The car and driver waiting outside my apartment in Vedado.

The GAZ Chaika (Russian: Ча́йка), which means gull, is a luxury automobile from the Soviet Union made by GAZ (Gorkovsky Avtomobilny Zavod, translated as Gorky Automobile Plant ). The vehicle is one step down from the ZIL-111 limousine.

Chaika production consisted of two generations, the M13 of 1959 to 1981 and the M14 of 1977 to 1988.

On my trip to Havana in June 2016, I had the opportunity to ride in one of the tem M14s om Cuba, for an entire week.

I met Walfrido Cabezas – who preffered to be called “Cabezitas”, since his father is the Cabezas in the family –  by accident stopping at the Capri to connect to the Wi-Fi hotspot. There it was, staring at me, this black beauty. Although the typical ride my client was used to was a modern MB, it was a tall order in Cuba. Since the trip was last minute, all the car rental agencies had at least a two-month waiting list for a Mercedes. The couple of other ‘private’ vehicles were already hired by the other delegations for the same function.

My concern was the age. The air conditioning, a combination of Cuban ingenuity and parts from other vehicles, worked. There didn’t come with air from the factory, there was no need for it from where the car came from. Mechanically it was well kept, though the body had some blemishes that Cabezitas did not have the materials to remove them.

A couple of photos and a couple of Whatsapp conservations later with my client, who was arriving in Cuba the next day, a diplomat coming for his credentials from the Cuban government, I got the green light to hire the car. It was a great week, and a great car.

Brief History of the Chaika

The Chaika M14 remained in production from 14 October 1977 to 1988, when the Chaika limousine brand was ended.

A total of 1,114 M14s were built (including those out of spares in 1989). On orders from Mikhail Gorbachev, the blueprints and tooling were destroyed as part of his “fighting privileges” campaign under perestroika.


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