Tuesday 26 October 2010
A Chaika (Чайка), which means gull, is a luxury automobile from the Soviet Union made by GAZ. The vehicle is one step down from the ZIL limousine.
Chaika production consisted of two generations. The mark 1 Chaika, the GAZ M13, was produced from 1959 to 1981, and is the more famous and more numerous with more than 3,100 examples built during the 22 year production run. The Chaika GAZ M13 was visually a near-clone of the 1955 Packard Patrician and Mercury, with typical chrome-bedecked 1950s styling. The M13 was powered by a 195 horsepower (145 kW) 5.5L V8 and driven through a push-button automatic transmission of a similar design to the Chrysler TorqueFlite unit. As a limousine-class car, Chaikas were available only to the Soviet government, and could not be purchased by the average citizens. Chaikas were one step down from the more prestigious ZIL limousines, and were issued to top professionals, party officials, scientists, academics, and other VIPs. For their larger size and more powerful V8, Chaikas were also ordered in some quantity by the KGB. Nikita Khrushchev, although entitled to a ZIL, was known to prefer Chaikas, and kept an M13 at his summer dacha. Top speed was 99 mph (158 km/h).
The vintage 1950s-style M13 was succeeded by the more modern Chaika M14 introduced in 1977 (although production of both versions overlapped by several years). The M14 drew styling cues from blocky, upright American luxury sedans of the period, but, unlike the M13 did not directly copy any one design. Although visually modern and fitted with the latest electronic luxury features, the M14 was in fact built around the drivetrain and undercarriage of the older model. The M14 engine was modernized and achieved 220 horsepower (160 kW). The Chaika M14 remained in production from 1977 to 1988, after which point the Chaika limousine brand was ended.
Although most Chaikas were sedans, both generations were also produced in 4-door convertible form, primarily for parade use. The M13 convertible, or M13b, was built for only two years 1961 and 1962. The M14b lasted longer, introduced in 1982, it ran to the end of Chaika production in 1988.
A station wagon version, the M13A Universal, was produced for a few years in the 1960s and is the lowest-volume Chaika variant. Many of the wagons were converted to ambulance or funeral car duty.
Today, GAZ specializes in mid-price and premium (by Russian standards) cars all sold under the Volga brand.
- engine: V8
- capacity: 5500 cc
- horsepower: 195 HP
- gearbox: 4+1
- top speed: 158 km/h