• Car model: GAZ
  • Producing country: USSR
  • Year of issue: 1956
  • Body Type: Sedan

GAZ-21 Volga is a Soviet rear-wheel drive passenger car serving as a middle class sedan bodywork. The model was mass-produced at the automobile plant in Gorky from 1956 to 1970. The prototype was the Ford Mainline. In order to carry out detailed studies of its automatic gearbox, the automobile plant bought a similar machine.

Already at the beginning of 1954 began to build prototypes of cars. They were equipped with an overhead valve power unit, which was an experiment, as well as a hemispherical combustion chamber and chain drive of the camshaft. It is worth mentioning that the latter did not prove to be the best, so it was not allowed for serial production. The whole model range is GAZ.

Car history

The following year, in 1955, to be exact, on May 3, 3 cars were tested at the state level. Two of them were with an automatic gearbox and one with a manual gearbox. As a test the cars were to participate in the run from Moscow to Crimea and back. As soon as the first tests were passed, the plant received permits for the production of drawings, and began to prepare for the production of cars.

The appearance of GAZ-21 cars on the domestic automotive market was a real breakthrough. Externally, it was a bit like an American car, because there were also “shark fins”. The sedan was used in various structures, including KGB.


In October 1956, GAZ-21 made its debut 3 production machines. They had the presence of a power unit with the capacity of 65 horses, bored up to 2,432 liters pobedovsky of the lower-valve power unit. This modification was marked “21B”.

And the next year the machine was delivered to the conveyor. This gave the car its own personal top-valve type power unit, which increased to 70 horsepower. Up to now, the car looks luxurious, despite the past decades. Today on the road you can find a lot of foreign cars, which is quite understandable, as it is everywhere.


However, the car many years ago embodied the power, grace, wealth and elegance, has remained the same and still knows how to attract the attention of people. Of course, it is necessary to admit that there are already a considerable number of cars, which are much more powerful, which in terms of technical component are far ahead of this machine of Soviet manufacture.

However, the consumption of this car for a long time does not meet environmental and current standards, which are associated with the ubiquitous struggle for energy conservation, but almost every motorist, if you see a car like this on the street, just can’t help but “feel” the hood of the car, or iron the roof or posts. In this article you can see the photo of GAZ-21.


The appearance of the GAZ-21 car can be called original, looking at its photo. Lev Yeremeev, who was an artist at the time, created not only a unique appearance, which fits perfectly with the fashion of previous years, but also changed it for 14 years, while the model was produced.

It is very important that the car can not be called borrowed, copied or plagiarized. Judging by the GAZ-21-10 photo, the car was in line with the fashion of the previous years. The body of the car did not receive a single straight line, most of the parts are rounded and flawless. In the photo it is clearly visible.

Photos of GAZ-21

Uniformity of the series has reached the level of 100%. It was possible to change the decor, using only the file in the right places, so that the details and elements could fit. However, we’re talking about the usual unchangeable massive bloated wings and hood, which has a roundness and a small hump along. Interestingly, this modification received the frontal glass washing nozzles. The side of the car looks a little bit like a barrows, partly due to its blown shape and falling down to the front and back of the line.

Taking into account all these moments, GAZ-21 can be called a rather large machine. They make the car more expressive with huge punches, which can be found on the doors installed behind and on the wings. On the one hand, it seems as if it were a lightning bolt, and if you look otherwise – the hind legs of a predatory cat. Massiveness is added by presence of road clearance GAZ-21 – 1 900 mm. The impression of this off-road car is created.

Side view of GAZ-21

This can be achieved by using native wide tyres, where the width is much smaller. As mentioned above, the ground clearance is astounding. However, if you think back to when the car was manufactured, it all falls into place. At that time, there were not many roads, to tell the truth, and it was necessary to drive where many parquet flooring is not going to pass today.

Chromium will not spoil the Volga, because it is almost everywhere, and it is from the factory. It can be found in comfortable door handles under the standard grip and with a button. It can also be seen on the small strips at the bottom of the doors and on the edges of the windows. It is simply impossible not to mention the big saucers of the wheel covers.

The plant also provided for the presence of export chrome, which was placed only on certain cars. There you could find a belt sill line molding, chrome-vodostok, edging for the windshield, arrows on the wings and the name “Volga”. Side mirrors of rear visibility are absent here, however, as in any series.

Among the distinctive features of the 3-rd series can be highlighted and gutters – here they reach the beginning of the wing, which is not easy to find in the debut and 2nd series. In general, the 3rd Series is the fastest, thanks to its innovative and challenging exterior materials. The rear has a large, outstanding luggage compartment with a lid that reaches the top of the bumper. The lanterns have learned the vertical direction, and can be transferred to any previous modification. They had no heavy flashing, but only a thin chrome edge band.

