Soviet seagull flying over the Volga. GAZ Seagull was for those who did not reach ZiL


When GAZ started manufacturing Poběd in the second half of the 1940s, a huge gap arose between it and the luxury ZiS limousines. It was necessary to fill it with a new car, the development, and production of which were again entrusted to Gorky. This created ZIM, a car for high state officials, but not for the top. And Čajka continued this tradition, with a bit of exaggeration of such a Soviet Bentley.


Before we get to the history of the Seagull, it is necessary to mention at least briefly the ZIM sedan with the type designation GAZ 12. The 5.55-meter long six-seater car with a wheelbase of 3.2 meters came into production in October 1950. which would fill the gap between Pobeda in a luxury limousine ZiS 110, fell only in May 1948.


Even with the use of a large number of parts from existing cars and trucks, the designers, led by Andrej Lipgart, who was already behind Poběd, finally managed to do it in time. It was the GAZ M20, on the extended basis of which the new luxury limousine ZIM with a self-supporting body rested.


An in-line six-cylinder appeared under the hood, the origin of which can be traced back to before the Second World War. The 3.5-liter engine had an output of 66 kW and powered the rear wheels via a mechanical three-speed transmission. And although the car was a six-seater, in fact, the two passengers were looking at the very rear.


For their greater comfort, the middle row of seats could be folded down, the wheel arches were pulled more outwards, which expanded the usable space and at the same time widened the wheelbase at the rear. It was eventually 100 mm wider than before, writes Andy Thompson in Cars of the Soviet Union: The Definitive History, adding that it was also possible to enjoy luxury and comfort on board. The door then opened against each other.

In addition, ordinary customers could indulge in luxury. On the one hand, ZIM drove like a taxi, on the other hand, the car was also available to them, although the astronomical price, more than doubles that of Pobeda, made it virtually impossible for any of the private customers to reach the car (this did not change until the early 1970s). public services as available used).


In reality, it was possible to see politicians in it, not the very highest representatives of the Communist Party, but still quite high on the ladder. In addition to the sedan, which was also made in an ambulance, three experimental pieces of a four-door convertible were created, intended primarily for shows. Production ended in 1959, and the car did not undergo significant changes during its life.


Perhaps only the name change in 1957, when instead of ZIM the car was called only GAZ 12, was essential. The abbreviation ZIM meant the Plant named after Molotov, as GAZ was called at the time. It was a reference to the former Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov, but he was expelled from the Politburo of the Communist Party in 1957 due to efforts to preserve the Stalinist line, and in 1961 after XXII. Congress of the CPSU as part of destalinization and directly from the side. Therefore, all references to him had to disappear.


According to SV Kanunnikov in the book Domestic Passenger Cars, between 1950 and 1959, 21,527 GAZ 12 cars were created.


The problem with the ZIM limousine was the fact that it became obsolete relatively quickly. The design shifted significantly in the 1950s, and the look inspired by American models from the early 1940s was simply no longer modern. Also, technically, it was not a completely fashionable affair. In Gorky, today's Nizhny Novgorod, at the headquarters of GAZ, they were already working on a successor. Originally, only a significant modernization of the ZIM model was considered, but it did not suit, so the development turned to a significantly changed car. Its production began in January 1959.


The new limousine was named Čajka, translated as a seagull. And why that? One legend claims that the car's designer once cited flying seagulls over the Volga River, on which Nizhny Novgorod lies. And like the seagulls, the new car is to be on the model range above the Volga range. The brochure of Avtoexport, which was a Soviet foreign trade company that took care of car exports, allegedly explained the same. It said that people in the town on the Volga admired the flight of seagulls, so in the end, the name Čajka won.


But don't be fooled by the poetics of the name, Čajka, or if you want GAZ 13, has never been one of the usual customers. Unlike its predecessor, it did not even have a fixed price tag and was intended only as equal to equal. This means politicians who were not entitled to ZiL, ambassadors, loyal artists, scientists, academics, or athletes, who often got the car to represent the Soviet Union. It was the cars of non-politicians, of whom there were not many, that were sometimes different from black. The rest was painted mostly dark.


The design was at first glance inspired by American cars of the 50s. Whether it's the Packard Patrician, Lincoln Capri, or Mercury Montclair, other models of the time could be used. This is especially evident in the area of ​​the headlights or both bumpers. The distinctive emblem of a seagull in a chrome mask and on the lid of the trunk is also characteristic. The seagull was completely different from ZIM and 5.6 meters was also significantly longer. With a length of 3250 mm, the wheelbase has not changed that much.


The design of the car was completely different, which no longer had a self-supporting body, but an X-shaped frame to which the body was attached in sixteen places. The engine remained at the front and powered the rear rigid axle, the wheels were suspended independently at the front. By the way, the engine underwent a big change. Instead of an in-line six-cylinder, the new ZMZ eight-cylinder fork with a volume of 5.5 liters and an output of 143 kW came to the fore.


