Interior

The Volga’s interior is not all that spacious by the standards of today – it is more or less Toyota Corolla or Chevy Cruze-sized, at least volume-wise; space utilization standards were vastly different back in 1960s when this car was designed. However, it is still roomy enough for five normal sized adults to sit relatively comfortably.

And, being not cluttered with such space-robbing design elements as a center console or thick door trim panels, it offers more actual space than you may expect for it’s volume. The trim is lowly, but practical and quite durable, in accordance with the car’s primary purpose as a taxicab. Thin roof pillars and a large glass area provide good visibility.

Driver’s seating position is only good for people who are shorter than ~180 cm / 6 feet, and a taller driver will most likely find it somewhat cramped. The huge (430 mm) steering wheel is especially offensive and tends to rub against the tall driver’s thighs.

The simple, minimalist dashboard featured symmetrical layout with all switchgear in one continuous horizontal strip at the bottom. The instrument cluster and glove box door could be easily swapped from one side to the other to produce left or right hand drive vehicles for different markets. Circular air vents helped to keep the front door glass from fogging up, and there was also a rear window defogger. Radio was standard equipment, except for the taxicabs, which were equipped with a taximeter instead.

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When the Volga was introduced in late 1960s, the dashboard was painted metal, with it’s flat top covered by black vinyl to prevent reflections in the windshield, and featured matte chrome trim, which was later gradually replaced by simulated wood grain. Switches were of the “pull-push-turn” type, with small round plastic knobs – black with ivory inserts.

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In the fall of 1977 this design gave way to a more modern plastic-covered dashboard, still with stamped metal frame under the soft padding. Several months before the transition, the knobs had been replaced by larger ones, with rounded edges for added safety and larger, better visible pictogram.

The instrument cluster incorporated five gauges – speedometer, ammeter, oil pressure, temperature and gas, as well as electric clocks and four warning lights – for turning signals, parking brake, low oil pressure and engine overheating.

Ribbon-style speedometer was used on early cars.

Ribbon type speedometer had been used initially, but early in 1975 it was replaced by a conventional square gauge with a needle pointer, which, while not as stylish, proved to be more durable as well as easier to read.

Ventilation and heater/defroster controls were grouped on a small separate panel located under the dashboard in the middle. There were three slide levers (not clearly labeled) which controlled air baffles via cables. By pushing and pulling the lower-most lever, the heater could be set to heat the interior through air ducts behind the dashboard, to defrost the windshield and front door glass or to do both task at a time. The right-most lever controlled the flow of fresh outside air into the heater, which was mixed with hot air from the heater core to regulate the temperature, and the left-most one opened or closed the cold air ventilation hatch located in the cowl area. The blower switch was located separately from the other controls at the left side of the dashboard, between the windshield washer and manual choke knobs.

Door interior trim panels were two-tone, with black upper sections and lower ones color-keyed to the interior. The upper sections which formed the top contour of the panels originally had been vinyl-covered metal stampings with soft foam rubber padding, and about 1976 they were substituted with plastic-covered parts.

Early door panel, left. Late door panel, right.

Lower sections differed on early and late production cars, too: being graced by simple vertical pleats until mid-1976, they received a more complicated horizontal pattern later. The reason behind this change is not known, but it roughly coincided with the transition to the late style of seats circa 1977.

Door panel bottoms were protected from tear and wear by corrugated aluminum kick plates – as well as the door sills. Front doors had map pockets, albeit very small and suitable only to hold road maps or a slim book, like the Owner’s Manual.

Seats were built in the old-fashioned way, with coil and band springs mounted on metal upholstery frames, just like in an interior couch.

Early style interior with split bench seat. Upholstery is already of the later type.

Early production cars featured a split front bench seat with folding center armrest and handsome vinyl & synthetic cloth upholstery, its pattern reminiscent of the cloth used in late production GAZ-21 Volgas. After several years of production, the cloth was substituted with a cheaper one, which didn’t look as cool, but was more durable, and vinyl sides were added, also for improved durability. The seat innards were cheapened out as well.

Backrest inclination could be adjusted with a simple pull of a lever (on the previous model it required unscrewing two bolts, which were located on the opposite sides of the bench seat). By folding the front seat backs and the center armrest all the way down, a somewhat uneven, but still decent sleeping surface for the night could be arranged, which was a nice touch as motels were pretty scarce back then, and sleeping in a car close to the road was mostly safe.

Backseat was designed for three-across seating and also equipped with a folding center armrest.

Early in 1977 the armrest and the “spacer” between driver’s and passenger’s seats were eliminated, thus forming two completely separate front seats, still with flat cushions and no lateral support to speak of. The style of upholstery was changed, too, and vinyl sides were removed (apparently because the new cloth was durable enough). However, the seat frames remained unchanged.

Taxicabs, as well as many station wagons, had all-vinyl upholstery, which was durable, easy to wash and didn’t become soaked with water. The driver’s seat, however, retained vinyl-and-cloth upholstery, as it was found that sitting all day on a piece of artificial leather is not exactly the best thing for the driver’s health.

Station wagon interior offered a lot of extra room and featured forward-facing second and third rows of folding seats:

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When folded down, they formed a level platform for the cargo:

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The trim was utilitarian as station wagons were for the most part considered to be cargo haulers rather than passenger vehicles, and the back seats were essentially jump seats for occasional trips, designed with little attention to comfort during long road journeys as they were folded down most of the time anyway.

However, the lucky few who could get a Volga wagon for private use usually employed them for vacation trips, and the flat cargo area came in handy as a sleeping surface as well.

In 1986 the updated GAZ-24-10 received a brand new interior, which, while still lowly compared to the “brougham” GAZ-3102 Volga, had many of its pieces derived from the latter’s parts bin, and was for the most part up to the 1980s standards in terms of look, ergonomics and convenience.

Dashboard was now hard molded plastic, with a center console. Instruments and controls were radically improved. The only common part shared with the old style dashboard were the push-pull type switches and knobs.

Upper sections of interior door panels were soft molded plastic, with matching armrests from the Lada parts bin. Lower sections still were vinyl-covered and color-keyed to the interior. Kick plates were now black plastic.

Seats were also completely new, constructed with foam cushions instead of springs. Front seats got side bolsters for better lateral support, adjustable headrests and height adjustment, which made the car more comfortable for taller drivers. Velour upholstery was offered in higher trim levels.


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