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Misselwood Concours Preview: 1976 GAZ 24 Volga

Jay Ramey June 21, 2013 Car Shows, Cars You Should Know 22 Comments

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There is no getting around it: the GAZ 24 is a rare sight on our roads. For every GAZ in the US, there are approximately ten Tatras, which puts that into perspective. I mean, when was the last time you saw a Tatra anyway? Not counting the one we saw last week at Greenwich Concours’ Bonhams auction. And, umm, not counting the two that we featured last year on Hooniverse. And not counting the Tatra I am probably going to see tomorrow.

The 1976 GAZ 24 above appeared at Misselwood Concours d’Elegance in 2011, where it attracted quite a bit of attention from the crowds, as you might expect. And the 2013 edition of Misselwood Concours is just around the corner, so it’s not too early to start making plans.  The concours will take place on July 28th on the grounds of the Misselwood estate at Endicott College, in Beverly, Massachusetts. And with the untimely demise of the Fairfield County Concours as well as the Newport Concours, Misselwood has emerged as a popular event during the second half of the summer. And given it’s spectacular location, right on the cliffs overlooking Beverly Harbor and Salem Sound, with the city of Boston visible in the distance, it’s easy to see why this event has grown so much during its first three years. Now let’s take a look at this Volga from Misselwood 2011.

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The GAZ entered production in 1970 just as the long-lived GAZ 21 that had been the Gorky plant’s staple was finally taking a bow. As popular as the 21 was, the design and mechanicals had become outdated by second half of the 1960s, even by Soviet standards. And as unreachable as the GAZ 21 was for the average Soviet citizen, effectively being the most expensive car that one could privately buy, the 24 would take on that mantle as well.

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The 24 premiered with a 2.4 liter carburetted inline-four engine making 95bhp. In a slight departure from the 21, power driven to the rear wheels via a 4-speed manual transmission with a gearshift mounted on the transmission tunnel, as opposed to the steering column. Despite the car’s resemblance to the Volvo 140 series, at least in photos, in person the car has very little in common visually with the Volvo. The GAZ 24 happened to be one of those rare Soviet cars whose design was not directly influenced by any one western automobile. In person the car tends to resemble a Plymouth Valiant or Dodge Dart from the late 1960s than any Volvo model, truth be told. 

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Over the years a great number of versions of the GAZ 24 were made. These ranged from relatively basic ones like the 2402 station wagon, to more exotic ones like the 2454 RHD version, less than a thousand of which were made. Other rare variants included the 2424 5.5 liter V8-powered sedan which was made for state security services, a 2407 propane-powered version for taxi services, and a 2495 AWD sedan. It’s not that unusual to still see a 2476 or 2477 in Belgium, which was one of the primary export markets for the GAZ 24, and one where the GAZ was powered by a Peugeot-Indenor diesel engine.

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The 24 was not really replaced by the end of its production cycle in 1985 after 15 years (which was way past its replacement date anyway), but it was rather facelifted into the GAZ 2410. The differences between te 24 and 2410 weren’t especially revolutionary. On the outside the car’s chrome grille was swapped out for a plastic one, and fridge door handles were replaced with square ones that sunk in the door, like on a Peugeot 505. The 2410 also received a revised interior and dash.

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Earlier in the decade, the 24 actually spawned a parallel car based on the same basic structure of the 24 called the 3102, which was meant to be a more upscale sedan meant for local government big shots and such. Despite some exterior differences with the 2410, a lot of the parts in the 3102 were interchangeable with the other cars. So it’s not unusual to see a lot of 24s and its siblings with parts from the 3102 and even later cars, one that were made in the 1990s.

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This example appeared to be more or less well restored, though it didn’t take a Volga expert to notice some modern touches. The interchageability of parts between the 24 and its myriad of successors (some of which just recently exited production) means that during a typical restoration process, modern GAZ parts and non-OEM parts are often used. The sort of concours judging that might wreck the reputation of a Pontiac Tempest at a judged concours event is not a thing that this GAZ 24 has to worry about (because who in the world’s going to be able to tell?) but the seats in the 24 did appear to have been redone to a more modern standard. Some of the panel gaps as well did not suggest that all of its body panels were original to this one car, and there was no way to verify whether the engine had been replaced with a later fuel-injected unit. Overall, aside from the paint this car looked pretty close to stock.

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There is not a single 2402 station wagon in the US from what I hear, so that’s still out there in case you want to be the first person to bring one in. Just sayin’

The 2013 Misselwood Concours d’Elegance will take place on July 28th on the grounds of the Misselwood estate at Endicott College, in Beverly Massachusetts. Rain or shine.

[Images: Copyright 2013 Hooniverse/Jay Ramey]


  • In the first picture it looks like it getting a dab of oppo…

  • Sjalabais

    I have never seen a GAZ 24 as shiny as that. And wide white walls? Still, a very beautiful and timeless design, even though the machinery might remind many of us of 1960's commercial trucks. A chrome-grille 24 is high on my list of desirable cars, but as far as I can tell, these vehicles have taken off seriously pricewise in Europe.

