Chassis and body
- All-steel, unitized body and frame
Unlike the previous generation GAZ-21 Volga that was a “partial unibody” car, its front sub-frame bolted to the unibody passenger compartment shell with rubber pads in between, the GAZ-24’s sub-frame is rigidly welded to the floor of the passenger compartment, which greatly improves the body’s structural integrity. Beefy torque boxes connect the sub-frame rails to the body sills, adding even more rigidity and stiffness.
The body was constructed with relatively thick steel and received a phosphate treatment that helped the primer to bond onto the metal and prevented the spreading of underfilm corrosion. Anodic electro-coating was used for evenly applying the primer.
However, the inner cavities of the body came from the factory protected by nothing but a layer of electro-coated primer, and in general rust protection didn’t improve much since the days of the GAZ-21. In 1970s & 80s, when road salt came to be used much more commonly in winter, it was not sufficient for year-round use of the car in a large city.
That didn’t affect privately owned cars much as they were for the most part garage kept during winters back in the day, and also typically received some additional treatment from the owners. However, taxicabs and other state-owned cars, that were used all-year round and usually did not get any additional rustproofing, in the typical climate of central Russia rusted out in places such as fender lips and door bottom corners fairly quickly (usually after 4…5 years).
- Front: independent, kingpin type; drop-forged unequal-length A-shaped lateral control arms, coil springs, tubular shock absorbers
- Assembled on a separate drop-forged cross-member that holds the control arms and springs
- Rear: longitudinal semi-elliptic leaf springs, live axle, tubular shock absorbers
- Tires: 7.35-14″, bias-ply
The Volga’s kingpin-type front suspension is arguably one of the most polarizing aspects of this car, receiving love and hate in roughly equal measure. Some people hold it in extremely high esteem for its ruggedness and ability to withstand all kinds of abuse, whilst almost as many tirelessly criticize its for its complexity, complicated maintenance and relatively poor handling characteristics.
In any case, GAZ was extremely stubborn in its dedication to this type of suspension, using it until early 2000s.
Inner A-arm bushings are rubber, and outer bushing are the old-school threaded bushings that need to be lubricated constantly – just as the kingpins (they did try out rubber for the outer bushings during the development stage, and found that it just didn’t work).
Rear suspension is by leaf springs, and of such a generic design that there is no need for any detailed descriptions.
The original eye bushings were just rubber. Today, modern steel-encased bushing are available for the Volga suspension, as well as aftermarket polyurethane bushings.
- Worm-and-roller type, manual – except for the V8-powered cars, which were equipped with power steering; the standard manual steering box was retained, and the power assist came from a separate power cylinder assembly attached to the steering linkage
- 19:1 ratio, 4.5 turns lock-to-lock
- Collapsible steering column with rag joint (after 1973)
The Volga’s steering system was designed as a compromise between two tasks: reducing the driver’s efforts required when turning the steering wheel without the use of a power assist, and providing him with effective means to change the course of the car. With a relatively light engine that didn’t put much weight over the front wheels and skinny bias-ply tires, the effort on the steering wheel was indeed quite adequate (comparable to light-class cars). The price, however, was a very “slow” steering ratio, and, as the result, a lot of turns lock-to-lock – which was not a significant problem, as the Volga’s chassis overall was very far from being “sporty”. The large (430 mm in diameter) steering wheel, necessary to increase leverage to turn the wheels, however, may become an issue for the taller drivers.
With fat modern tires, power steering becomes a much needed upgrade.
The power steering with a separate power cylinder originally used on the V8 cars is known to be sloppy and leaky, and is completely devoid of any feedback – in the best traditions of the 1960s automotive engineering.
A modern steering box with a built-in power assist is available today, but the original steering column has to be replaced or significantly modified to properly install it.
- Front: 11″ duplex (two leading shoe) drum brakes
- Rear: 11″ drum brakes
- Dual-circuit hydraulic system
- Remote hydro-vacuum power assist (Hydrovac)
GAZ-24 Volga’s braking system is in fact not a “true” dual-circuit system in the modern sense of these words (with a tandem master cylinder). There is only one master cylinder with one piston, and the two separate circuits are implemented by means of a hydraulic device called the brakes distribution switch, or simply “splitter”.
The “splitter” is effectively just a 3-way T-fitting, but it also has two piston valves built into it that control the flow of fluid. If one of the circuits (front or rear) springs a leak, the spring-loaded pistons inside the “splitter” move off-center and cut off the circuit from the system, preventing further loss of brake fluid. A dashboard control lamp goes on at this moment, telling the driver that he no longer has front or rear brakes and has to be very careful, because the stopping distance is almost two times longer than usually. Naturally, the only sane course of actions in this case is to get to a repair facility, soon. Some drivers were so afraid of this possibility that they removed the “splitter” and replaced it with a normal T-fitting, opting for a single-circuit system.
This fundamental design flaw, as well as the front drum brakes, which were inadequate for stopping the relatively heavy car from high speeds, were the major problems of the Volga’s braking system. They were addressed in early 1980s when the updated GAZ-3102 Volga came into production.