GAZ 2424 in magazine "Za rulem"


Autor Jaroslaw Moskowka

Foto Sergej Torgalow

It was 1959. The Khrushchev thaw, at the peak of its heyday, presented the previously unthinkable - the exhibition of the American car industry thundered in Moscow! At the same time the Gorky plant, barely having time to work on the mistakes in the "Volga GAZ M-21" and putting its modernized version on the production line, was already working hard on the new model. With an eye to the Americans - it is logical and reasonable.

Generally technical specification was not revolutionary. It was clear - the load-bearing body and the main engine were still the same, inline four, somewhat improved. However, the possibility of expanding the engine range was immediately laid down - options with V-shaped "six" and "eight" were foreseen, moreover such vehicle relied only on an automatic transmission. Diesel was also taken into account - exclusively for export plans.

Alexander Mikhailovich Nevzorov was appointed on the position of the chief designer of the new car with index "GAZ-24", he successfully created the "21st". During the work on the next "Volga", the GAZ team initially tried to pay special attention to the design - by order, all the leading experts visited that very exhibition of American cars and began to fantasize explosively. After all, even then the famous thesis was voiced - "To catch up and overtake America!"

It was that time when a young talented artist Yuri Danilov came to the Gorky plant. In 1960, he drew some impressive designs and sculpted a full-size plasticine model. But this is what youth and a riot of energy mean - the look of the car turned out to be so bold and at the same time overseas luxurious, that it would never have been accepted into the production. Firstly, "a Soviet citizen didn't get used to it". Secondly, overly pretentious forms were not technologically advanced. And thirdly, they would quickly become outdated, especially taking into account the unhurried pace of production preparation and the change of models. Danilov was immediately sent off as a designer to us at ZAZ, and all these bold "sandwiches" of early sketches of the 966/968 families are the fruits of his pen. At the same time a long search for the genre began at Gorky...


Dream crashed into everyday life

Like Onegin and Lensky two flanks of talented artists met in the battle for the appearance of the new "Volga": on the first - Khrushchev's favorite retrograde Lev Eremeev, on the second - resolute Komsomol members Leny Tsikolenko and Nikolai Kireev. The creative duel dragged on indecently - for a long time none of the various projects was accepted at the top and the calm reigned on the Volga. It is banal because there was nothing to choose from -  a relatively successful and timeless look of the car a young team had delivered only by 1964, but Eremeev's boring projects were rejected.

In 1965, the first running samples were shown to Khrushchev and were well appreciated by Brezhnev - "24" was given a green light. Among the prototypes, three six-cylinder variants were built, with a four-head lining. 

At the newly opened Dmitrovsky test site the experimental cars have passed comparative tests with foreign cars - Opel Kapitan, Alfa Romeo 2600 Berlina, Chevrolet Malibu. And they went great! However, the V6 version was hacked to death by the chief designer of GAZ, Alexander Prosvirnin, who had a notoriety as a tyrant who ruined many excellent design ideas. For the reasons of "to avoid the situation if something goes wrong" he decided not to risk putting a fundamentally new engine for the plant into production - as they said "Neither we, nor the country have the funds to create such an engine, then suddenly we will miss the deadline or we will not correspond the quality. Let there be only a straight four!"

The production of the second generation "Volga" was supposed to start back in 1967. But foreign policy intervened - because of the Arab-Israeli conflict, the plant was forced to throw all its efforts on over-planned batches of armored cars. In 1968 a photo of the new car was "lit up" in the Soviet and Western press, the assembly began, albeit a small-scale one using bypass technologies. In the West they became so interested in the car that ... they stopped buying the previously extremely successful 21st model. However, the full-fledged "GAZ-24" series started only on July 15, 1970.


A special case

The work of GAZ was closely monitored by the KGB. After abandoning powerful options, they intervened in time - "Wait a minute, we need an 8!"But the car was going to the production line for such a long time and so painfully that the creation of the "chaser" was begun only after the final setting into production and the special version was brought up for almost three years. The 24-24 was developed by two teams led by test engineers Grekov and Vilkov. The engine and gearbox, of course, were taken from the "Chaika". However, they were modified for the "Volga", so that the chaser's engine had its own index, similar to the car itself.

