Automotive industry of the USSR: history, automotive companies, legendary Soviet cars

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Automotive industry of the USSR: history, automotive companies, legendary Soviet cars
Automotive industry of the USSR: history, automotive companies, legendary Soviet cars

One of the most interesting pages of the national history of the 20th century was the chronicle of the development of the automobile industry of the USSR, an economic branch aimed at creating rolling stock and providing the country with it in all spheres of its multifaceted life. In the pre-war period, this process was inextricably linked with the general industrialization of the state, and in subsequent years it became an important part of the rise of the national economy and the creation of a solid economic base. Let's dwell on some of its most significant stages.

The first Soviet truck AMO-F-15

How did it all start?

The history of the automobile industry of the USSR began in 1924 with the release of the first Soviet truck AMO-F-15. Its prototype was the Italian car FIAT 15 Ter. The place of creation of this ancestor of the domestic automobile industry was the Moscow plant "AMO", founded in 1916, and in Soviet times renamed and received first the name of Stalin (1933), and then Likhachev (1956) - its first director, who held this position since 1927.

Slightlylater, in 1930-1932, this undertaking was further developed by the construction of another car plant in Nizhny Novgorod. It was designed for the production of both cars and trucks, produced under license from the American company Ford Motors. Many legendary Soviet cars came off the assembly lines of these first two enterprises, created as part of a nationwide industrialization program, and it was they that became the basis for the further development of this most important industry.

In subsequent years, several more car plants were added to these largest auto enterprises in the country: KIM (Moscow), YAGAZ (Yaroslavl) and GZA (Nizhny Novgorod). Now it seems unbelievable, but in 1938 the USSR automobile industry occupied the first (!) Place in Europe and the second in the world (after only the USA) in the production of trucks. In the pre-war years, more than a million units were produced, which made it possible to equip the Red Army and enterprises of the national economy with the required amount of rolling stock. The creation of a large and sufficiently equipped fleet of vehicles allowed the country to achieve success in the implementation of the pre-war five-year plans.

Production of cars during the war years

With the beginning of the Great Patriotic War, the Moscow plant "ZIL" (former AMO) was evacuated to the rear, and part of its equipment was used to create new auto enterprises. So, using the production facilities of ZIL, they opened the Ulyanovsk Automobile Plant - UAZ, which at that time was called UlZIS. Subsequently, it was renamed and became widely known for itsproducts both domestically and abroad. At the same time, at the UralZIS plant, built in the city of Miass, Chelyabinsk Region, the production of the first samples of trucks of the Ural brand began.

Automotive products of the war years

It should be noted that during the war years, the production of cars in the USSR was not limited to the production of models based on domestic developments. In order to better meet the needs of the front, as well as to provide rolling stock for industrial enterprises evacuated deep into the country, the assembly of cars was arranged from sets of components and parts supplied under Lend-Lease, a special program under which the United States provided the countries of the anti-Hitler coalition with ammunition, equipment, and medicines. and food.

Post-war priorities of the domestic auto industry

The post-war years brought with them an aggravation of relations between the former allies, who found themselves on opposite sides of the Iron Curtain, and were marked by the beginning of a general arms race. In the history of those years, episodes were noted when humanity stood on the brink of a global nuclear catastrophe - it is enough to recall the Caribbean conflict of 1962. These circumstances largely determined the specifics of the development of the entire national economy of the USSR and the automotive industry as one of its most important components.

From the beginning of the 50s to the end of the 70s, the Ministry of the Automobile Industry of the USSR, supporting the course for the production of trucks, gave priority to those models that could equally well be used as to maintaindefense capability of the country, and in various areas of the national economy. These were mainly dual-purpose trucks, as well as multi-axle all-wheel drive tractors. One of the most famous developments of those years was the ZIS-164 truck, which came off the assembly line of the Stalin Moscow Plant and was the result of a deep modernization of the previously produced ZIS-150 car.

Birth of the first ZILs and Urals

The next milestone in the development of the plant was the legendary Soviet car ZIL-130, released in 1963, which can still be seen on the roads of the country. In terms of its design features, it successfully competed with the best world models of that time. Suffice it to say that the car was equipped with an engine whose power was 150 liters. with., as well as power steering and a five-speed gearbox. A panoramic windshield washer developed by the plant's engineers has also become a novelty.

