The beginnings

The motorization of the Soviet Union was established due to a remarkable corporation between Stalin and Henry Ford. This led to the GAZ A, the Pobjeda and in the year 1956 to the Volga.

In 1928 85% of the Russian tractors and lorry's were Fords. By this time Stalin thought it was time to establish an own car industry. Until then only small amounts of lorry's, tractor en cars were produced in the USSR. In 1928 Stalin sent a group of Russians to Ford in Detroit. Result in 1929 was a contract containing that the Soviet Union would buy 72.000 Ford cars between 1929 and 1933. Most of these cars would be delivered as a (complete) kit. On the 4-th of March 1929, the USSR Government took the decision and signed the Decree on building an automobile plant. On the 6-th of April 1929, the Government approved the determined construction site for the future plant near the city of Nizhny Novgorod (Gorki). Part of the contract was that the Russians would get all necessary knowledge to create an own car industry.

On the 31-st of May 1929, the USSR Government and the American "Ford Motor Company" signed an agreement on technical assistance in establishing and commissioning mass production of Ford-A type of passenger cars and of Ford-AA type of trucks. Engineering and construction project planning was mainly carried out by the Russian engineers, in close collaboration with Ford Motor Company. For design and construction of the plant, the Soviets turned to The Austin Company, which had just completed the Pontiac Six factory, the largest auto plant in the world at that time.

Buildingsite 1930

Austin's task was to design and manage construction of both a factory capable of producing 140,000 vehicles a year and a model socialist city for 35,000 workers and their families, all within 18 months. To supervise construction of the plant and workers city, Austin sent 20 engineers (several with their families) to Nizhny Novgorod. The construction began in May 1930 and was completed in November 1931 - an amazing feat for which Austin was paid $1,550,000 in gold, a payment that saw the company through the lean years of the Depression. The Austinites returned home, and in January 1932, the first Model As rolled off the production line.

Auto chassis spring production shop under construction

The factory was put in operation on January 1, 1932. The first vehicle rolled off the production line on January 29, 1932. The GAZ-A medium-class passenger car was launched into production in December 1932.
The first GAZ-A and GAZ-AA vehicles were manufactured using the drawings provided by Ford Motor Company. But they differed somewhat from their American prototypes due to their reinforced clutch case and steering mechanism. Ford expertise combined together with GAZ findings and decisions, the GAZ designers developed a number of versions of the 1.5-t truck basic model. GAZ-03-30 office bus was developed in 1933. GAZ-AAA 3-axle truck went into production by the end of 1934. Later, GAZ-410 dump truck was designed. GAZ-55 ambulance bus was launched into production in 1937. GAZ-42 gas-generator truck was created in the same period of time. GAZ-A was used as the basis for GAZ-4 pick-up featuring an all-metal cabin and metal cargo platform with 500 kg payload capacity. GAZ-4 pick-ups started rolling off the production line in 1933.

GAZ logo


1932 -1936 
GAZ 4 

The 100.000-th vehicle, a GAZ-A passenger car, was assembled on April 17, 1935, which became an important date in the history of the GAZ plant. GAZ plant was the first plant in the country to introduce in-line production of vehicles with the support of American experts from the Ford Motor Company. Another important milestone in the history of the GAZ plant was development and production of M-1 passenger car. Mass movement for mastering the equipment and raising labor productivity made it possible to prepare for the production of new vehicles within the shortest time limits. According to the agreement with Ford Motor Company, M-1 car was supposed, similarly to GAZ-A, to have its own Ford prototype. But the team of GAZ designers and engineers, headed by the talented specialist and manager A. A. Lipgart in 1933, completely refused to copy the American example, in view of their own understanding of the concept of a national vehicle and capitalizing on the experience gained during the production of the first model.
Thus, instead of a V-8 from the American analogue, a 4-cylinder engine, already in production then, was significantly modified and boosted from 40 h. p. to 50 h. p. But the main changes concerned the chassis: an extra-strong frame and a new structure of the suspension were developed (on four leaf springs instead of two cross ones of the analogue); spoke wheels were replaced with disk stamped ones with bigger tires. And for quite understandable reasons, as the Ford chassis proved to be really unsuitable for the Russian road conditions. As a result, GAZ M-1, like all the other following models of GAZ vehicles turned out to be endurable, robust and easy to service. The exterior of the vehicle was also changed: due to larger front end and longer frame and wheel base the vehicle became proportionally better-looking, and its front end became more interesting, including the front fenders and the radiator facing. Created by the team of GAZ designers and engineers, GAZ-M1 not only became a successfully passed test but also laid down the foundation of the GAZ school of design.

In 1937, M-1 produced a notable impression representing the USSR at the Paris world industrial exhibition. GAZ-M1 has its own peculiar history. Year in, year out, partly modified, it served the needs of people beginning from the late 30-s till the 50-s, including the War years. M-1 was used as a basis for GAZ-415 pick-up with 400 kg payload capacity. They were sometimes powered with 6-cylinder engines, code-named as GAZ-11. In 1940 there is finally this new engine joined the old A-model engine. The constructors made a copy of the Dodge D-5 engine, they did not begin to change the construction/design, they only transferred sizes/dimensions from the foot measure into the metric.The engine had a working volume of 3483cc and developed 76 hp. This engine helped improve the dynamics and opened up its prospective usage for further trucks, including their application in light tanks and self-propelled guns. This passenger car equipped with the new engine was code named as GAZ-11-73. Its initial samples were ready in 1938. Besides the new power plant, it had a number of other improvements, such as longer front leaf springs, more efficient brakes, a new instrument panel, etc. GAZ-11-73 was used as the basis for GAZ-11-40 convertible the production of which was aborted due to the War. But GAZ-61, a full-wheel drive version, designed by V. A. Gratchev, was put into mass production. It could climb the gradient of 38`, and negotiate the fords 720 mm deep. Some specialists also assumed that GAZ-61, as a cross-country vehicle, was even better than semi-caterpillar vehicles, provided it was fitted with tires featuring developed grousers.

By the end of the 30-s, GAZ plant became the leading car-producer in the USSR and assembled 450.000 vehicles. It launched into production 17 models and versions of different vehicles, producing 68.3% of the vehicles manufactured in the USSR.

GAZ logo


GAZ 11-73 
GAZ 61