    Isn't the 3102 the version that was in continued production until failry recently? Who can tell what the exact differences were?

    • Jay_Ramey

      Yeah, inevitably this is what happens when a car is restored over there to a show standard – the paint is metallic and glossy, and the whitewalls had never seen rain.

      No 3102s in the US to the best of my knowledge, but there's a beige 24 in Cali with a 2410 grille, or really a 2410 posing as a 24.

      • Sjalabais

        That tiny number of tasteful automobile deviance can't be enough among the 317 million people proudly inhabiting the US of A?

      • ˏ♂ˊ mzs zsm msz esq

        Thanks Jay, one of my Godfather's Volgas:

        This red one here looks fresher 😉

    • DeeTwoAr

      The GAZ-3102 was actually more of a different car than a version of the GAZ-24, while still derived from the same platform (much like Chrysler's A-body vs. F/M-body). Different front suspension, disk brakes, all-new interior (quite plush for the time, by the way), all-new front and rear sheet metal (except for the floorpan and roof), etc.

      The engine was initially a stratified-charge, lean-burn modification of the original 2.5 liter pushrod engine. Later they substituted it with a 2.3 liter fuel-injected 16-valve DOHC unit, of the GAZ's in-house design. Still, in the 2000s some cars had Mexican built Chrysler's 2.4 engines, as local production was insufficient. There were also cars with V6s and V8s (hot !), but not too many. Most came with 4- or 5-speed manual 'boxes, but some could have a 3-speed automatic transmission as well.

      Since about mid-90s most cars got power steering, power windows, etc. Never got an ABS and retained 1960-s vintage rear leaf-spring suspension right until the end, though, and sheet metall was not Zink plated which is a critical issue in Russia's climate, so basically they may rot if not being undercoated every several years. In the 1990s it was marketed as an upmarket car, but since the 1998 Russian financial crisis it became quite affordable for the masses.

      Last cars were produced in the fall of 2008, but by this time they had been almost exclusively produced for the police, taxi and municipal officials (again – much like the M-body Chryslers in the late 80's). They were cheap then, a brand new GAZ-3102 Volga cost nearly as much as a Daewoo Matiz (1st gen Chevrolet Spark in the US market) – quite a bargain considering we're still speaking of a full-sized car about 200 inches long, albeit originating from the 1970s. However, private purchasers were (quite understandably) few, and the ill-fated Volga-Siber (1st gen Chrysler Sebring clone) scared them off almost all of them.

      Still see many of them around, mostly as taxis – both 3102 and 3110 (a facelifted version). This cars still have a strong fanbase in Russia, including a national motor racing series specifically dedicated to them.

      Sorry for a very late response, hope it was still of some use )

      • Sjalabais

        Thanks a lot for the info! So much of value in that post…are races of that GAZ series available on Youtube? How much would you pay for a good pre-1984 model? And how would you go about to find it? Any online databases?

        I certainly didn't know that they were available with V8 engines. Sourced from Chrysler, too? Thanks again for a lot of good information!

        • EndoSteel

          Currently there are two Volga racing championships which are "Dzintara Volga" in Latvia (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OAHhmAtsIb0) and NLS in Russia (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3KtAWZjQ6cY). Not counting winter oval track races and dirt track races that are less popular.

          A good pre-84 Volga costs about RUR 100 000 ($3000), a good pre-77 car can cost up to $8000 depending on it's condition and state of originality. The latter is quite an issue since most Volga parts from the 70-s to the late 2000-s are interchangeable. Getting one without having a contact in Russia? Doubt it.

          Volgas with V8 engines were not really available :), just a small number of them were built for the KGB. These were 2424 and 2434, the KGB versions of 24 and 2410 respectively. The engine used was ZMZ-2424, a distant relative of the ZMZ-14 (GAZ-14 Chaika) motor. Not sourced from anyone, purely domestic. The 3102 also had a V8 version, 31011, powered by ZMZ-505. Now these cars are very rare and ridiculously pricey, but enthusiasts build replicas (just like musclecar replicas in the US) combining an ordinary GAZ-24 body gearbox with a ZMZ-53 (GAZ-53 midsize truck) engine.

          • EndoSteel

            BTW, speaking of the originality issue: the car on the photos above has a post-77 front panel, 2410 bumpers and 2410 tail lights. "Volga" nameplates on front fenders were never combined in production with turn signal lights. Pre-72 cars had just the nameplates, all later cars – just the lights. Rear cat's eyes are missing. Etc., etc…

            • Sjalabais

              You should ask the Hooniverse overlords for permission to do a proper intro series to these cars…3000$ isn't much, considering that the word "decent" might be the challenge. How a Russian contact go about finding one?

              Also surprised how cool looking racecars these GAZ's make. Love the taxi-themed example.