What changes did they have to make to the original design? Of course, spars reinforced under the engine. The exhaust manifolds converged into a single tailpipe just like on a regular "twenty-four". The steering wheel was equipped with a hydraulic booster. Special communication equipment was meant to be located in the trunk (during the tests, it was imitated with wooden blanks of similar dimensions), special corbels were specially developed for it so that nothing would fall out of place and would not dangle or rumble in motion.

They also thought over the placement of the second battery. The Yaroslavl Tire Plant was given a task for special rubber - it was supposed to look like an ordinary one from the "Volga", but withstand much greater loads and wear less. The trunk lock was completely changed - on a special vehicle it was opened from the passenger compartment, with a secret handle at the right rear door, what if a casual idler inadvertently leans on the "stern" and his eyes open a secret "filling"?


The legend about the concrete or cast iron plate in the trunk is a fiction. Weighty radio equipment perfectly balanced the overweight front end. But when rare cars happened to go into the hands of private traders at the end of their secret service, the equipment, of course, was removed, but some smart mechanics put such ballast on the bottom of the trunk.


Under cover

In 1973, PAMS (production of small series of "GAZ" cars) produced the first batch of two models of special vehicles. "GAZ-24-24" is an outdoor surveillance vehicle with special communication. Basically these cars were painted to look like ordinary taxi cars (sometimes they were even equipped with meters for the sake of appearance!), but behind the back of the rear seat there were boxes for special inventory and changes of clothes. Some examples could have had a very specific equipment. For example, a high power projector. On the night road it automatically rose from the trunk, made a short flash, blinding the driver of the target car and retracted back ...

  "GAZ-24-25" is a multichannel cortege vehicle, the equipment of which occupied the entire space of the huge trunk of the "Volga". How did the corteges work those days? "ZIL-117" with the chief of security and magnetic equipment to neutralize hypothetical explosives planted on the road was ahead. Then there were two "Volgas" with KGB officers, attentivelly watching any, sometimes even inconspicuous details of the roadside landscape. These cars had a special connection, which provided interaction both with other crews and with brigades at the point of the final destination.

A faithful, but inconspicuous sign of a special vehicle - a rooftop antenna for the "Kavkaz" satellite telephone communication. Most likely, the car was a personal vehicle of some high rank.


This was followed by the main car of the first-person motorcade, after - nine motorcyclists and a reserve car. The car of the bodyguard was at the rear of the column, usually it was the "Chaika". But between it and the reserve there were two "Volgas" with an exit guard. Its specialists dissolved among the people in public places, skillfully organizing a reliable but inconspicuous cover. It was not easy to identify them - you needed to have an eagle's eye to see that the left folds of the jackets were slightly longer than the right ones, after all, they were covering the holster and the "lash" - a portable radio station ... "Lashes" had a connection with the "GAZ-24-25" of the head of the security shift.

There was another special version of the "24th". In 1973, GAZ bought a batch of 30 Mercedes-Benz M130 engines (2.5 liters, 130 hp) supposedly for export. In fact, these engines were equipped with the special series of "Volga" GAZ-24-M130 for ministerial and departmental needs. Such a vehicle was in the possession of the deputy head of the 9th KGB department, Mikhail Dokuchaev, who organized the security service of the first persons of the USSR.

A separate special vehicle service was based in Crimea. A three-story garage was built in Miskhor, where the escort cars were located, and also a collection of Brezhnev's cars. A special exception was soon made for the Crimean "Volgas". The cortege was supposed to move only with closed windows - it is not difficult to guess which sauna in the southern sun the salon of the black Volga turned into. And there were no air conditioners! As a result, only this unit was allowed to paint the cars white. A little later, the imported tint film was also permitted.


Major TV

"Chasers" based on the "GAZ-24" were produced only in the sedan body - rumors about several station wagons were not confirmed. Regarding this there is a funny story from the life of the Kiev KGB department.