The luggage compartment lid itself is not installed in an upright position at a high height, which leads to forced bending of the back during unloading and loading. However, this does not affect the loading of luggage in a sufficiently stowed luggage compartment. There is a storage space on the right side, and tools can be installed between the wheel and the boot wall to ensure that the tools are better secured and do not run all over the bottom.

rear view GAZ-21

As for the starter curve and rack and pinion jack, their installation does not take up any useful space, as there is room for them from the factory. The bird that found its place on the lid of the luggage compartment, inside which was the opening button of the lid, changed with other changes.

And yes, we should admit that there are fins here too, which speaks about the American style, but there is no point in saying that the Gorky plant “stole” this idea, because at that time, this stylistic solution could be found in many cars, it was fashion.

Rear view of the Volga-21

The design staff of GAZ-21 was able to design a car that can attract attention with its original appearance, despite its forty-year “experience”. With the help of accurate calculations of power parts it was possible to make a high body strength.

Moreover, the Volga car was characterized by increased corrosion resistance with the help of specialized treatment of the body by “phosphating”. Speaking about the degree of the car body painting, some models do not need to be repainted even today.


The GAZ 21 salon itself can be described in several words, without going into details – it is huge, comfortable and quite pleasant. However, you just can’t keep silent about many of its features. Landing is done in the car without any problems, which is achieved partly by comfortable door handles.

There is no need to lower your head. At landing, you get on a big and soft sofa, which can be seen in the photo. Already many people know that this model of the plant has received the presence of a front single seat, which, if necessary, is lowered and moved to the steering wheel. If we talk about the seat, it is quite soft here, thanks to the installation of internal springs.

GAZ-21 salon

Nothing stifles the body, so you can sit as you like, because the seat belts were not even provided with the conveyor belt. However, if you move a little closer to the steering wheel, it will be a little uncomfortable, because the steering column adjustment was not known then. If anything, you can wind the ribs on the steering wheel. However, there is a pleasant bonus – the gearbox is controlled by a lever, which can be found on the steering wheel.

It turns out that even three people can sit in front, because there is no backstage. Sitting passengers in front will be quite comfortable, because the legs can be placed where it is convenient. Speaking about the dashboard, it is necessary to speak only about the well-known transparent hemisphere of a speed sensor with arrow arrangement which is allocated upwards against the general background. There are indicators of fuel level and ammeter, and underneath them on the left side you can find the adjustment of airflow, light and stove. On the floor there is a lever for opening the front hood.

GAZ-21 interior

The steering wheel is big and thin, there is a chrome button of the sound signal of the raised and lowered tone, and also a small medallion with a refined animal. Taking it in your hands, you can’t say that it’s uncomfortable, though, it’s not as comfortable as foreign cars. However, there are some drawbacks – time passes and they begin to yellow, crack and collapse. It’s not so convenient to work for them, but it’s a habit. On the left behind “mutton” there are turn signals, which, naturally, do not have automatic return, and also the lever of switching of a mechanical gearbox.

They do not have a large size, but work with them is quite convenient, you do not have to reach them, everything is near, which is certainly a pleasure. To the right are the water level and oil level sensors, the ignition switch and the suction pad. It is a pleasure that even in such a car there is an unusual thing – a plug. In addition, he is a worker, and the car has a flashlight from the factory, which can be turned on during the work as additional lighting.

The centre of the torpedo has its own lamp radio, which operates in three frequency bands. Today, there is no one to surprise with cruise control, but even in the Soviet Union, cruise control was the norm. A small round lever between the ashtray and lamp radio is a hand gas. After setting the speed it is necessary to pull the lever and take your foot off the accelerator pedal – then the car GAZ 21 Volga continues to move on, but you should drive. The massive clock, which has a proud inscription: “Made in the USSR”, shows the time since that time.

In order to bring them down, the mechanism under the torpedo was provided. The glove compartment in “Volga” turned out to be a small one. The torpedo in the cars of the debut modifications from above wasn’t broken by anything, because of what the sun rays often shone on the glasses that forced the drivers to paste the surface with the leather substitute themselves. Later, the surface was covered from the conveyor belt.

The salon was so comfortable and spacious, and the sofa was soft that you could even sleep in the car without any discomfort.

The back row also has a huge space and a soft landing. There is plenty of room for your feet, and three passengers will be able to sit comfortably without discomfort. Even the floor transmission tunnel was not so huge and does not stand out much in the cabin. To move around, as well as to make comfortable boarding and disembarkation of passengers, the handrails attached to the front sofa were provided.

Photo of GAZ-21

As a comfort here, on the second row, you can only find an ashtray. However, such soft sofas and large free space provide the opportunity to use this car as a means for long journeys – there is no need for camping or tents, there is a comfortable place to sleep. All you need is to lay out the front sofa and relax. The right central pillar has a small size salon light switch and compact hooks for clothes. The luggage compartment volume was 170 litres of usable space.


