We, car people, are a weird bunch. We don’t care about the practicality, reliability or the cost of our project – the enthusiasm for the automotive world has no rationality. And every once in a while this liberated mentality of a petrolhead produces something we cannot stop ourselves from calling a gem. A father-and-son team in Lithuania has just completed their first home-made car – a tiny cute GAZ-67 replica.
The Gasnauskas family in Kaunas, the second largest Lithuanian city, has a rich collection of historic cars. They say it contains around 30 cars, some of them still waiting for restoration. Valdemaras and his sons love restoring old vehicles – the process of turning a rust bucket into a shiny automotive perfection is entirely fascinating. However, when I asked them what is the most valuable car in their collection they did not take long to answer – it is “Svajonė” and their own little GAZ-67 replica.
And for good reasons – both of these vehicles are completely unique, without any equivalents in the world. “Svajonė” (“Dream”) is a homemade car from the 1960’s, which is beautiful in its own way, but deserves its own article in the future. And the GAZ-67 replica is the child of the talented hands of Valdemaras and his son, Dainius.
There have been several GAZ-67 off-roaders in the Gasnauskas’ collection. They are the soviet analogue of the WW2 era Willys JEEP. GAZ-67 was a 4X4 manufactured from 1943 to 1953. The Gasnauskas have frequently taken their restored SUV’s to meeting of off-roaders where they covered kilometres of mud and water – they certainly don’t baby their old cars. One time, Dainius’ daughter, who was then seven, mentioned that she would like to have her own GAZ and the light bulb was on – Valdemaras and Dainius decided to make a tiny GAZ-67 replica for the children of the family to enjoy. And for themselves to enjoy the creative building process.
They started making the little car back in 2011 by analysing plans they found on the internet. Dainius used to look at the plan and then he would make his own sketches on paper, just to visualize the car a little better. And then the work started.
The body of the baby GAZ-67 is made from actual steel. Valdemaras and Dainius cut everything out from sheets of steel and then bent it to the right shape. Proportions were key – the car had to be 33 % smaller than the original. Thankfully, the Gasnauskas have restored GAZ-67 vehicles before, so they knew its structure pretty well.
Then they made the frame. This is a part that no one will ever see – it hides under the body of the car. However, the team still made it perfectly as it should be. They made no mistake –even though this car was meant for children, the two enthusiasts spent a lot of time making sure everything was to scale. The frame had to be slightly modified so as to accommodate a different engine.
The original GAZ-67 was a 4X4, powered by a large 3.3 litre four cylinder engine. For this replica, they could not find such a tiny engine, so instead a 150 cc Loncin unit was used. It is powerful enough and fits the car pretty well. Both the engine and the rear axle have been taken from an ATV – the baby GAZ-67 is rear-wheel-drive.
They started making the suspension components, but soon life took over and the work stopped. In fact, the frame and partially finished body were standing in the corner of their garage for more than 5 years, until the Gasnauskas finally decided to finish it this year. The work started again, with the fabrication of components that they could not get from other vehicles. Again – the attention to detail was phenomenal.
The suspension was also made to represent the original one. All measurements match up perfectly, as well as the suspension geometry. A surprising fact is that even the headlights, wheels and tires are exactly 33 % smaller than the original – a lucky find.
When all the parts were completed, everything was primed and painted. This was done in-house and still looks perfect. After assembly, the car was completed. And boy, it does look like a marvellous piece of craftsmanship.
No detail has been overlooked when building this car. Small compartments dotted around the body could be fake – no one would complain about the lack of authenticity . But they are real – with tiny little hinges and tiny little locking mechanisms. It all works beautifully and you can really tell that the car was built by people who love this craft.
How does it drive? I was lucky enough to get a ride in this vehicle and can assure you that it is pretty swift. Valdemaras and Dainius did use gear reduction in thecar’s transmission to give it a little more torque, but it is still light on its feet. It doesn’t cope very well with corners, because it has a live axle with no differential, but it works well enough and it is never scary. Unless you’re cautious about the lack of doors and roof.
I am 183 cm tall and I fitted perfectly in the little GAZ-67, with even room to spare. It was comfortable for what it is, because the seat is mounted slightly further away than in the original off-roader. It is done this way so that adults could drive the little car too. I could feel some vibration from the engine in the footwell, which came as no surprise, since the engine is rigidly mounted to the frame, but it is barely noticeable on the go. The baby GAZ-67 has a four speed manual gearbox which came with the engine.
When asked if they would like to make a completely unique full-size car, the men did not seem interested – they said it is not something they are planning to do. Instead, they will focus on restoring old cars that they already own. Even at the moment they are preparing something new, but we will have to wait for quite some time to see it. But when we do – you will be able to read about it on Nodum.org.
Another project is to teach Valdemaras’ granddaughters to drive the little GAZ-67. This is quite a task in itself, because the car can be dangerous – it is quite fast. But, when they learn it, we can be certain that the young generation will be caught in the life-long passion of the Gasnauskas men.
More pictures on this and other builds of the Gasnauskas on “Dainiaus dirbtuvės” Facebook page.