WWII Survivor: GAZ-A Truck Rescue

A story appeared on Facebook recently with some fairly dramatic photos showing a river rescue of a Russian-built GAZ-A truck. The GAZ-A was a shameless copy of the iconic Ford Model-A, and this one was used in WWII as a weapons carrier. Based on a few isolated translations, it seems the truck fell through the ice in winter and was recently brought to the surface for restoration. Find the full library of photo of the recovery and restoration here on the Model A Ford Club of America Facebook page.

When I say shameless copy, there was no forgery afoot: Ford and Russia had a business agreement to provide Russian factories with assemble-it-yourself Ford vehicles. With Russia’s weak economy and lack of manufacturing infrastructure, the partnership with Ford kick-started their auto production industry. This illustration appears to show the fate that befell the truck in 1942.

The details on what led to the rescue and the exact history of the GAZ-A are limited at best (at least at the moment) but photos show the team involved in its restoration attempted to preserve as many original details as possible. Here, a mortar that resided in the truck’s bed is pressure-washed, while other photos show pain-staking efforts to preserve the wood-slat bed sides.

In restored form, you an see how the restoration team married the original wood bed with new portions (where the original wood likely couldn’t be saved after decades under water.) While the cab had to be reconstructed, it appears they saved the engine, wheels, and bumpers. Overall, this is one to just sit back and enjoy, as this old girl has the chance to ride again.


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  1. bobhess bobhess Member

    About as cool as it gets. That had to have been a huge amount of work.

    Like 11
  2. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    Great story, great save! Some good FB comments also. Strange to see what looks like 5 rigs going through the ice in the painting. Going out to do some ice fishing if we saw this it would be walk out to fish or head to the saloon. Curios about how deep it was and how it was found found? And it does need the mortar in the bed.

    Like 4
  3. unclemymy Member

    My wife is Russian, and I study Russian history in detail. This was obviously outside of St. Petersburg (Leningrad), as I can see the word Ladoga, which is the huge lake northeast of the city. In the wintertime, the lake became the only route of supply for the besieged citizens of Leningrad. In fact, the citizens that survived that terrible period owe their very lives to the man driving that truck, and others like him. Many were lost in the lake, and trucks like these can be found submerged all along the route. You’re looking at the very vehicle that was driven by a real honest-to-goodness hero.

    Like 37
  4. geomechs geomechs Member

    I followed the pics of this job and was amazed at what they did to resurrect that old truck. I followed one a few years back where they found the remains of a tandem version out in the woods and brought it back to life too. It proves to me that if someone is determined to restore something, then the sky is the limit. I was very impressed with what they did. I also have to say that I admire the determination of those who drove that truck during the war. They risked everything to ease the suffering of their citizens. Very few of us in the west can actually realize fully what war is.

    Like 18
  5. Will Fox

    I guess what Stalin did to his own people wasn’t enough for old Henry. With a glimmer in his eye & a wink, he strikes a deal with communists. Known for his anti-semitism, I guess he favored the Dictator as well. Doesn’t speak well for `ol Henry Ford at all. AGAIN.

    Like 11
    • WolfgangGullich

      The Lend-Lease Program went a tad higher than Henry Ford. If it weren’t for that, the Soviets may well have been ultimately overwhelmed and taken over by Nazi Germany.

      Like 5
  6. Ken Carney

    These folks are the ultimate recyclers. They’ve taken something that would
    normally have been written off and preserved and restored it for future
    generations to drive and enjoy. I see too where a group of aviation buffs
    have gone to Labrador to retrieve a crashed B-17 bomber and restore it to
    flying condition. To me, these folks are the ultimate Barn finders.

    Like 8
  7. Dean

    They did all of this with very basic tools and equipment. This restoration was completed with oldschool skills.

    Like 5
  8. Bob McK Member

    The best part of this old truck is its story… Love it!

    Like 4
  9. 38ChevyCoupeGuy

    Story is just to cool. I’d love to see, maybe even be lucky enough to participate,with lots of elbow grease,many many more stories such as this.God Bless America and our heros!

    Like 1
  10. Del

    No Russian war truck should be referred to as Old Girl.

    So much disrespect.

    I would recommend buying it. Putin has gauranteed thats parts should be available, at least until the next election

    Like 2
  11. bigdoc

    That had to be a restoration of love

    Like 3
  12. jocaj

    One of the pictures on FB provides the following information on this particular truck:
    GAZ-MM, manufactured in July 1941, went under ice on the river Kopka during the operation of liberation of the town of Novgorod, on January 19, 1944. Retrieved from the bottom of the river on August 15, 2014. Restored on April 6, 2015 by restores of the Novgorod Museum and “261st Repair Facility” company.

    Like 1
  13. Howard A Member

    I believe this is a GAZ-AA, and is modeled after the Ford AA truck. I read, they made almost a million of these from 1932 to 1950, so it’s not that rare. Farms in Russia probably still using them.

    Like 4
    • geomechs geomechs Member

      I would like to see the tandem version of this. I can only imagine one with this engine trying to deal with a load for a tandem.

      Like 1
  14. hatofpork

    The GAZ plant was built by Ford in 1929 and Ford was contracted to assist with technical development until 1938. After Lenin’s death and Stalin’s consolidation of power, this must have been an uncomfortable position for FoMoCo, especially as the show trials began and congressmen and the press started asking questions about the relationship (I’m assuming). I’m sure the war came along and eclipsed any trepidations in the face of a much greater threat. Anyway, nice artifact.

  15. GP Member

    I looked at all the pictures on the Ford Club, Very impressive. It’s pretty cool that they still have the original jack stands for it.

  16. Craig Weis

    O piesă de istorie excepțională.

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