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The Soviet atomic car of 1965: a fish in the Volga

There are many stories so extraordinary that we like to believe them.

This is the case of this story which takes place in 1965, the Soviet bloc in the middle of the Cold War with the American bloc, the Soviets then decide to show their superiority in terms of mastery of nuclear power. We are after the Second World War and nuclear weapons are giving way to peaceful nuclear weapons. The Americans present with the Ford note a model of a nuclear energy car intended to revolutionize the automotive world, it is the Ford Nucleon. The Americans were so proud of it that they presented it in numerous salons during 1957 and 1958, so much so that in 1958, during an event, they invited the second secretary of the Soviet embassy , Vladimir Sinyavin. He was a great enthusiast for technological progress and enthusiastically described the idea of ​​the car in his report. As the atomic project was mentioned there, the report was carefully studied at the Kremlin level. The military were not interested in this, as they considered what was described as an empty fantasy, but in any case the report was sent to the USSR Ministry of Medium Machine Building, which was then in charge of all nuclear projects. He was seen by one of the deputy ministers, the legendary Yefim Pavlovich Slavsky. This is how the unknown story of an amazing machine began that could shake up the entire global automobile industry.

The concept is revolutionary but the Ford Nucleon presented is only a 3:8 scale model. This is therefore an opportunity for the Soviets to teach the Americans a lesson by manufacturing a real-size atomic energy car.

It was therefore in 1965 that the Volga Atom car with an atomic engine (based on the Volga GAZ-21) was created and it was real size. A dated photo shows us that it is very real.

The story goes that it had a powerful 320 horsepower engine which resembled a classic four-cylinder engine and which weighed 500 kilograms due to the weight of the nuclear reactor (this reactor received the name A-21), it The vehicle therefore had to be equipped with 4 front wheels to support this weight. During testing, the Volga Atom traveled 60,000 kilometers without refueling. However after this distance, the engine had to be changed for a new engine. As a result, Soviet scientists corrected this problem and created an engine with gaseous fuel in the form of uranium hexafluoride instead of solid uranium. The new engine was less powerful (200 hp, 600 Nm).This new version of the engine made the car travel 40,000 kilometers without refueling. To refuel, it was now enough to pump a new supply of uranium hexafluoride into the cylinders and the car was on. The test drivers, however, reported braking problems. The original system cannot cope. Another problem is the heat in the cabin. The tests took place in the spring but the temperature inside the car quickly became unbearable.


Initially, it was planned to make several prototypes in order to present them at exhibitions and bring together guests of honor. However, as the designers developed the engine and the car itself, the situation changed. Khrushchev resigned as general secretary, and Brezhnev, who replaced him, had no such ambitions. The project was therefore quietly closed. And the two prototype cars were removed for decontamination and buried without engines for a long time at the test site, then they were destroyed.

It would certainly have been interesting to see what would have happened if this technology had reached the production stage.

The story is not closed, however, since Russia today reopens the books of the past and recounts when the Soviets managed to do better than the Americans with a rolling prototype since the Ford Nucleon was only a model. scale and in turn exhibiting a new model of what was the Volga Atom with an atomic engine in the ATOM pavilion which is the largest educational complex in Russia dedicated to the history of the nuclear age.

An exhibition to the glory of the past and present where we find all the details on this epic including explanatory articles, plans, photos of the cars concerned and even that of the Ford Nucleon!

A beautiful story which pleases some and displeases others, and it could all have ended there if it was all just a big April Fool's joke published in 2015 by a Russian magazine in its monthly issue.. .. of April!

Everything is therefore false to the point that no one in the GAZ factory has heard of this story or brought any document. In addition, the photos presented are crude montages and the idea of ​​adding front wheels on the GAZ-Atom is inspired by the concept... Ford Seattle-ite XXI.

But the story is so beautiful for some that it has been taken up by many media and especially by Russian politicians to the point that the story continues to be told and shown.

For our part, we apologize for making you read the story in detail, but the bait of the Volga poison was too big.


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