In 1938, with the start of World War 2, the Russian Automobile Co., GAZ, started the development and production of 4x4 vehicles for the Russian Army. Their first model, the GAZ-61, was designed to fill the needs the Red Army had, in the same way that the Bantam BRC jeep was designed to fill the similar needs of the American Army. GAZ or Gorkovsky Avtomobilny Zavod (Russia, Nizhny Novgorod), is translated as Gorky Automobile Plant. GAZ = G: Gorkiy (location), A: Automobily (product), Z: Zavod (factory). The GAZ factory was built in 1931-32 in Gorkiy, with American help. Ford Motor Co had actually entered into a contract and built a Ford Automobile and Truck production plant in Russia. Interestingly, the GAZ power train more resembles that of the Ford Model A than the WWII jeeps.
The next version of the GAZ 64, seems again to be directly inspired by subsequent American prototype jeeps, the Bantam BRC-40, the Ford GP, and the Willys MA. Design similarities include; headlight mounting, the cut of the doorway openings, fender openings, seat design, steering wheel, and canvas top and top bow supports, and 1/2 doors. Power was provided by a four cylinder 3.8-liter engine turning out 54hp/2800rpm and a top speed of 90 km/h. It seated 4 people and included many of the same features of the WWII US Army Jeep including; starting handcrank, front tow hooks (an option on USMC jeeps of W.W.II), grab handles on the side of the body, pioneer tools and machine gun mounts. The GAZ could also tow the 45-mm anti-tank gun in deep mud with relative ease. Remember that the original GAZ-64 was created in a very short time.
The Russians received an unknown number of the Bantam BRC prototypes (as well as Ford GP's and Willys MA's as part of the war material shipments sent from the USA to the USSR under the Lend-Lease program). From June 1941 to June 1945 Russia received large quantities of war material under the Lend-Lease program from her Western Allies (USA, UK, and Canada). During this time period, the US alone shipped 16,651,000 Tons of material, valued at $9,119,204,000 to the Soviet Union, including over 400,000 trucks and thousands of other military vehicles. Even so, the vast majority of average Russian soldiers never saw a Bantam jeep. Some of the Russians who were lucky enough to have a jeep for transportation referred to the Bantams as "Bantiks". A source reports that during the war the 'Bantiks' were favored by the Russians over the GP's and MA's. Additional documentation one way or the other has been lost or not yet been discovered.
At the same time that there was a competition going on in American between the Willys MA, the Ford GP, and the Bantam BRC-40, there was a competition going on in the USSR between Russian companies to see which company, NATI or GAZ, would get their design adopted as the official Russian 'Jeep'.
GAZ's competition came from the "NATI" Research Institute, who had designed their own prototype 4x4, the NATI "AR". The NATI "AR", a more modern looking off-road vehicle, competed with the GAZ "64" to be chosen as the official 4x4 of the Red Army. The NATI "AR" was created in the 1941-42 by F. Andronovu. Both GAZ and NATI used the same GAZ M-1, but the NATI "AR" used the 2 carb set up from the KIM-10 automobile (the first model produced by Moskvitch). The dual carburetor set up boosted the AR's horsepower from 50 hp to 57 hp. When both prototypes were submitted, Joseph Stalin, the ultimate decision maker, chose the GAZ prototype over the NATI AR prototype, even though the NATI AR appears to be of a more modern design than the GAZ.
In the 1943, the WWII Soviet GAZ 67 4x4 Staff Vehicle came into production with several improvements. Production of the GAZ-67 was begun on September 23, 1943 and ended in the Fall of 1953. 92,843 were produced. From the 2nd half of World War Two until the Korean War, the GAZ 67 was the Soviet Unions version of the American Willys Jeep. The Russians even produced an Armored Car version that was called the BA-64.
A comparative evaluation between the Willys MB Jeep, Ford GPW Jeep, and GAZ 64 took place at Kubinka proving ground between May and June of 1943. (Notice the Jeep, 2nd in line, behind the GAZ ~ which is towing 2 items, a cannon (gun), and an ammunition trailer). Some GAZ drivers will tell you that in Towing and in off-road performance, the GAZ-67 was superior to the Willys, Bantam and Ford Jeeps. The GAZ-67 (1943) also had the benefit of having 2 fuel tanks: the main tank in the cowl, and another fuel tank under the driver's seat. The fuel consumption of the GAZ was very high, and in hard conditions, the GAZ could consume a half liter of fuel per km, but the GAZ could use every sort of fuel including kerosene and low-test gasoline which was a big advantage on the World War Two battlefields.
There is universal agreement that the WWII GAZ-67 was harder to maintain (Notice tubular grill), and less reliable, than the American made Willys MB & Ford GPW jeeps sold to the Russians by the US under the Lend Lease program. Many things on the GAZ were lacking. The brakes were weak and hard to repair. The steering system of the GAZ-67 was hard and not very reliable. The war-time quality of used materials was lower than that of the American Jeeps. Much of the technology used in the design and construction of the GAZ and it's components was outdated.
The models, years of production, and specification
of the GAZ 'jeeps' are as follows:
|GAZ-64 / 67 Vehicle Specifications
Type: 4x4, 4-seater phaeton
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|The Russians also copied the American
Ford GPA Amphibious Jeep.
They Russians called their versions of the amphibious jeep the
GAZ-46 MAV and the GAZ-46 MAZ.
The differences between the GAZ and the Ford GPA are:
|GAZ-46 Amphibious Vehicle Specifications
Length: 5000 mm
Want to see the American Built GPA?
The Ford GPA Amphibious Jeep
Want to see the German 'Jeep-like' & 'GPA-like' vehicles?
The WWII German Kuebelwagen and Schwimmwagen
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