Q: Why is the GAZ 14’s key hole almost halfway between the door handle and the door sill?
A: Because nearly half of GAZ 14 drivers were KGB, the low key hole position made it easier for crouching KGB agents to unlock the door while being out of the line of sight (or fire).
Though the GAZ 14 Chaika (seagull) was hierarchically one step below the top-of-the-line ZIL, it is arguably the best luxury sedan the Soviet Union ever designed and manufactured. It was technologically superior to its longer wheelbased cousins and because it was shorter, it was relatively more nimble.
But what really makes the 14 stand out is its looks. Though it was inspired by large, blocky 1970s American sedans, it was by no means derivative. Its designers announced to the proletariat with this car that its occupants were professional, cosmopolitan, and not to be messed with.
The GAZ 14 was equipped with a 5.5 liter aluminum block V8 (with two 4-barrel carburetors) that was good for 220 horses. It could haul the Black Beauty up to 109 mph. Officially, the 5,700 pound car got 17.6 miles to the gallon. That’s about as credible as figures given at a presentation to the Politburo on cotton production in the Uzbek S.S.R.
The GAZ 14 seated seven in a 2+2+3 configuration. There are two fold-out jump seats in the middle and two contoured sofa seats in the back. If absolutely necessary, a monkey could uncomfortably sit in the middle, between the two contoured seats. In keeping ambient noise to a bare minimum, the seats were covered in quiet cloth rather than loud leather.
No expense was spared to make the ride as smooth as possible. During a road test on surface streets, Car & Driver noted that the 14 was outcornered by a city bus. ‘Nuf said.
The first GAZ 14 was presented to Brezhnev in 1976 for his 70th birthday. Thereafter, about 100 were made every year. At the end of its run in 1988, Gorbachev curiously ordered that all blueprints be destroyed so that the car would never be built again.
The following video, in Russian, has some detailed shots of the sedan’s interior and exterior:
This video features the GAZ 14-05 convertible parade car, which still sees regular duty at Victory Day celebrations: