Nearly all of the automotive timepieces in my extensive collection were harvested by me from car graveyards over the years, which means that we’ve seen plenty of US-market dashboard clocks from the 1960-2015 era. However, sometimes there’s a vehicle chronometer I admire so much that I’ll go on eBay to acquire one— say, a Toyota-branded Jeco intended to magnet-mount atop an early-1970s Hilux dash— and that’s what we’ve got today: a genuine сделано в ссср analog clock from a 1963 GAZ-21 Volga.
Yes, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics wasn’t just about gulags, ethnic cleansing, environmental catastrophes and weird video games— it was about cars as well! The only true “people’s car” available in the USSR was the Ukraine-built ZAZ Zaparozhets, a Type 1 Volkswagen Beetle-inspired machine that ended up looking very Corvair-like; the GAZ-21 was a substantial sedan most often driven by government officials.
The GAZ-21 Volga ended up being the most iconic car of the Soviet era, and its construction was typical of the products of the industrial behemoth that crushed the Nazis beneath tens of thousands of sky-darkening attack aircraft, unstoppable tanks, terrifying rocket launchers and bravery-enhancing drum-fed submachine guns: simple, sturdy and got the job done. I find that my Soviet-made film cameras— all copies of 1930s German designs— are by far the heaviest and toughest in my collection.
Because they made so many Volgas, you can find pretty good prices on the clocks today from eBay sellers in the former USSR. Mine doesn’t work, but I’ll get around to opening it up and fixing the no-doubt-substantial mechanism inside.
The movement is electric, but the adjustment mechanism is a cable-turned knob that loops around to come out a dashboard hole (much like the setup on my 1961 Citroën ID19 clock). For now, it looks good sitting next to my MiG-21 cockpit clock; sadly, it lacks the impressively high radiation levels of the radium-illuminated face of that timepiece.
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