              • Manic_King

                Google tranlation of tech. regs, couldn't find original in English so translation from Russian: http://www.upload.ee/files/3918190/Technical_reg_

                These are modern regulations, Volgas were raced also soviet and post-soviet times, things were a bit different then, translation from Volga.ee forum:

                – Displacement was the same as from factory
                – The compression ratio was raised
                – Lighter, sometimes titanium parts were used, but tuned motors too often tended to fall apart.
                – The tie rod ends were shortened for faster steering
                – Often lighter Niva brake drums in use. It was not permitted .
                – Had no special necessity in a circuit but in cross they used BTR (army) lock diff . It was not permitted…
                – Helicopter MI -8 rims, tire with 2.5 atm pressure. Started to heat while driving = incr. to 3 atm . Dnepropetrovsk factory produced Volga tires that lasted longer and were lighter. Belotserkovo tires were easier to obtain , but they lasted 1 race only. The race was 30 laps in Bikernieki (Latvia) track.
                – Single GAZ -51 main spring leaf instead of leaf pack, lower and better controlled suspension.
                – Race cars came and went driving. Shipping of cars came later.
                – Old taxis usually, more than 500k km which were soft already, Georgians often came with new ones. Driving Georgia – Latvia was an "break in" trip, couple of thousand of km's.
                – Rollcage was only the main arc, the car was on the track as soft as sheet of paper , and much less controlled than today. But cars were lighter.
                – Most things have changed for today's Dzintara Volga series for better safety. Full rollcage, seat belts, window net and clothing. In the past: T – shirt, soft seat , crappy helmet and a 3 or 4 point belts, which were combined with a soft seat and head restraints. Steering wheel came from 2140 AZLK (Moscwich).
                – Everything depended a great deal on inventiveness, means and will to cheat, because the control was pretty shallow.
                Today in Dzintara Volga rules are: allowed to change are the camshaft, spring leaves, springs , pistons , tank , radiator, muffler and perhaps more odds and ends . Tires are still 205/70 R14 and the carburetor and distributor have to be of original, approved type.

                • Sjalabais

                  Sounds all a bit like a Soviet cliché. Tipping my hat for people willing to race under the most adverse conditions.

                  • Manic_King

                    Yeah, well "inventiveness" is the main word here. People just used what they had access to. As everything was state-owned access to tools and machinery was really easy if you worked in any kind of place with which produced or serviced something. Also "time" was much less of a problem as there was little motivation to use 100% of your time for usually dead-end state job so people were able to build those cars during the working day. Procurement of better parts was huge problem, seems that some people had access to titanium and related tech and then surprisingly used this access to make race parts for Volga….

                    • Sjalabais

                      I have a deep understanding of this process, having grown up in the GDR. That's also what makes good factory-original Wartburg, Trabant and Barkas really rather pricey these days in good old Gärmäni. Thinking about racing just raises all issues a notch or two…and that 3000$ number above is a really pleasant surprise. Almost so I could pull that off now, while I'm deep into "not a car dream"-phase of life.

  • nanoop

    I had one of those as taxi in central Asia ten years ago (outside white, pink fluffy carpet on the inside). Comfy, though. We asked the owner if he'd ever swap for a W124, and he denied, those wouldn't last more than 700, maybe 800.000km. THAT's a reason!

    • Jay_Ramey

      Yeah, 24s are huge in Central Asia for some reason.

  • dukeisduke

    The wide whites just don't work for me, unless he's going for the mid '70s craze involving nostalgia for the '50s.

    • DeeTwoAr

      Agreed. To me, the combination of blackwall tires, black steel disks and dog dish hubcaps is the best-looking one for these cars. My first GAZ-24 was done this way, and for the second one I've experimented with black wheels / red pinstriping, which worked out nicely. I haven't tried true narrow whitewalls, however, as 14 inch tires of this style are very difficult to come by where I live.

  • Synchromesh

    Pretty sure the whitewalls were not available from the factory. I don't recall seeing any. As for who would care about minute details – just import an expert from Russia. From what I hear people who still own these tend to be completely insane about them. That makes sense because it's more of a state of mind than rationality since Western cars are readily available in most of Russia and have been for 20+ years now.

    These were many people's dream back in the day since they were the most luxurious and expensive car a private citizen could've owned back in 70s and 80s. My cousin's husband owned a station wagon version and it was a boat. I also remember a very rare diesel station wagon next to our apartment block in late 80s. It was easy to point out the dieselness because of its two-tone pain – a rarity in those days all by itself. Diesel design was quite awful, btw. I think there were major issues with it and it was one of the rejects from one of the Western firms, Puch, iirc.

  • Klaus_Schmoll

    Fun Fact:

    My dad just told me the other day that for use with the power supply agency in the GDR they converted these gas guzzlers to diesel, using engines from the Multicar ( http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4… ). This conversion made them slow as hell, but as they mostly had to do inner city duty, it din't matter much, and they saved fuel.

    • Sjalabais

      That's very interesting! Acquiring/allocating smaller cars was not an option?

    • Jay_Ramey

      Whoa, now that I didn't know. They had diesel 24s straight from the factory, with Peugeot-Indenor engines for the Belgian and French markets, plus a lot of European embassies kept diesel 24s as staff cars.