Over the years Russia and, on a wider scale, the Soviet Union have both produced some iconic vehicles that are synonymous with this part of the world. Volga cars are fine examples of this and are viewed with fondness by many who have ever owned or driven one.
Volga automobiles began their life in the former Soviet Union back in 1956 and they were brought in as a brand, to replace the GAZ Pobeda vehicles of the time.
In those early days, owning a Volga vehicle was considered to be a little luxurious and in a time when cars were relatively uniform, the Volga really stood out on the streets of Russia and beyond. It became so popular that it was universally adopted by the police and after a time, most taxis in the country were produced by Volga automobiles.
Space and luxury
Volga’s predecessor, the GAZ M-20 was produced as part of a collaboration between the Soviet Union and Ford and it was a roomy, four door passenger vehicle that was bigger than many of the cars on Soviet roads.
Volga built on this concept of size and luxury but brought unique touches that made the car very Soviet in its styling. Above all, it was known for the luxurious features and it was this that made Volga cars so popular for those that could own one.
The chosen few
Aside from taxis and the emergency services, the Volga was thought to belong to a select group of people known as the “Nomenklatura”. Any members of this class were likely to be government officials or doctors, dentists and leaders of industry.
From their launch in 1956, Volga vehicles enjoyed a steady growth despite their relatively limited customer base and at the height of production, over 100,000 cars were rolling off the assembly line every year.
Using their predecessor’s naming, Volga produced the GAZ-M-21, GAZ-21, GAZ-24, GAZ-24-10 and GAZ-3102, four generations of vehicles, each steadily improving in their design and quality and each being greatly received by a waiting public.
At the start of the 1990’s with the fall of the Soviet Union imminent, Volga were suffering a cash crisis that was being mirrored across the country.
With no new cars for over a decade and the company short of funds, they produced the GAZ-31029 but with short cuts leading to poor quality parts and assembly, the vehicles were unreliable and threatened to damage the reputation of the company.
Fortunately, the brand recovered as industry slowly began to recover in the new Russia and with the cars becoming accessible to owners across the globe, Volga began to thrive again.
Sadly, in 2007 the parent company RusPromAvto announced that the production of Volga cars was to be phased out over a two year period from 2007. While Volga still produces commercial vehicles, there are no passenger cars being made at present.
It is hoped that one day Volga car production will start up again but those early vehicles have now become classics across the world.
If there is a legacy, it is that Volga proved that the former Soviet Union could produce cars that would have competed for quality and luxury with any brand in the world.