge car fac­to­ries in the USSR.  Despite the fact that the USSR already had its own highly edu­cated and tal­ented engi­neers,  the very first post-war lim­ou­sine ZIS-110 was also a copy of an obso­lete Amer­i­can car.   When mak­ing a deci­sion about the launch of a new car, the engi­neers selected four mod­els – Packard 180, Packard Clip­per, Cadil­lac 75 and Cadil­lac 63.   Stalin him­self was to make the deci­sion, and he picked the Packard 180.

Soviet Car


In August 1945 the Soviet gov­ern­ment issued a decree on the open­ing the Moscow Fac­tory of Small Capac­ity Cars.   The same decree estab­lished the tech­ni­cal fea­tures of the new car as well as the com­mence­ment dates for the pro­duc­tion lines.   The pat­terns for the new car were also selected by Stalin.  The Soviet leader liked the pre-war Ger­man Opel Cadette.  In order to please Stalin, the Soviet engi­neers urgently found sev­eral tro­phy C-38.   The cars were dis­man­tled and the designs of the parts were sketched.  The first five engines were made by Novem­ber 1946 and the cars were on the road by the end of the same year.  Inter­est­ingly enough, thenext gen­er­a­tion of cars under the brand “Moskvich” was made on the basis of Amer­i­can Ford Pre­fect and Ford Tau­rus rather than the Ger­man range.   The sam­ples of those cars were pur­chased abroad.

Cloned Soviet cars - 2

The denounce­ment of the Stalin cult and a new seven-years plan to develop the Soviet econ­omy for the period of 1959 – 1965 had  inspired the Soviet engi­neers to cre­ate more cars.  The flag­man cars of that time were the ZIL-111 and GAZ-13 “Chaika” devel­oped after the trial runs of best Amer­i­can exec­u­tives cars.  The ambi­tions towards the rapidly chang­ing Amer­i­can fash­ion had made the ZIL-111 obso­lete by the begin­ning of 1960s.   That is why this car was later redesigned in the Cadil­lac style of 1960 – 1961.  Nev­er­the­less, the pro­duc­tion of GAZ-13 “Chaika” was con­tin­ued with­out any changes in its design till the 1979.

Soviet Car


12 thoughts on “Soviet Cars: History of the Copy-and-Paste Industry — Part 2 of 3”

  1. I thought owning a car was frowned upon by the Soviet government. On modest salaries, how can a Russian peasant own one? Did many peasants own cars? If not, who drove them?

  2. Way to compare apples and ceiling fans there Kirov.

    The model T was ancient cave technology and the Volga was basically a tank, nothing could scratch it.

    • Hey there is nothing wrong with Volga. If you were lucky, you could put an engine of a mercedes Benz (diesel) and you had a superb car. Even without MB engine it was a good car.

      And YES it was possible to get a MB-engine in Communist times, how I know? Because my uncle had such Volga with MB during the mid-80ties.

      Second I do not understand that problem USA vs. USSR car, today SEAT, VW and Ford had the same car, except the marking and logo (e.g. old model of ford galaxy).

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    • The GAZ-14 was based on the GAZ-13 chaika (technically). Although the design did not directly copy any western car, it was a gathering of stolen ideas from several different western cars.

      As sad as it may sound, the Soviet Union NEVER produced a truly genuine and original car on their own… 🙁

      A friend of mine used to work in the NAMI (the automotive design bureau at the time of USSR), and he said that there were a lot of original designs and ideas. Unfortunately not a single one made it to mass production.

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