At the end of the 50s, the country's car park was replenished with a novelty released by Ural specialists. It was a two-axle truck UralZIS-355MM (photo below). Despite the fact that, according to its technical characteristics, this model belonged to the category of medium-duty machines (up to 3.5 tons), it was she who was destined to play a leading role in the development of the virgin lands of Kazakhstan, Siberia and the Urals.

Truck "Ural" post-war production

Impressive statistics

About how intensively the development of the production of trucks and tractors went on in the firstpost-war decades, statistics show. According to the available data, the total output of this type of product in 1947 amounted to 133 thousand units, and by the beginning of the 70s, the automobile manufacturing enterprises operating in the USSR increased their number to 920 thousand, that is, almost seven times, which exceeded the similar indicators of the leading industrial countries of the world.

No less impressive was the increase in the production of passenger cars, which received less attention in the pre-war period due to the need to provide the country with freight transport. According to the USSR automobile industry, in 1947 about 9.5 thousand units were produced, while by 1970 this number increased to 344.7 thousand, in other words, it increased almost 36 times.

Cars that have become emblems of the era

Among the passenger cars produced in those years, the most famous was the legendary Soviet car Pobeda, which rolled off the assembly line of the Gorky Automobile Plant under the symbol M-20. Its development has become a new word not only in domestic, but also in foreign automotive industry.

The fact is that "Victory" was the world's first large-scale model of passenger cars with a load-bearing body that did not have protruding elements such as headlights, steps and fenders with all their rudiments. An important distinguishing feature of this design was also the absence of a frame, the function of which was performed by the body itself. The Gorky plant "Victory" was produced in the period 1946-1958, and their number on the roads of the country then reached almost a quarter of a million units.

auto win

It is noted that the 50s as a whole were an unusually productive period in the activities of the designers and designers of the Gorky Automobile Plant. At the World Exhibition, held in 1958 in Brussels, three of their developments were awarded the highest award - the Grand Prix. These were passenger cars: the Volga GAZ-21, which replaced the Pobeda, the Chaika GAZ-13 and the GAZ-52 truck. Later, the Volga GAZ-24 cars, memorable to everyone, brought glory to the plant.

The brainchild of the capital's automakers

Another peculiar emblem of that era was the Moskvich-400 passenger car, the production of which was launched at the metropolitan enterprise of the same name, opened in 1930. Its specialists, taking as a basis the pre-war German car Opel Kadett, developed their own model, launched into serial production in 1947. Its first samples were produced on captured equipment exported from Germany.

After 7 years, the design of the car was significantly modernized, and it began to be produced under the index "Moskvich-401". In subsequent years, its new models were developed and put into mass production, replenishing the country's car fleet. The most famous among them was the car "Moskvich-408", which has earned a good reputation for its reliability and unpretentiousness.

Zhiguli era

In the mid-1960s, the USSR auto industry was given the task of organizing the mass production of passenger cars accessible to a wide range of citizens, and thereby eliminating the difficulties associated with their acquisition. As part of the implementationof this project in the summer of 1966, an agreement was concluded with the leadership of the Italian concern Fiat for the construction of a plant for the production of cars in the city of Togliatti. The brainchild of the new enterprise was Zhiguli brand cars, which were produced in an unprecedented quantity for that time. In the 70s, their production reached 660 thousand per year, and by the beginning of the 80s it had increased to 730 thousand. This period is considered to be the beginning of the mass motorization of the country.

Car "Zhiguli"

Small cars from the banks of the Dnieper

The Zaporozhye Automobile Building Plant also made a tangible contribution to providing Soviet people with individual transport. In 1961, the production of a small car ZAZ-965 was launched on it, which received the ironic name “humpbacked Zaporozhets” among the people. It is curious that its design was developed by specialists from the capital's automobile plant, which produced Moskvichs, and it was also planned to launch its serial production there, but due to the lack of the necessary production capacities, they handed over the finished project to colleagues from the banks of the Dnieper.

