The Russian Battlefield
JoomlaWatch Stats 1.2.9 by Matej Koval
Home Tanks Trucks and tracktors First Soviet Trucks


Russian (CIS)English (United Kingdom)

Подписка на новости


Now online:
  • 39 guests
  • 4 robots

First Soviet Trucks

Written by Валерий Потапов
Published on Tuesday, 20 September 2005 23:03
Last Updated on
Read 11948 times
Ya-3 Truck
GAZ-AAA Truck (pre-war build)
Destroyed vehicle on the roads...
Rebuilt GAZ-AA Truck

The birthdate of Soviet Truck Production is November 7th 1924, when for the first time, first Soviet trucks AMO-F15 were shown on a parade at a Red Square. Off course, truck production existed before (first Russian car was built in 1896 by Yakovlev and Freze), but large scale production was reached only in Soviet Russia, and even then not right away. In first years after October 1917 revolution, Bolsheviks had no time to built new vehicles. All places that were equipped to service vehicles – five unfinished tsarist plants (in Moscow, Fili, Yaroslavl, Rybinsk and Rostov-on-Don) and a variety of trailer factories – only maintained small, but extremely wide array of Bolshevik’s vehicles. But already in 1920–21, plant in Fili was finished, where most of ‛Russo-Balt“ equipment ended up, after its evacuation.

In 1922 it produced a small number of passenger cars, but next year it was loaned to ‛Junkers“ Company, and did not return to automobile production.

In 1924 the Moscow plant was finished: famous AMO (Moscow Automobile Society, future ZIL), started production of first Soviet trucks AMO-F15. This was licensed production of Italian Fiat 1915 truck, hence the F15 designation. Year after year, plant increased its production output, but it was still low, by Russia’s measures, and did not exceed 3000 cars a year.

In 1925 one more automobile plant opened – it is Yaroslavl Automobile Zavod (YaAZ), which in cooperation with AMO and Mytischi Railcar Factory, started production of 3 – ton trucks Ya-3. Yearly production rate was very small: 100–150 vehicles. Factory’s big problem was a lack of it's own engine production. They were first brought from AMO plant, then were purchased in Germany from ‛Mercedes“, in US from ‛Hercules“, and then from domestic plant ZiS.

By the end of 1928 YaAZ modernized their model of Ya-3. Now truck had ‛Mercedes-Benz“ engine and transmission. Also, for the first time vacuum brake amplifier was used, along with wider tires and double door cabin. As a result of this, car’s capacity increased to 4 tons. New model got a designation Ya-4. In total, 137 trucks were produced.

In total, by the beginning of the 30’s, USSR produced no more than 4000 vehicles a year, when a rapid growth of industry demanded hundreds times more. Up until the beginning of World War 2 this problem was not solved, despite of desperate measures taken by bolsheviks. Cars, and licenses to produce them were purchased from abroad.

Despite of their positive attributes, both AMO-F15 and Yaroslavl trucks were designed for small scale production. It was getting more and more obvious, that a mass production models were needed. Soviet automobile was not being troubled, as sometimes in the West, or in Tsarist Russia, by railroad workers, cart industry workers and police officers, there weren’t any anti-motorist societies created. On the contrary, in 1927, a volunteer society that supported automobile drivers and road builders was started. But million members of this society and Soviet auto constructors had to live through long and heated discussion: ‛An American car or a Russian cart?“

There were quite a few people, including some really influential, who were trying to prove, that in Soviet climate, bad roads and rural type of life, carriage and sledge are not going to be replaced by an automobile. But you have to understand those automobile opponents. After tsarist times, country had a network of poor quality roads, with only 2-3% being ‛paved“ by uneven rocks. In most parts roads were covered with snow most months of the year, and during wet spring and fall seasons, they would become unsuitable for transportation. Also, illiterate peasants made up at least 70% of all population. To add to that, influence of post-revolution modest type of life for Soviet people remained, and that did not include automobiles as an everyday thing. To most people cars seemed to be a luxury item, common only in capitalist society

‛Avtodor“ did not stop on discussions and on propaganda. New drivers were coming out of its schools. Members participated in road building, in planning and holding car races. By holding lottery draws, where main prizes were cars and motorcycles, ‛Autodor“ was collecting funds for building and maintaining roads, on developing plans and organizing production of NAMI-1, six wheeled cars for Red Army. It was only a small part of what was going on in a country in an effort to promote cars, but it should be noted, that results of discussions shortened building times and increased scales of constructions of automobile plants, and every lottery draw brought in millions of rubles in profit.

