Car video reviews:
GAZ Chaika 14 : Limited Edition Luxury Cars the Soviet Way
When you look at the playback of the iconic debate between future U.S. President Richard M. Nixon and Soviet Premier Nikita Kruschev, petrolheads can't help but get a sense that had it taken place in a garage rather than a kitchen, Nixon would've walked away with it. Why? Because Capitalism kicked the snot out of Communism in the car department. And no, it wasn't even close.

GAZ Chaika 14 : Limited Edition Luxury Cars the Soviet Way

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The GAZ Chaika was Soviet Communism's answer to Cadillac or Rolls-Royce, the decadent capitalist companies that Stalin himself only wished he could control. But while that dream required crossing the Rhine, another absurd and delusional Soviet fever dream, making a Soviet copycat took much less throwing away of the "people meat."

And thus, behold! The Gaz Chaika 13, aka the Cursed Communist Cadillac, aka Stalin's preferred personal automobile transportation. Though, the basis for our main focus today is 13's ultra-rare, ultra-exclusive successor, the Chaika 14. Side note, how "mean Uncle Joe" managed to avoid an assassin's bullet while sitting in an ultra-exclusive drop-top cabriolet variant of Chaika 13, while at the same time, JFK couldn't, only proves that evil dirtbags seem to live for an eternity. But as for the Chaika itself, it at least has a remarkably colorful and quintessentially Soviet backstory.

Because "copyright infringement" never translated all that well into Russian Cyrillic, the M/O for most Soviet car designs went as follows in the 50s and 60s. Step one, hire illegal state-funded smugglers and send them into NATO-allied countries. Step two, observe what said nation's auto industries were up to. (Press releases, magazine periodicals, here-say on the street, etc.) Then step three, gather as many press releases and information pamphlets as possible to smuggle them all past border security using various methods behind the Iron Curtain.

At this point, they'd start reverse engineering their findings into bespoke Soviet products that, at best, look like funky exterior body kits for old American cars. At worst, they looked like the kind of cursed imagery you only find in your nightmares. Distorted, ill-fitting, and often rust-prone front fascias turn the classic styling lines of old American iron into grotesque caricatures of what they once were.

Because Imperial measurements meant about as much as ancient hieroglyphics in Warsaw Pact-era Eastern Europe, no Soviet copycat of classic Chevrolets, Fords, Oldsmobiles, and Chryslers ever matched the dimensions of their inspirations exactly. A bit like when the Soviets pulled up to a late 40s Air Show with a reverse-engineered American B-29 bomber, to which the reaction from the Yanks in the audience could have only been pants-soiling shock and disbelief.

What does this have to do with the Chaika 14? Well, have a look for yourself! With a prototype dating back to at least 1967, it took a full decade of R&D before the Chaika 14 was ready to hit Soviet streets. Not that the average proletariat would ever get anywhere near one. Unless they were being run over by it as a Soviet General curses at his driver to go faster from the back seat, that is.

Appearing uncannily similar to a late 70s Lincoln Town Car or Chrysler Newport forced at bayonet point to denounce the decadence of the west, the Chaika was everything these two American titans were but built cheaper and worse. As you'll find, that's true inside and out.

Dubbed a nickname that in Russian translates to "Seagull," the Chaika 14 sported a 5.5 liter naturally aspirated V8 engine that, while appearing crude and laughable compared to Western European or even American engines, did at least embody the same "no displacement for displacement" mentality that the Americans adore so much. The same style that GAZ was trying to mimic in the first place. 220 horsepower on offer made it at least as quick as post 73 Oil Crisis American V8 cars of its size.

In its defense, the Chaika 14s interior was every bit as luxurious as the equivalent Lincoln or Cadillac. High-class luxury items weren't exactly barren in the Eastern Bloc. Leather farmers and cloth weavers in East Germany worked with lumber workers in Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia to provide the Chaika 14 with a cockpit that, at the very least, matches that of an American land yacht if you don't take five decades of wear and tear into account.

Only a shade over 1000 Chaika 14s was produced between 1977 and 1987. During that time, a coupe, sedan, an estate, and even a hearse variation of this Soviet brute left the factory floor. Reserved almost exclusively to trusted friends and relatives of people in the inner circle of post-Krusstchev Soviet leaders like Leonid Brezhnev, Yuri Andropov, Konstantin Chernenko, and of course, the Mack Daddy of Glasnost and Perestroika himself, Mikhail Gorbachev.

In a stroke of hilarious fall-of-communism irony, it was Gorbachev himself who ordered the blueprints to this chariot built on an empire of endless wasted lives destroyed as part of the Perestroika reform plan. Why? One can only assume that some tinsel-ridden dinosaur with leather seats and fine wood trim won't serve anyone any good when they're trying to build from their post soviet nation-states back up from ground zero. But hey, it's just another symptom of the blight on Eastern Europe and beyond that was Soviet-style Communism.

Now, if you'll excuse us, we're about to take an LS V8 Chevy Suburban down to the local Wendys to get a triple baconator with all the fixings, a large fry, and a bathtub of diet-cola, as our free-market loving ancestors dictated was our birthright.

God bless America, and thanks for reading this and so much more here on autoevolution.


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