Table of contents:
- In Russia, it is customary to complain about roads and their absence, but let's admit to ourselves: this is coquetry. In fact, we are proud of the impassable paths and the way we conquer them, even now, when everyone has a powerful computer in his pocket with incredible communication capabilities. We came up with a lot of super all-terrain vehicles led by Sherpa, it is in our Youtube segment that videos from off-road rides are gaining millions of views. And we must remember the name of Vitaly Andreevich Grachev
Video: Firstborns Of The Off-road King: History And Test Of Unique All-terrain Vehicles By Vitaly Grachev
In Russia, it is customary to complain about roads and their absence, but let's admit to ourselves: this is coquetry. In fact, we are proud of the impassable paths and the way we conquer them, even now, when everyone has a powerful computer in his pocket with incredible communication capabilities. We came up with a lot of super all-terrain vehicles led by Sherpa, it is in our Youtube segment that videos from off-road rides are gaining millions of views. And we must remember the name of Vitaly Andreevich Grachev
He had everything that is customary to put into the concept of "Soviet engineer": courage, dedication to his work, an incredibly lively and inquisitive mind and a desire for experiments. It was Grachev who gave life to the first SUVs of the Union - thereby GAZ-64 and GAZ-67, which provided invaluable assistance during the war years and began the path that eventually led to modern UAZs.
But even more famous is the work of Grachev as the chief designer of the Special Bureau of the ZIL plant. Mainly, we are talking about the Blue Bird complex - these are six-wheeled amphibians with incredible off-road performance, as well as a completely insane screw-rotor monster, which is simply useless to describe in words.
This technique is almost 50 years old, but it still continues to evacuate our cosmonauts from the very places of which we are latently proud - and a full-fledged replacement is not foreseen either in Russia or in the world. We wrote more about "Birds" and other works of Grachev in a separate article, but here we will talk about his very first projects - already almost forgotten, but still miraculously survived to this day. And able to tell a lot about the character of the creator.
From the very beginning, Vitaly Andreevich did not fit into the complex system of the young USSR. In the mid-twenties, he, an ambitious and diligent student, was expelled from the Tomsk Institute of Technology for "wrong" origin: the son of an entrepreneur in the era of the rise of the proletariat was not easy to live. Grachev will never receive a higher education, but in the early thirties he will only go to the rebuilt Gorky Automobile Plant, where he will almost immediately join the development of his first cross-country vehicle.
It's no secret that the company started with licensed Fords - a passenger car and the famous "lorry", a cargo model AA. So, the young designer also took up the adaptation of foreign technologies, namely the three-axle (6x4) version of the AA, created by Timken. In the West, the car did not take root, but here it has become a popular serial "two-thin" GAZ-AAA.
Grachev himself soon after that … Almost flew out of the factory!
The fact is that at the same time, the launch of the light three-axle GAZ-TK, developed in the Kurchevsky weapons design bureau, was being prepared as the basis for a self-propelled artillery installation. The machine turned out to be extremely difficult to manufacture, the design was replete with gross miscalculations, and the principled Grachev did not hesitate to inform the management about this. For which he was instantly demoted from designers to junior assemblers of this very machine - and by the standards of the USSR in 1934, this was still a mild punishment.
And it should be considered a miracle (or recognition of talent?) That the management eventually changed its mind, canceled the release of the TC model, and reinstated Vitaly Andreevich in his post. Kurchevsky, on the other hand, was shot for sabotage in 1937: too many of his inventions were inoperable. Remember this moment - not only for the sake of understanding the morals of the time, but also to appreciate the plot twist at the end of this story.
In the meantime, Grachev, in full accordance with the principle of "criticizing, offer", begins the development of his own light all-terrain vehicle based on the same GAZ-A.The car receives an unimaginable GAZ-AAAA index and is interesting, first of all, by the original arrangement of spare wheels: lowered almost to the ground, they helped roll over difficult terrain.
At the back, driving axles from the "two-ton" are used, the design itself turns out to be much more thoughtful, and sea trials end with good results. But in the yard it is already 1936, and in Gorky they are starting to produce a new passenger car - the M-1 model. This car is much more modern than the elderly "Ashka", and it was decided to combine its technology with Grachev's developments.
The result is an amazing hybrid called the GAZ-21.
Not to be confused with the Volga! In 1940, GAZ will carry out a complete revision of the indices, resetting the previous nomenclature. As a result, the Volga GAZ-M21 will become the direct successor of the Victory GAZ-M20, and no one will remember any pre-war prototype in the mid-fifties. And even more so we would not have remembered another 70 years later, if the "twenty-first" was not standing right here, right now, in an impeccably restored state.
