The territory of the Soviet Union is vast, and Nikita Khrushchev was well aware of this.
In the middle of the 1950s, he realized something else – the inhabitants of the USSR did not have enough off-road vehicles to easily reach their dachas.
Yes, the upper echelon of power has properties around Moscow, but not everyone else is so lucky.
This is how the idea of the first Soviet crossover was born.
Then, of course, no one uses the word crossover, but the concept is clear – the interior is like a passenger car, but the suspension and tires are more similar to those of an SUV. The GAZ-69 was taken as the basis of the new car, but its structure was strengthened, bigger tires and a renewed front drive were added.
The result is a car with truly impressive cross-country ability, but with an even more impressive weight for its time – 2040 kilograms. The chief engineer at the head of the project is Grigoriy Wasserman, who managed to fit some of the GAZ-M20 parts into the car.
GAZ M72 (commonly known as “Pobeda” all-wheel drive) is a machine produced in a total circulation of only 4,677 copies in the period from 1955 to 1958. pic.twitter.com/5fHe0XyvAK
— Socialist Leningrad (@TanpersXkmy) March 21, 2021
However, Wasserman made a number of changes and managed to achieve a reinforced roof, a reinforced front body panel and a better suspension thanks to new, more flexible springs. The floor of the car also has reinforced elements to withstand driving over rough terrain, which in the USSR was by no means few.
The tires are 16-inch with a deep grip that does not struggle through snow, mud or sand.
Wasserman’s creation received the name GAZ-M72 or GAZ “Victory”.
As befits a project that was assigned to the Gorky plant by Khrushchev himself, the off-road vehicle must be tested to prove its reliability, safety and comfort.
Therefore, in the summer of 1956, three journalists were assigned to the new “Victory” of the USSR to travel from Moscow to Vladivostok. The road is about 15 thousand kilometers and it must be admitted that the car copes quite tolerably all the time.
From the same year, there is also a photo of Khrushchev behind the wheel of a GAZ-M72, and next to him is none other than Fidel Castro. The shot was taken as the two leaders took the car out to hunt through the Soviet forests. At that time, the car was already in serial production, and hopes for it were high.
Again in 1956, photos of the car stuck in a swamp appeared, as if it was passing through this obstacle without any problems.
The interior of the car also hints at something more luxurious and better than the old GAZ models.
The seats are upholstered with velour, and the interior of the doors is also upholstered with the same upholstery. The dashboard is equipped with four sensors – for gasoline, for water, for the oil level and for the revolutions. There is also a cabin heater and a radio, which makes the interior even more comfortable.
In 1958, however, serial production of the GAZ-M72 was discontinued because the car still did not turn out to be what the Kremlin expected.
First, its weight is too great, and sometimes in rough terrain the car simply sinks into the mud instead of overcoming it.
Secondly, because of the extras that were put into the car, it turned out to be too expensive for the common people, and although it was a pride of Soviet engineering, it remained only a dream for most Soviet residents.
Thus, the only question remains whether the GAZ-M72 is the first crossover in the world, or whether there is another contender for the title.