In 1966, an updated and radically different model, known as Zaporozhets-966, came out of the gates of the enterprise, and in subsequent decades more and more new developments appeared. Their characteristic feature was the air cooling of the engine located in the rear of the body. Over the entire period of production, covering the period 1961-1994, almost 3.5 million cars were produced.

Contribution of Ukrainian specialists to the development of the automotive industry

OnFor several decades, the main load on the transportation of passengers in the field of public transport has been assigned to the products of the Lviv Bus Plant (LAZ). Built in the first post-war years, until the collapse of the USSR, it was one of the main Soviet enterprises specializing in this area, and in 1992 it was transformed into a joint Russian-Ukrainian enterprise that existed for 22 years.

The LAZ-695 brand buses designed for urban routes, which began production in 1957, received the greatest popularity among its products. In addition, models designed to serve the ever-increasing flow of tourists every year have left a noticeable mark in the history of the domestic automotive industry. These include developments such as LAZ-697 and LAZ-699A. In 1963, the plant mastered the production of new products for it - city trolleybuses LAZ-695T.

Creators of the famous Urals

The specialists of the Ural Automobile Plant operating in the city of Miass did not stand aside either. For the period from 1942, when the first sample of products rolled off its assembly line, and until the collapse of the USSR, they developed an extensive range of machines and tractors of various carrying capacity and power.

The legendary "Ural"

In addition to the above-mentioned two-axle truck UralZIS-355M, which became a legend of the virgin expanses, the first three-axle truck Ural-375, released in 1961 and having increased cross-country ability, can be attributed to the most striking achievements of that time,which made it indispensable in off-road conditions. For its development, the designers of the enterprise were awarded the first degree diploma of VDNKh of the USSR. The high quality of the new machines was appreciated by many foreign buyers who hastened to conclude contracts for their supply.

The next government award, the Order of the Red Banner of Labor, was awarded to Ural automakers in 1966 for the modernization of a number of previous models and the development of new ones. Shortly before the collapse of the Soviet Union, the millionth car rolled off its assembly line. In the subsequent period, the plant underwent repeated restructuring and today is part of the GAZ Group, which is the largest automotive company in Russia.

Achievements of Ulyanovsk automakers

In one of the previous sections of the article, it was mentioned that during the Great Patriotic War, an enterprise was formed on the banks of the Volga, which later became known as the Ulyanovsk Automobile Plant (UAZ). His role in the development of the national economy of the country turned out to be so great that it should be considered in more detail.

The history of this illustrious plant began in May 1944 with the release of the first prototype of a 4-ton truck UlZIS-253. In parallel with this, his team set up the production of the GAZ-MM car, developed and produced at the Gorky Plant, and then transferred to Ulyanovsk to continue its mass production. It was the same famous "lorry" - a car with a carrying capacity of 1.5 tons, which, having traveledfront-line roads, became an indispensable assistant in the post-war reconstruction of the national economy.

In 1954, Ulyanovsk specialists launched the production of the GAZ-69 off-road passenger car, and after some time, its modified model, the GAZ-69A. Both of these machines became bright milestones in the development of the Soviet economy in the post-war years. They turned out to be equally in demand both in the Armed Forces of the country and in all areas of the economy. It is also important to note the fact that since 1956 they have been assembled from parts of our own production.

All-wheel drive car UAZ-469

The next labor victory of the factory workers (as it was customary to say during the years of Soviet power) was the production of UAZ-450D light trucks and modifications of the UAZ-452D in 1966. These were the legendary "UAZ", without which it is difficult to imagine the roads of those years. This development was awarded the gold medal of VDNKh. Passenger cars of the UAZ-469 and UAZ-469B brands that left the factory assembly line, which had increased cross-country ability and became a continuation of the tradition laid down back in the days of the GAZ-69 production, enjoyed no less success.


This article provides a far from complete list of products manufactured by the USSR automobile industry enterprises over the years that have passed since its formation and until the collapse of the country. In addition, even most of the mentioned models had various modifications, each of which is of interest due to the originality of the design and the audacity of technical thought. In general, the history of the Sovietautomotive industry is a fascinating chapter in the annals of the national history of the 20th century.

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