No one knows for certain how many such machines were made: at least two, maximum six, but in any case, one has survived to this day. More precisely, the most important thing has been preserved - the original Grachev frame, around which everything else was restored. And do not rush to call this copy a remake: wherever possible, historical components are used here. Just a little more common - after all, apart from the frame, the GAZ-21 was a prefabricated hodgepodge of everything that was at the plant. A kind of Gorky Lego.
The entire front part is "emka". The hood, fenders, radiator grill still look elegant today, but at that time they seemed a revelation against the background of a simple "ashka". The equipment was also taken from the M-1: a four-cylinder 50-horsepower engine, front suspension, brakes and steering. Further - a little sudden cube of the cabin from the "lorry" and the body from the passenger car GAZ-4, made on the basis of "Ashka". Well, and under the body - consider, the leading bogie "two-ton": axles suspended on a balance suspension with four packages of springs. Moreover, a worm gear is used here: the shafts do not pass through the gearboxes, but through their upper parts. Today, perhaps, this is not to be found.
And you can reasonably ask: they say, if the task was to design an all-terrain vehicle, why was it not made four-wheel drive? The thing is that the designers of the USSR were not yet familiar with the hinges of equal angular velocities, without which it is impossible to simultaneously ensure the transmission of power and the required angle of rotation of the wheels! Even abroad, technology was just nascent: patents and experimental cars began to appear in the late twenties, and the famous Citroen Traction Avant, the first mass-produced front-wheel drive, debuted in 1934. And at first, the CV joints were one of his main sores.
In addition, it was believed that increasing the number of wheels is also a good way to improve cross-country ability. The specific pressure on the ground decreases, the chances of falling into a transverse ditch decrease, and so on. In general, almost 100 years ago, the automotive world lived in a completely different order.
And to understand this, it is enough to sit behind the wheel of the "twenty-first". More precisely, to climb on a high step, and then literally squeeze in, pushing your legs through the narrow gap between the steering wheel and the bench assigned to the driver's seat. Knees splayed, the top of the head supports the ceiling, the transmission selector pokes into the right shin … Adjustments? What are the adjustments?
But these are complaints to the wrong address: with a height of 178 centimeters in those years, I simply would not have gotten a driver's job! Yes, yes, there was such a selection criterion. And then the war broke out, and "lorries" with exactly the same cab ergonomics were already driven by everyone who was capable - and even the woolen upholstery of the seats there was a rarity. All you were given was vinyl, metal, steering wheel and levers.This was enough to cover incredibly important hundreds and thousands of kilometers. And I have only an hour to feel how it happened. More precisely, it could have happened: after all, we remember that this is not a GAZ-AA, but a prototype, a historical artifact.
Museum value, a ride on which even a meter is already an event of a lifetime.
Even starting the engine here is an unimaginable ritual by modern standards. I turn on the ignition with a miniature key, and then with my right foot I simultaneously press two buttons on the floor: one is the starter, and the second, similar to a railway crutch, is the gas. The lower-necked "four" with a volume of 3.3 liters grasps with a half-turn: snorts, vibrates and in every possible way hints that she, too, can not wait to drive several very important kilometers.
The weighty clutch pedal follows an exotic trajectory: first you push forward, and after about the middle - already down. Thanks, even though the gearing scheme is normal. With a long, sweeping lever I grope for the first one - for this I have to press the knob into my own leg - let's start! You don't have to touch the gas at all: the four-speed transmission here is not "emotic", but from the "two-ton" - with a very short row, selected so as to maximize the power range. After all, the GAZ-21 was conceived primarily as an army tractor: an artillery crew in the back, a cannon on the hitch, and all this must somehow go off-road.
Therefore, the maximum speed in the highest, fourth gear here does not exceed 40 km / h, and on an empty car it is wiser to get under way in general from the second, even uphill. I try to turn it on on the go - xxxhrrrrrrr! There are no synchronizers! Moreover, even with switching through a double clutch release, the absence of a crunch is not guaranteed: here it is a normal sound that you just have to get used to. And don't think about the resource of gears in the relic box …
Moreover, there are so many noises in "twenty-first" that the only way not to go crazy is to just stop paying attention to them. The transmission howls hysterically, the engine grumbles angrily, something creaks in the suspension, and this is the very case when the termination of any of these sounds will mean a malfunction. Noises means he lives!
And he goes. Slowly but tirelessly. The stroke of the "nail" of the accelerator is at least a centimeter and a half, but this does not interfere at all with dosing traction, and the engine turns out to be surprisingly responsive. The infinitely long handlebars are surprisingly light - thanks to the gigantic rim - and I soon find myself getting along well with the car. You just need to remember about archaic drum brakes, which, in principle, are not able to keep the car on the hills (you can only drive in gear) and not be offended by the suspension. Because the oak springs of the “twenty-first” do not care about bumps or my bones alike - the main thing is to withstand the blow, and the person behind the wheel will somehow endure.
