Russia’s Gorky Automobile Plant (Gorkovsky Avtomobilny Zavod or GAZ) is suing Volkswagen Group over vehicles it was contracted to assemble but never had the opportunity to after the German automaker pulled out of the market at the start of the Russo-Ukrainian War.
Ho Chi Minh was a mysterious guy; even after reading the definitive biography of the revolutionary schemer who changed pseudonyms as often most of us change our socks, I still couldn’t tell you much about the man who is now his country’s equivalent of all of America’s Founding Fathers rolled into one. However, I can tell you what Ho Chi Minh drove!
I am now on an active quest to import a genuine Soviet people’s car from the former Soviet Union; if all goes according to plan, a ZAZ-968 will go into a shipping container in Odessa and make its way to Chez Murilee later this year. I have a special affection for the Zaporozhets, because it was the product of the downward-economic-spiral, economy-temporarily-propped-up-by-oil-exports Brezhnevian Malaise Era, yet was the only car that ordinary Soviet citizens had any chance of actually owning prior to the Glasnost period. However, when an elitist, Party-members-only 1956 GAZ-M20 Pobeda in not-ridiculously-far-from-Denver Iowa came up for sale on eBay last week, with a starting bid of just six grand, I decided I’d take a shot at buying it instead of a Запоро́жець.
As you know, the Russian government offered foreign automakers a deal: Invest heavily into the Russian auto industry, and Mother Russia will let you import parts and components at negligible or zero duty rates. Present your plans no later than July 1. Here is Volkswagen’s answer:
I’ve already got a custom-van project and a basket-case Toyota 20R-powered Sprite project, but what I really want is a genuine, red-flag-waving Warsaw Pact machine to cruise around Denver. I don’t mean any Lada, either— it’s got to be a genuine, designed-and-built-in-the-USSR car, not a Fiat clone! Fortunately, I have a car-freak friend in the Czech Republic who can get such a machine into a shipping container in Bremerhaven for a reasonable price, so all that would remain for me would be to negotiate the Kafkaesque maze of registering the thing in Colorado. How hard could it be?
It must be Russian week. Yesterday , it was Ford and Sollers (and Sollers minus Fiat/Chrysler). Today, it’s Volkswagen and GAZ going to the altar. The two plan a joint venture to produce 300,000 cars per year in Russia, The Moscow Times reports.
Remember Oleg Deripaska? The Russian oligarch that had been under suspicion of money laundering and organized crime activities? The very same Deripaska GM did not want to have close to Opel for fear of losing their precious intellectual property ? Yes, him. GM just handed him the blueprints and the tooling for the Chevy Aveo.
The best thing about the Soviet Corvair, aka Zaporozhets? The original idea was to rip off the design of the Volkswagen air-cooled engine for its powerplant, but Soviet engineers made their air-cooled four a V4 so that the cylinder heads would be more accessible when working on the engine in a mud-floored lean-to in Kemerovo (no doubt using tools made on the spot from melted-down kitchen utensils). So why not make a limousine version?
Days after Vladimir Putin, well, encouraged foreign carmakers to come to Russia, open car factories and better bring the latest technology, or else, Martin Winterkorn announced that Volkswagen is planning a new assembly line at Russia’s GAZ and that they will expand their factory in the Kaluga region in the future. Winterkorn said that after meeting Putin himself and most likely after having received a similar speech as what was previously broadcasted.
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