It’s always a great pleasure to blog about little known vehicles that were produced behind the Iron Curtain like today’s car the GAZ M13 Chaika was seen at Haynes International Motor Museum a few weeks ago.
Since I first blogged about the GAZ M21 I have learned a little more about the company which was founded in 1929 in a cooperation between Ford and the Soviet Union as the Nizhegorodsky Avtomobilny Zavod, NAZ, Nizhegorodsky Automobile Plant, at Nizhny Novgorod in the Volga Region approximately 500 miles east of Moscow.
The factory started out making Ford Model A cars and Model AA light trucks known as NAZ-A and NAZ-AA respectively. In 1933 Nizhny Novgorod was renamed Gorky, after Maxim Gorky a writer who was born in the city and Nizhegorodsky Avtomobilny Zavod was renamed Gorkovsky Avtomobilny Zavod shortened to GAZ.
Gorky, the city, was renamed Nizhny Novgorod in 1990 but the vehicle manufacturer retained the GAZ name.
The luxury M13 Chaika seen here was produced from 1959 to 1981, though the mechanical underpinnings remained in production until 1988 fitted with a marginally more modern body until 1988.
Styling of the Chaika drew heavily on the 1956 Mercury Montclair Phaeton with a potpourri of 1956 Cadillac Series 62 inspired features thrown in. With a 195 hp being transmitted from it’s V8 engine via a copy of the push button operated Chrysler TorqueFlite transmission the Chaika, translates into ‘gull’, was capable of 99 mph.
Seems incredible in this day and age to even conceive the idea that such a luxury vehicle was not made for sale. All 3,100 examples of the Chaika made over a period of 22 years were added to motor pools and issued to top professionals, Communist Party officials, scientists, academics and VIP’s. The KGB also ordered these vehicles in large numbers.
Despite being entitled to larger ZIL limousines the Soviet head of state Nikita Khrushchev is known to have expressed a preference for the GAZ M13 even having one kept at his dacha.
Three versions of the Chaika were manufactured most were M13 saloons, but for ceremonial purposes open a 4 dr M13b convertible was produced from 1961 to 1962. The estate / station wagon M13A Universal is the rarest Chaika produced in the 1960’s primarily for use as ambulances and funeral cars.
At the time the Chaika was first in production the Soviet Union was leading the space race, a fact possibly not lost on the stylist responsible for the M13’s tail light assembly….
though he may also have admired ’56 Cadillac Series 62 for its attention to detail and copied the idea of routing the exhaust pipes through the rear bumper !
Thanks for joining me for today’s motor pool edition of ‘Gettin’ a lil’ psycho on tyres’, I hope you’ll join me again tomorrow for a look at a handcrafted Lanchester. As they might say in Russia, Не забудьте вернуться сейчас!