Among the largest constructions in first five year plan were Lower Novgorod (now Gorky) auto plant, and also reconstruction of AMO and Yaroslavl plants. Early plans planned the production of 100 thousand cars and lorries a year at a Lower Novgorod plant, and 25 thousand – on Moscow plant. But already on a second five year plan, plants were updated, in order to increase production to 300 and 80 thousand vehicles accordingly. As a result of party and government support of ‛Stakhanov“ movement, production might increased to 500 and 120 thousand vehicles a year. Plans for mass production were becoming a reality.

Foreign firms readily offered Soviet Union its products. But which models to choose? To answer this questions, Soviet specialists tested American cars in a long test drive. During fall, on poor roads of Russia, elegant foreign cars went across small towns and villages, which have not yet seen automobiles.

Results of test drive: no advantage of ‛Chevrolet“, except for smooth running of its six-cylinder engine was found. However, its production and operation seemed more complicated than any of four-cylinder models. Russian specialists also thought about the future: the number of crankshaft turns is rising steadily, and engine work is becoming more efficient. They were right because all cheap and most mid-priced cars, now have 4 cylinder engines.

Out of four-cylinder cars, ‛Ford-A“ was declared the most useful. It was selected for production in Lower Novgorod’s plant (future GAZ).

When looking at the competing cars, it might seem that ‛Ford“ lacks the modern look of other competitors; it still resembled Model ‛T“. But Russian specialists judged car not only how it looks, but how it works. The look of the car did not seem to be too important at that time. Also, it was taken into a consideration, that production will start with a better looking model of 1930, and that based on a passenger car, Ford constructed a very successful one and a half ton truck, which in times of industrialization was perhaps even more important for Soviet Union.

Talks were held with ‛Ford“ and with ‛General Motors“, but conditions of the first one were more favorable, and in May 1929 a contract was signed for construction of the plant in Lower Novgorod. And already in January 1932 a first truck - ‛Soviet Ford“, as it was called, came off the line, followed by a passenger car in December of the same year.

In the same year, reconstructed AMO plant began a production of 2,5 ton lorry based on American model ‛Otocar“. Big role in starting a production on a renewed plant, as well as in Soviet auto production, was played by its ‛red director“ Ivan Alexeevitch Likhatchev (1896 – 1966), in whose honor AMO is now named.

Less than 9 years have passed since production of first AMO’s, and only year and a half since the beginning of assembly line car production, when a grand scale car run was undertaken. It was 9400 km long, on country roads, through Karakum desert, together with archaeological, geological and other researches along the way. The run was supposed to show whether the choice made by Soviet specialists in car types was right, and whether young Soviet industry succeeded in starting their own production of vehicles.

Only three cars in a race were built out of foreign parts. The rest twenty cars — serial: AMO-3 (after race and some construction improvements, it became 3-tonne and got ZiS-5 designation), one and a half ton GAZ-AA and light GAZ-A. Only experimental vehicles with 3 wheel shafts – GAZ-AAA and GAZ on ‛sverhballon“ tires could be considered specially equipped for driving in poor conditions.

Conditions of the run were very harsh. Temperatures in cabins reached 75°C. Wheels and cars were getting stuck in quicksand. Dust was getting into every crack. On saline bogs and the winded plaster formations speed fell up to 1 km/h. It was hard to supply people and vehicles with water. Engines worked overload, and required better cooling.

Special interest was in a test of tires made out of domestic synthetic rubber (SR), which passed the run very well. Their wear did not differ from wear of tires made of natural rubber.

«Sverhballons» were offered by Moscow Science and Research Institute of tire industry. While changes were minor, they altered the look and road performance of the cars. GAZs with standard tires passed half of the run, pretty much on shoulders of its crews. Vehicles with ‛sverhballon“ would drive on a desert just like on asphalt.

All cars finished Karakum run without any significant damages. This harsh test gave constructors new valuable knowledge. New oil air filters – an odd idea at a time – saved engines from dust, and since then, became standard in Soviet vehicles. As a result of tire tests ‛sverhballon, tires with larger volume and lower pressure began to be used on all Soviet cars. Just as it was suspected, radiators would have to be enlarged. Changes were to be made in constructions of front running gear for three wheel shaft cars. ‛Izvestiya“ newspaper, on October 3rd of 1933 wrote: ‛One more bright page is written in a book of great victories of a working class, victories of general line of Lenin’s party“. We’ll add: and into a book of history of Automobile Technology.

Sources: Ju.A. Dolmatovsky «Avtomobil za 100 let», 1986
«Nauka i Zhizn» No. 3, 1996

Rate this article
(7 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Add comment

Comments from unregistered users will be published only AFTER moderator's check.

Security code