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The Copycat Cars Of The U.S.S.R.

Industry loomed large in the race for influence between the West and the Soviet Union, symbolizing power and the ability to create, innovate, and carry the world into the future.

But while the Soviets held their own and in some cases bettered their capitalist rivals in some fields -- such as space exploration and weaponry -- they were behind from the start when it came to the automobile. Often, the U.S.S.R. had to copy its capitalist rivals just to keep pace.
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A convoy of Soviet Chaika cars glide along a road near Tbilisi, Georgia. The Chaika ('Seagull') was one of several Soviet cars that were copied nearly wholesale from their Western forerunners. 
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A convoy of Soviet Chaika cars glide along a road near Tbilisi, Georgia. The Chaika ('Seagull') was one of several Soviet cars that were copied nearly wholesale from their Western forerunners. 

The first truck to roll off the assembly line of the U.S.S.R's GAZ automobile factory in 1932. Three years earlier, American industrialist Henry Ford signed a contract with the fledgling Soviet Union to set up the plant in Russia. The factory would turn out licensed copies of Ford cars and trucks like this GAZ-AA. 
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The first truck to roll off the assembly line of the U.S.S.R's GAZ automobile factory in 1932. Three years earlier, American industrialist Henry Ford signed a contract with the fledgling Soviet Union to set up the plant in Russia. The factory would turn out licensed copies of Ford cars and trucks like this GAZ-AA. 

Newly minted GAZ-AA trucks at the factory at Nizhny Novgorod. Partnering with Ford would seem to go against the Soviet ideal, but the industrialist offered manufacturing expertise, technology, and training that Moscow could use to develop other industries. For Ford, the $30 million deal offered the opportunity to enter an untapped market.  
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Newly minted GAZ-AA trucks at the factory at Nizhny Novgorod. Partnering with Ford would seem to go against the Soviet ideal, but the industrialist offered manufacturing expertise, technology, and training that Moscow could use to develop other industries. For Ford, the $30 million deal offered the opportunity to enter an untapped market.  

The muscular elegance of this American classic -- a 1935 Buick 4-door sedan -- apparently caught the eye of Soviet engineers.
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The muscular elegance of this American classic -- a 1935 Buick 4-door sedan -- apparently caught the eye of Soviet engineers.

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