Aerodynamics

From Russia with passion

With the valuable support of Prof. Massimo Grandi’s depth of knowledge and illustrative talent

Photo credit: Some images are taken from the book Asi Service "Quando le disegnava il vento" by Massimo Grandi

It is very hard, nowadays, to imagine what Soviet Russia must have been like in the 1930s. The regime’s five-year plans for economic development were designed to boost its industrial strength with the aim of turning it into a solid military, as well as ideological, power.

This is the 1930 GAZ-A that Alexei Nikitin turned into the intriguing GAZ Aero

The automobile had no place in this scenario. Communism did not allow private ownership along Western lines, and the few vehicles on the roads were reserved for the authorities, or, like taxis, had to serve a practical purpose. In this setting, Alexei Nikitin, a young man little over 30 years old and a scholar of aerodynamics at the Russian Military Academy, developed a passionate interest in the functional as well as formal analysis of racing cars from all over the world, studying their efficiency in a small self-built wind tunnel. He was so convinced of the value of his research that he decided to build a car truly capable of exploiting his findings. He took a GAZ-A (an awkward, USSR-built model similar to the old Ford Type A) as his starting point. 

It is hard to believe that this refined and aerodynamic car is the GAZ-A shown in the previous picture

The result was a magnificent vehicle, elegant in shape, carefully studied in every detail, and extremely functional, with a carefully rounded front and tapered tail that served a useful functional purpose, enhancing the car’s fluid aerodynamic lines.

Note the beautiful tapering of the rear, which allows it to merge with the car’s fluid aerodynamic lines

Unfortunately, given the reality of the local setting at the time, which included terrible roads, Nikitin’s project had no chance of being developed further. The car was built, but it remained a one-off — a common fate in the pursuit of aerodynamics!

Although this was a fully functional car, in the Soviet Union of the 1930s there was no place for the purchase of cars for private use