Unfortunately, Soviet carmakers didn’t have much to offer. However, there were some nice up-to-date cars worth mentioning like the GAZ-M20 Pobeda or the VAZ-2121 Niva, one of the first Soviet compact and comfortable SUVs made. The GAZ-21 Volga has always had a special place in the hearts of Soviet people and this love is unexplainable. You will never find a person to say something mean about this car.
Apparently, the Volga owes its life to the Pobeda, one of the most technically advanced Soviet automobiles of that time.
The Ford Mainline that probably served as an inspiration for the engineers of GAZ looks more elegant.
This is one of the first GAZ-21 models. They had to change its gitter because G. Zhukov didn’t like it. Finally, they replaced it with the one you see in the photo with a star.
Design Manager A. Nevzorov.
The Vogla was not a redesigned Pobeda. It was a new car that was equipped with modern technologies; it was more spacious, powerful and fuel efficient. The Volga was perhaps the most comfortable and technically advanced car in the country. It featured a radio receiver, a heater and an automatic transmission (which they ceased to install some time later).
Design Manager L. Eremeev (on the left).
Judging by the given picture, it is clear that nothing revolutionary was installed in the Volga.
In 1954, GAZ purchased a Ford Mainline “to study its automatic gearbox” but you can’t help noticing the similarity of appearance of the two cars (although the Volga was more compact, had a shorter trunk, etc.).
From 1956 till 1958, they manufactured 30,000 Volgas featuring an ATM.
From 1959 till 1962, they manufactured 140,000 autos featuring a new gitter.
They began to manufacture the third series of the Volga in 1962. Over 450,000 cars were made.
The popular deer decorating the hood of the Volga of the 1st and 2nd series was not used in the 3rd series (as a safety measure). The deer was also a draw for thieves but Volga owners still loved it and often bought it to install on the hood of their car.
This is an advertisement of the second generation of the Volga. That two-tone color was a pricy option, by the way.
The Volga featured a very comfortable interior with a soft sofa and a beautiful dashboard.
They ceased to install automatic gearboxes because they needed good oil and service which the country didn’t have. So, less than 1,000 Volgas with an ATM were manufactured. Many car owners paid to have it replaced with an MTM.
The GAZ-22 wagon was released in 1962.
The Volga was rather roomy and had a large trunk. It was equipped with a 2.5 L 70 hp engine which was 15 hp more than that of the Pobeda.
This photo was taken in Kabul in 2001-2002.
The most amazing Volga was the GAZ-23. It was intended for special services and featured a V8 5.5 L (195 hp) engine, although there was nothing special about the way it looked. Its maximum speed was 160 km/h which was an impressive characteristic for that time. The total number of those Volgas manufactured was 603.
The GAZ-21 Volga was extremely popular in the 60s.
The Volga and races are totally incompatible but this car once participated in an international rally.
By the way, international magazines described the Volga as a high-quality well-assembled car.
Soviet cosmonaut Y. Gagarin was one of the most well-known owners of the GAZ-21. He received his driver’s license later than he was sent to space!
This GAZ-21 has been redesigned by an Italian car studio Ghia.
An advertisement of the Volga’s Belgium importer.
Despite its merits, the Volga wasn’t that popular overseas. One of the reasons for that was its star on the gitter that indicated the car’s origin and the Soviet Union was believed to be a country threatening the world with Communism.
Making the Volga a right-hand drive car didn’t help it win popularity in the West either, even though some of its importers would sometimes equip it with more fuel-efficient Peugeot and Rover diesel engines. The Volga was just too big for European countries.
The last GAZ-21 Volga was manufactured in 1970. Its successor, a new GAZ-24, didn’t enjoy wide popularity either.
Nowadays, the GAZ-21 is one of the most popular retro cars in Russia. Some people are ready to fork out up to $70,000 for it! The GAZ-21 may often be seen in Soviet movies. It was popular among actors, singers, cosmonauts and politicians becoming one of the symbols of the USSR.