Mower unit

This beauty was equipped with in-line four-cylinder carburetor engine ZMZ 21, which volume is 2.5 liters. This allows to develop a power of 75 horsepower. Among its peculiarities it is possible to allocate the bottom-shaft system – the camshaft is installed in the lower part of the block, and the valves function through specialized bars.

It also has wet cast iron sleeves (and the unit itself is made of aluminum) – it does not need to be wasted. All that is needed is to replace the piston group together with the sleeves. Motor is quite reliable, but the high speed is negative, but the low speed allows it to carry large loads, including the trailer.

GAZ-21 engine

The carburetor has the name K124, as well as a special window, which allows you to know the amount of fuel inside it. The engine has a lot of appetite. In front of the engine installed the necessary element in winter – blinds. First, on the unheated engine, they need to be closed, then start it and wait until it warms up.

Afterwards, it is very important not to forget to open, otherwise it will just boil, because from the very beginning the car had a water cooling system. The engine consumes about 13.5 liters per 100 km in a combined cycle. Maximum speed is 130 km/h.


The developers have synchronized an unusual power unit with a 3-speed mechanical gearbox with a switch mounted on the steering wheel. The box has its own moments, such as the lack of synchronizer on the front and back, so it required a double clutch release.
<700 vehicles were released with an automatic box, but they couldn’t take root due to a lack of maintenance and the lack of hypoid oil.


We decided to install an independent spring suspension in front. Up until 1960, a centralized suspension lubrication system was used, but the latter was very complicated and often stains were left on the road. Therefore, there is a need for frequent lubrication. Also in front of you can see the stabilizer of the transverse stability.

The third series allowed to have telescopic shock absorbers on the sedan instead of obsolete lever-type ones. The rear part of the machine had a dependent suspension with a split axle on the longitudinal springs, where there were telescopic shock absorbers. The disadvantage of this bridge is that it is very difficult to assemble the stockings following the separation of the stockings, mainly to set the contact spot.

Rail control

It was devoid of amplifiers and used outdated kingpins. The steering column was not adjustable. There was a pendulum mechanism.

Brake system

The braking system is a drum mechanism that does not have an amplifier on the pedal. Do not forget about the parking brake, which is placed on the gearbox, as in the past, all machines.

It is logical that due to this the cardan gear is blocked. There is a spoonful of tar, because when a sedan stands one wheel on the asphalt, and the second one on wet or slippery surface and in the mountain, it can go.

Pluses and minuses

Pluses cars

  • Qualitative body “Volga”;
  • High corrosion resistance using structural steel phosphating;
  • Qualitative painting;
  • Low cost and ease of interchangeability of elements and parts;
  • Pleasant appearance;
  • Not bad aerodynamics of the car;
  • Not a bad engine;
  • High ground clearance;
  • Little volume of luggage compartment;
  • Spacious salon;
  • Comfortable and soft sofa in front and behind;
  • There’s a radio
  • Not bad dynamic characteristics;
  • Soft pendant to swallow most irregularities and pits;
  • Rich history;
  • Application of modern technology in the creation of the suspension.

Cons of a car

  • Not undergone any changes outdated engine;
  • Most of the parts in the construction are simply outdated;
  • High vehicle weight;
  • Automatic gearbox not working;
  • Lack of hydraulic power amplifiers in steering and braking systems;
  • Unreliable parking brake;
  • Unreasonable central lubrication system;
  • Bad design of 3-stage mechanical gearbox;
  • Travel belts are missing;
  • Not adjustable steering column;
  • Small settings on the front sofa.

We sum up

After getting acquainted with such “work of art” there are only pleasant memories. If she is able to like it today, it is difficult to imagine how much excitement she caused in 1957. The car had smooth rounded lines and shapes, pleasant appearance and popular in those days “shark fins”. The sedan could be quickly liked by most car enthusiasts, which caused a lot of demand for it. It was used even in some Soviet films that we remember well today (“Beware of the car”, “Diamond hand”, etc.). At that time, the car was just a breakthrough.

Photo of the first generation of GAZ-21

He felt great on the asphalt, but was also not afraid of the rough terrain, which was achieved thanks to a good suspension, high ground clearance and a strong powertrain. Inside, both the driver and the passengers sitting next to him felt comfortable and free, good, the space was with the head.

The sofas were distinguished by their softness. Some cars (700 cars) even had an automatic gearbox. The luggage compartment allowed you to take all the necessary things with you, including a spare wheel and the necessary tools, and to go resting. The engine ate a lot, but for those times, few people were worried about this issue, because the cost of gasoline was small.


The car’s suspension is perfect for almost any situation on the road. Despite the long experience of GAZ-21, it can still be found today on the roads. Recently, it has also become customary to collect old cars, and Volga is no exception. Of course, we can find a lot of drawbacks in this sedan, but do not forget in what year this car was produced. GAZ-21 will be able to stay in our memory for a long time.

We advise you to read the article: Dream car: how Volga was hardened

GAZ – history of car production

GAZ-21 photos

Test drive

Video overview

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