Foreign tourists were usually accommodated in the Dnepr Hotel. In front of the hotel one could often see a gray "twenty-four" with a box from the "Slavutich" TV set in the back seat. A specialist nicknamed Major Television was on duty in it, and in the box, of course, there was equipment for the directional wiretapping of the hotel rooms. Major TV sat and scanned hotel rooms all day - well, who of the guests will tell you something interesting? The inconspicuous service lasted for years. But one day in the late 80s, two pilots from the Kharkiv region left the Officers' House nearby and decided to walk along Khreshchatyk. And then one of them sees that very "Volga" with a TV box ...

"Yah?! I have the same "Volga", and a week ago I bought the same TV in a military store. How did he put it in the back seat? This box does not fit there - I removed the front seat!"

The pilot began to pull the door handles, trying to open the car and figure out how the box fit into it. The car was naturally locked. A policeman on duty ran up to the noise, but it was impossible to calm the pilot down who had gone into a rage.

"Where is the driver of this "Volga"? Let me ask him how did he shove the box there!"

An overly curious ace was sent down to the Far East. His friend, who was trying to bring his friend to reason, was promoted, but to Kazakhstan. Major Television was given a "VAZ-2102" with a rotary engine tinted to zero and torn-eyed canary-colored instead of the "Volga". This car, by the way, has survived to this day.


Secret Guard

In total, 1,530 "GAZ-24-24" and "-24-25" were built - both versions were kept in the same statistics, since they differed only in special equipment, which was already completed at the destination. By the way, all cars were driven from the factory to the place of service exclusively on their own - yes, even to the Far East.

After assembly in workshop 9 of small series (together with "Chaika"), the cars underwent a compulsory run-in of 150-170 km at the factory test site. All the main units, different from the usual "GAZ-24", had their passports signed by the senior of the assembly shift.

For the reasons of camouflage, a gearshift lever from a "Volga" with mechanics was installed on the car, even with the familiar switching scheme on the “cap”. Although, in fact, the automatic gear has its own system: R (reverse), N (neutral), D (drive), EB (engine braking) modes were switched on along the arc.

There seemed to be three pedals, as on an ordinary "Volga", but in fact there were two of them - the brake one and the one that imitates the clutch for the sake of appearance, which were suspended on one double lever.

In the entire history of production, only two cars from the factory got into the private hands. White "GAZ-24-25" with a full set of special communications on the personal order of Tsvigun, Andropov's deputy, was sold to the healer Djuna Davitashvili. After a short time, the car was seized by the order of Shchelokov, Djuna's friends, Georgian crime bosses, crossed the boundaries of the car usage and its equipment. Cosmonaut Georgy Grechko, an avid motorist, had another light gray "Volga" which, of course, did not have any communication equipment.

In 1986, the "GAZ-24-10" entered the production line, as the historian Vladimir Vinnik aptly calls this car - "It is a compromise between the old "twenty-four", the relatively new "director" 3102, and a common sense". The car was, to put it mildly, mediocre - extremely outdated and disgustingly assembled. But the KGB still demanded the replenishment of its vehicle fleets, so the "chaser" was modernized after the base model, it received the "GAZ-24-34" index.

The upgrade was inconsequential. Almost the only nuance is the closed ventilation of the motor crankcase, which, thanks to this innovation, also received  "24-34" index. By 1990, the engine had been slightly modernized again - it became known as "ZMZ-503.10." Occasionally, a "ZMZ-505.10" engine was installed on the "GAZ-24-34"- boosted to 220 hp. version with two-carburetor power from "GAZ-14".

Outwardly, the “chaser” differed from the "GAZ-24-10" in the same metal radiator lining- the plastic one not only looked cheap, but most importantly, it melted from an overly fiery engine. Until 1992, they managed to produce 473 copies of the "GAZ-24-34". By that time, a change  of a car based on the "GAZ-3102" had been already prepared, but we will tell about it in the next edition.

Special thanks toVladimir Vinnik and the restoration workshop "Autoclassica" for the help while preparing the material.