The fascinating origins of the Soviet car industry

Anand Nyamdavaa
2 min readAug 18, 2020

One of the most fascinating facts about Soviet cars was that almost all of them were licensed vehicles from the US and Western countries. Despite the anti-communist rhetoric, car companies and equipment manufacturers in the West were more than happy to receive “red” gold. Subsequent models were designed and built by the Soviets themselves, but on mostly foreign equipment. Demand for high quality tools and equipment was so high that starting from the 1920s Soviet engineers and bureaucrats traveled to the West to buy all that was needed.

GAZ AA model coming out of production plant

Ford company was one of the first companies that made a contract to license the production of Ford Model AA trucks and Model A vehicles in the Soviet Union. The trucks were called GAZ AA. [1]

AMO-F15, one of the first trucks[2]


Originally it was set up in 1916, just before revolution, to produce Fiat F-15 trucks under license. The subsequent steps led to name changes, such as ZIS, and later ZIL. the factory was modernized and re-equipped by American company A.J. Brandt Co in 1931.[3]

Moskvitch-400 model


Originally built KIM 10–50 models were reverse engineered from the British Ford Prefect E93A model. In 1946, Soviet Union acquired Opel Kadett manufacturing plant from Germany. The car that was built in the Soviet Union was named Moskvitch-400


In the 60s demand for personal cars was great. The Soviets signed a license agreement with Fiat for the Fiat 124 model.

the first KAMAZ trucks were built in 1976.


In 1969, the Soviet government decided to build heavy duty trucks. One of the early favorites was the MACK, American truck company. They even made a contract for the whole plant to be built by them. This agreement didn’t pass through State Department. As a result more than 700 international companies supplied their tools and equipment for the production of this giant.