Dictator’s Choice: 1952 GAZ-12 Zim

If you think you’re looking at Buick, you’d be incorrect – but we’d understand why you’d feel that way. This is actually a 1952 GAZ-12 Zim, built for the Soviet government at the Gorky Automotive Plant. Buicks of the same era served as inspiration for the GAZ, but it actually is entirely the creation of what is today known as GAZ Group. Find this unusual artifact of executive transport here on craigslist (and go here if the ad vanishes). 

We would love to know the story of how this GAZ-12 Zim ended up stateside, but all the seller mentions about prior ownership is that of a Kruse Auction mechanic who was able to get it to run. We infer that to mean the GAZ is currently not running, but hopefully it won’t take much coaxing to get its 95 b.h.p. inline six to fire – assuming the original powerplant is still installed. The body looks reasonably straight and much of the chrome trim still attached; I wonder if the mudflaps are original.

Although badge engineering was an option, GAZ didn’t end up simply swapping emblems with a Buick – though they took heavy inspiration from big American sedans. One interesting nuance about the design is a wider rear track, designed that way to allow for a rear seat that could accommodate three passengers. The GAZ’s pricing made it out of reach for most citizens and the seller notes a sticker on the windshield from a Finnish resort likely indicates upper class ownership.

Shown here, it’s hard to determine whether this GAZ has ever actually been in the possession of the owner or simply won at auction and photographed in transit. Whatever the story is, this is certainly an oddball to end all oddballs; as the seller notes, “…you will likely be the only one at the car show with a Soviet emblem.” Whether that’s a benefit or a liability is up to you, but the notoriety factor will be through the roof. Is this GAZ worth a gamble at $9,900?


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  1. RayT Member

    If only I had the time, space, and money! For some reason, these old East-Bloc tanks grab me, and always have. It’d almost be worth the money just for the surprise value: “Hello, Auto Zone? I need a gasket set and a carb. kit for a GAZ-12….”

    While I prefer the Packard-clone ZIS, this would do just fine, but it would need a full resto. After all, the Kremlin-types never went for “patina.” And that would take a LOT of work. Where would you find replacement hubcaps?

    It’s probably just as well that I can’t take this one on: A collection would surely follow! A ZIM, ZIL, Pobeida, Moskvich, a Zaprozhets, and perhaps a Hongqi and a Chaika, just to add variety….

    • LAB3

      Parts? What do you mean parts? Yeah, that’s a tough one for sure! Having something you’ll likely never see a copy of is what it’s about for me. If I’m going to go that far out there I’d pick something that would stick out more in a picture from the US post war era.

    • Jimbosidecar

      I’ve been looking for a Hongqi for a long time. Unfortunately, in the 1980s when I lived in China they were pretty cheap and I didn’t buy one. Now they are pretty pricey. Had a friend in Beijing who did have one and I tried to convince him to find a Chevy Big Block for it.

  2. Andy

    Funny, I’ve seen pics of the ZIS-110, which was the Senior Packard clone, and the ZIL-111, which looked more like a ’55 Packard, at least in front; and I’ve seen a couple of Chaikas parked or driving around in Havana, but I didn’t know about this GAZ. Gotta say, though, it doesn’t look like a Buick to me either.

  3. Charles

    Given their low production volume, I wouldn’t be surprised if the wheelcovers were spun out of brass and then plated. Being brass spun, they wouldn’t have lasted long due to stress cracking. Therefore, wheelcovers from a 1952 Cadillac would probably look just fine.

  4. PeterK

    Right here is the perfect start for a Russian Rat Rod. Make sure you put the hammer and sickle on the roof. Imagine showing up in it to the local anywhere cruise in….

  5. Anthony R from RI

    The GAZ-12 looks like a mix of many American styles – 48 Cadillac grille, 41 Cadillac dash, 49 – 50 Pontiac tail lights and a 52 Plymouth trunk….


    The front end reminds me of a 48 Caddy.

  7. Ikey Heyman Member

    Suicide doors looks inspired by 49-51 Mercury.

  8. Coventrycat

    SBC for that baby.

  9. Lance

    Is this GAZ worth $9,900?………. Nyet.

  10. Luke Fitzgerald

    Do you get the poncho as well?

  11. Rodney

    Is it Red on the inside?

  12. Dolphin Member

    Stretched version of a 1949/1950 Caddy, with a ’48 grille as Peter P said, but not likely nearly as well made.

    • Brakeservo

      I had a Gaz 13 Chaika and it was one of the best made cars I ‘ve ever experienced. Maybe the lesser cars were junk, I don’t know as I’ve never owned or driven one, but my Gaz Chaika was better built than any Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Porsche, Bentley, Rolls Royce etc I’ve ever owned. Of the other Soviet bloc cars I’ve had – Tatra & Skoda, the Tatra was the equal of any German or American car when it came to integrity of materials and construction, and the engineering was in a world of it’s own – and inspired the world changing original VW Beetle!

  13. Rube Goldberg Member

    I agree, a hodge-podge of parts. One thing is clear, with a flathead 6 (that looks a lot like the Chrysler flathead), with 95 horse and 4200 lbs. they were in no hurry to get somewhere.

  14. Nrg8

    Looks alot like my old 49 Cosmopolitan.

  15. stillrunners LAWRENCE Member

    It was left here after Lethal Weapon 2……….

  16. Ken Carney

    If I weren’t starting school next month, I’d be all over this one! First, I would
    at least try to source the parts I’d need to keep it a running original car. But
    if that couldn’t happen for some reason, I wouldn’t hesitate when it came to
    installing an American V-8 and auto tranny. After seeing the engine bays of
    these cars on YouTube, an American engine, be it Ford, GM, or Chrysler,
    would fit quite nicely between those overbuilt frame rails. As for the styling,
    it reminds me very much of the ’48 Cadillac that most of you have mentioned–perhaps even more so. Would definately let my sister in law
    drive it for Uber after it was finished. After having seen the interiors of
    these cars, any passenger that she picked up would be riding in style as
    they were quite sumptuous and made of the finest materials available
    right down to the jump seats and window shades that graced the rear half of
    the cabin. Tis for sure I’d have the only one around!

  17. Francisco

    Most of the people who lived in the Eastern Bloc during this period after the war lived in poverty and misery. Only communist government beuraucrats could afford these automobiles. I wouldn’t want one. Keep it.

  18. David Miraglia

    Donate it to a auto museum.

  19. Chuck Cobb

    Must be a heavy brute if it took a 6 wheel trailer to haul it off!!!!

  20. Mountainwoodie

    With something as interesting as this you would think the flipper would take the time to include some illuminating pictures………..but no…………here….buy this unobtanium parts russkymobile sitting on a very heavy duty trailer in pictures taken in low light. Believe me its worth 10 grand. Swear. Honest

  21. fireflite

    One little note: ZIM has unibody construction, without frame.

  22. Jon Perry

    Dream on! If you can score a ZIM, consider yourself lucky. A Pobieda, Moskvitch, or Volga would be fun, a Zaporozhets would also be fun but not as upscale, but a ZIL, or Chaika would cost you about $60000 to $120000, a ZIS would be about $120000 to $200000, and there was a Honqi for sale at the Imperial Palace in LasVegas (no longer in business) for $300000. Most of these cars would have to be imported, adding to your costs.

    • Brakeservo

      Are your comments about pricing based on reality, I mean first hand knowledge of genuine sales as opposed to have seen some fantasy asking prices? How many other people reading this have bought, owned and sold a high end Russian car like this or am I the only one? The six figure prices you mentioned are fantasy

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