Well, this is the essence of army technology, especially so old. The main thing is that the GAZ-21 calmly climbed the slopes, it had excellent traction and serious suspension moves - and on tests in 1936-1937, this was enough for success. The design was still crude, the power structure could not withstand the conditions under which the "twenty-first" were driven by the testers, the suspension, steering, transmission - and, in principle, everything that consisted of the car required modifications. But the leadership of the Red Army appreciated the potential and signed the six-wheeled vehicle into mass production - obviously, hoping that most of the problems would be solved in the course of the play.
And since the car is good, you can make something else out of it. For example, a headquarters all-terrain vehicle.
This is how the GAZ-25 appeared - a semi-mythical car, but still existed and, fortunately, still exists. Here, too, the most valuable thing has been preserved - the frame and the rear part of the body with a noticeable long tail. This is both space for a third axle, and a good trunk, which the usual M-1 essentially did not have.But in all other respects the all-metal body of the "twenty-fifth" is no different from the standard "emka".
And compared to the "twenty-first" this is heaven and earth! The most spacious second row, soft seats upholstered with a pleasant to the touch fabric, leather handrails, generously chrome-plated handles - after the asceticism of a "one and a half" cab, it seems that you are almost in the most luxurious car of your time. The pedals are already similar to modern ones, the front sofa pampers with length adjustment, and in general - you can finally take a comfortable position with your legs outstretched and enjoy the ride. Or not? Indeed, in fact, this is the latest evolution of the same purely army all-terrain vehicle.
There are enough technical differences from the GAZ-21. Firstly, a hypoid transmission is used in the drive axles and they look familiar: the spheres of gear cases, in the center of which the cardan shafts come. Under the hood is the newest M-11 engine for that time: six cylinders, 3.5 liters and a good power of 76 horsepower. And the box is not a cargo box, but a standard "emotic" one: the talents of a tractor unit are useless for a staff car, so the gears are longer here, and the maximum speed goes already at 65 kilometers per hour.
And driving a GAZ-25 is really more pleasant: there is something similar to a noble baritone in the voice of the engine, there is noticeably less transmission howl, and acceleration is already really similar to acceleration. In the sense that on the "twenty-first" the consciousness fixes the very fact of movement in space (and is delighted with it), but here we can already talk about the process of gaining speed. Extremely unhurried, but still a set.
Only now it shakes mercilessly too: the "twenty-fifth" bounces in the same way on any bump, but here, at least, there is less chance of reaching the roof with the top of its head or up to the door with an elbow. And yet, in terms of the totality of qualities at that time, this car could well claim the status of a good SUV for the command staff of the Soviet army.
The decision-makers were not too worried about the crude design, as well as the problems with the passability of experimental machines. But they were there: if the front wheels were seriously stuck, the rear wheels could no longer pull them out, and on swampy surfaces the Grachev's six-wheelers were practically uncontrollable and drove mainly where they were pushed by the driving axles.
And it is here that you need to remember the story of the execution of Kurchevsky in order to understand what kind of person Grachev was.
In the yard, according to various sources, either the end of the 37th year, or the beginning of the 38th. The most hectic and dangerous time. But Vitaly Andreevich, realizing that his cars are far from ideal, decides to write as much to Voroshilov! He asks to cancel preparations for mass production, explaining that in this form, SUVs will cause more problems than they will be useful. And as a result … not only keeps the position, but also gets the go-ahead to develop a new project!
How did it happen? The fact is that Grachev managed to convince Voroshilov that a good SUV is possible only with all-wheel drive. At the same time, foreign CV joints made by Rzepp and Bendix-Weiss are finally in the hands of the designer. Vitaly Andreevich understands the outlandish design and comes to the conclusion that it is quite possible to reproduce it on GAZ equipment - which is generally logical, given that many machines were also of foreign origin.
So the last wall that separated Grachev from the four-wheel drive collapsed: the prototype of the GAZ-61, an "emki" with four drivers, will be ready in the summer of 1939, and since 1940, Voroshilov and Zhukov, and many other commanders of the Red Army. And, by the way, these cars were praised sincerely. Well, in 1941, almost simultaneously with the beginning of the war, the Gorky plant began to produce "Ivan-Willis", the very GAZ-64 (and then the GAZ-67), without which the course of hostilities could have been completely different.
What is this story about? That honesty and dedication are sometimes critical. These qualities helped Grachev make one of the most important decisions in life, and this is how Vitaly Andreevich approached work until the end of his days. Subordinates recalled that it was simply impossible for him to "slip for free".That is why, probably, there are still no analogues to the Blue Birds, but let the six-wheeled prototypes remain museum treasures today, reminiscent of these amazing people and events. By the way, do not forget to watch the video - you probably won't have another chance to see these cars in motion.