However, given the curb weight of over two tonnes, it is probably not surprising that even high performance could not improve acceleration from 0 to 100 km / h in 20 seconds. Lighter Volga for KGB equipped with the same powertrain was significantly faster.


The engine was combined with an automatic three-speed transmission, in which the designers used knowledge from the development of the Volga with automatic shifting. There, the complicated and technically demanding device did not take place due to the complex repair. However, the seagull, of which there were significantly fewer and, in addition, guaranteed qualified service, was ideal for the use of a three-stage system. In addition, the transmission was not controlled by a lever, but by buttons, which was a relatively innovative solution at the time. The equipment also included, for example, electric windows.


The interior of the car was seven-seater, but in reality, virtually all the attention was paid to the three passengers at the very rear. The middle two seats were rather emergency and could be folded down, creating royal legroom for the passengers in the last row. Under the name GAZ 13A, there was a limousine with a partition between the space for the driver and crew.


But there were more variations on Chaika. Under the name, GAZ 13B hides a parade convertible, or if you want a faeton, with four doors, three rows of seats, and a canvas roof. The GAZ 13S, which was an ambulance station wagon, was created at the RAF car plant in Riga, Latvia. About twenty of them were created. Allegedly, two station wagons were rebuilt into a hearse to order by Vietnam, and there was also a conversion of the station wagon to a van.


For the next 22 years, GAZ 13 Čajka filled the gap between the Volga and the luxury ZiL cars only with decent changes. If we use the analogy that the ZiLs were something like a Soviet Rolls-Royce, then the Seagulls could be considered such a Soviet Bentley. There were no more than a few hundred pieces a year, in addition to representatives of Soviet politics, the Tchaikovsky was also used by politicians from other communist countries, one of which was given to Fidel Castro, and a few pieces allegedly by the KGB.


Production finally ended in 1981, when it was primarily a hopelessly obsolete car. The already cited SV Kanunnikov states a total of 3179 pieces produced.


GAZ tried to modernize the first Seagull several times, for example, there are prototypes with a significantly modified design and four circular lights in the front. However, these variations did not penetrate serial production. At the end of the 1960s, they began working in Gorky on a completely new car, which was logically named GAZ 14 Seagull. Its serial production began in October 1977, shortly after the previous type of GAZ 13 Seagull.


The brand new car connection may not be as accurate, as the 5.5-liter eight-cylinder fork received only a few intergenerational modifications (such as two carburetors or new intake and exhaust pipes), which increased the output to 162 kW and improved dynamics. The three-speed automatic remained, but was now shifted using the classic selector, as well as the driven rear rigid axle. Even the novelty then still rested on the frame in the shape of the letter X and the front wheels were again suspended independently, although even on the chassis were made several modifications.


Seagull also received two-circuit brakes, where each circuit had its own vacuum booster, mentions Jan Tuček in the book Cars of the Eastern Bloc. There were discs at the front and drums at the rear, each of which controlled both the front and one rear brake. The angular design was again inspired by American cars, such as the Cadillac Fleetwood or Chevrolet Caprice, but the connection to them was not as pronounced as with its predecessor.


The novelty had a lower hood and an overall lower body structure but was significantly longer. It exceeded the limit of 6.1 meters, while the wheelbase was stretched to 3450 mm. There was a large amount of chrome or four circular headlights in the front. The seven-seater cabin (again in the 2 + 2 + 3 configuration) was luxurious and relatively modern in shape at the time. There were imitations of wood, air conditioning, electric windows, heated rear window, radio, and some versions allegedly had a radiotelephone.


As in the case of its predecessor, there was again a limousine with a partition behind the front seats. The RAF in Riga again converted Čajka into an ambulance station wagon, but only five of them were to be created.


In 1988, the production of Tchaikovsky was stopped due to reform processes known as perestroika, and the then General Secretary of the Communist Party, Mikhail Gorbachev, even ordered the destruction of all documentation for the car. Between 1977 and 1988, according to the book Domestic Passenger Cars, only 1,120 copies of the second generation of the Čajka car were created.


Jan Tuček states that about thirty of them also drove in Czechoslovakia, the car was even part of the Mototechna price list at the end of the 1970s. It cost 118 thousand crowns, ie more than three times as much as the Trabant 601 and twice as much as the Škoda 120 L. The most expensive car was the Tatra 613 for 284 thousand crowns. But it was more than clear that none of the common people could afford Tchaikovsky.


The successor, although the modernization of the car was being worked on and a prototype of the GAZ 4106, for example, was created, Čajka did not see it. Officially, after 1989, it was to be the GAZ 3105 Volga with an eight-cylinder, which replaced both the Volga and the Seagulls. And although it was a luxurious and relatively modern car, the economic problems associated with the transformation of GAZ into a joint-stock company and the decline in orders on the open market did not allow the production of more than 55 units.

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