The GAZ-67B, commonly known as the “Chapayev”, was a light cross-country vehicle designed in response to the Red Army requirement for a robust, fast, four-wheel-drive, all-terrain car.

At the time, the Red Army lacked a purpose-built liaison and reconnaissance vehicle and it was felt that GAZ-type trucks and motorcycles were not fulfilling the role very well.

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The Russian army had sponsored projects to develop a light cross-country vehicle as early as 1938. The first type to enter series production was the GAZ-61. It had been designed by the V.A. Grachov design bureau and incorporated components from the GAZ-AA and GAZ-M1 vehicles. Production was phased out in 1941.

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In 1941 the design bureaus received the technical specifications for a new offroad vehicle. Its main task was to be reconnaissance missions. Furthermore, the vehicle had to be capable of towing a 45 mm AT gun, have provision for mounting a heavy machine gun and carry up to 300-400 kg of payload. The design phase was completed fairly quickly. The Gorkiy Automobile Works (GAZ) in-house design bureau produced a prototype of what became the GAZ-64, which entered mass production in autumn 1941. Based on its predecessor, the GAZ-61, the new design incorporated many components from truck types already in production. It made use of the GAZ-MM’s engine as well as the GAZ-AA’s gearbox and semi-elliptical suspension springs.

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Improvements were made in response to operational feedback gathered through the course of 1942. The front wheel track was widened from 1278 mm to 1446 mm, while the rear wheel track was increased from 1245 mm up to 1449 mm (much improving the vehicle’s stability). The wheelbase remained 2100 mm. Engine output was increased from 50hp to 54 hp and construction of the car’s bodywork was simplified.

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The modernized design was designated ‘GAZ-67’. The first vehicle of this type rolled off the assembly lines on 21st August 1943. In autumn of the same year, ZIS-3 cannon-towing tests were positively concluded. In January 1944 the vehicle was again modernized. Its radiator was enlarged and a towing hook was added. The improved version, designated GAZ-67B, remained in production until 1953. Overall, there were 62,843 vehicles of the type produced, this number including 686 GAZ-64s.

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The Polish Army used the GAZ-67B sub-type during WWII. After the war, it remained in service with the security forces and other state departments well into the ‘sixties. Nowadays, besides examples preserved in museums, there are some meticulously restored GAZ-67s in private ownership and they can still be seen at rallies and get-togethers held by military vehicle collectors.

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