Rare Rides: A GAZ-21 Volga - Russian Decadence From 1967

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

With an unusual combination of Fifties American car styling and Sixties Russian build quality, today’s GAZ-21 has everything the discerning Communist motorist needs.

Let’s talk Volga.

The Volga was intended as a successor to the well-known Pobeda series of vehicles from GAZ. By the end of the Fifties, the 1946 Pobeda design was due for replacement.

When it debuted in 1956, the GAZ-21 Volga resided in the middle of the GAZ product lineup. Aping the design of American sedans of the time, the 21 offered features not found on other vehicles from the Soviet Union: Seats reclined at the front, a heater warmed the passengers, and everyone could have a smoke courtesy of the cigarette lighter.

All cars in the Volga line sported a higher ground clearance than standard sedans, and were built with tougher suspensions and engines. Rustproofing was considered as well, as GAZ intended Volga vehicles to have long lives.

The 21 was the original sedan body style, remaining in production throughout the Volga’s first generation (between 1956 and 1970). Joining it in 1962 was the 22 wagon variant. All 21 and 22 cars were powered by a 2.5-liter inline-four engine producing around 70 to 80 horsepower, depending on the model series. In 1959, GAZ discontinued its six-cylinder cars, making the 21 the largest vehicle sold to regular citizenry. For select customers only (like the KGB), there was a much more powerful 23 version, powered by a stout 5.5-liter V8.

GAZ made two major revisions to the 21 lineup within its first generation; it sold its Second Series between 1959 and 1962, with a final Third Series running from 1962 to 1970.

At that point, GAZ replaced the 21 with the GAZ-24 Volga, a car which was produced in various forms between 1970 and 1992. The Volga line would continue through 2010, ending with the GAZ-31105 Volga (a ghastly-looking sedan), and the Volga Siber (a reworked 2001 Chrysler Sebring). GAZ production is now limited to vans and trucks, as the Siber was its last passenger car.

Today’s Rare Ride is located in Florida and looks to be in excellent condition. In its largely original state and with 41,000 miles on the odometer, this 21 asks $19,900.

[Images: seller]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Started writing articles for TTAC in late 2016, when my first posts were QOTDs. From there I started a few new series like Rare Rides, Buy/Drive/Burn, Abandoned History, and most recently Rare Rides Icons. Operating from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio, a relative auto journalist dead zone. Many of my articles are prompted by something I'll see on social media that sparks my interest and causes me to research. Finding articles and information from the early days of the internet and beyond that covers the little details lost to time: trim packages, color and wheel choices, interior fabrics. Beyond those, I'm fascinated by automotive industry experiments, both failures and successes. Lately I've taken an interest in AI, and generating "what if" type images for car models long dead. Reincarnating a modern Toyota Paseo, Lincoln Mark IX, or Isuzu Trooper through a text prompt is fun. Fun to post them on Twitter too, and watch people overreact. To that end, the social media I use most is Twitter, @CoreyLewis86. I also contribute pieces for Forbes Wheels and Forbes Home.

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  • -Nate -Nate on May 31, 2019

    I think it looks great and would happily give it a try out . -Nate

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    • Gtem Gtem on May 31, 2019

      @slavuta I test drove a '63 Chevy II wit ha column shift 3 speed. Between that and the non-power brakes and non-power steering, driving used to be serious work!

  • Inside Looking Out Inside Looking Out on May 31, 2019

    That Volga pictured in the article is the second and last face-lift of original Volga GAZ-21. Original looked like that: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GAZ-21#/media/File:GAZ-21_(1st_generation)_%22Volga%22_in_Moscow_(front_view).jpg It looked more Ford-like than face-lifted ones. My father had one (provided by Government as a company car). When I was a kid I sat in the front seat which did not have seat belts of course and was shaped like sofa. Max it was able to do without car getting airborne was 80 kmph (50 mph). It felt pretty fast though. Any faster felt downright scary. I have very fond memories about that car. I still remember how it felt and smelled and that quirky radio which was normally shouting communist propaganda and not a single AM or FM station with rock or pop music (for that it needed to have short wave range).

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