Diecast history: Tula Cartridge Plant GAZ-66 & GAZ-69

It’s always brilliant when interests mesh. Fellow Lamley writer @doomusrlc found this last month when his love of video games, diecast and baseball caps gelled neatly with a Hot Wheels Mario Kart. In this case my love for militaria, Cold War history and diecast has collided perfectly in the form of two Cold War Soviet diecast from an ammunition factory in Tula….

The history of The Tula Cartridge Plant goes back to 1880 when Tsar Alexander II ordered the construction of an ammunition factory in the city. Two years later the factory had hit a production capacity of over 30 million rounds, and output remained high: over 25% of all ammunition used by the Russian Army during World War I was supplied by the Tula plant. During World War 2 the factory produced ammunition for the ShKAS machine gun, Tokarev pistol and Nagant revolver. After the war, and like many other Soviet factories, the plant also had a secondary function making civilian items: vacuum cleaners, grain grinders and furniture fittings amongst others, as well as pin badges and medals.

The factory began producing the “Military Vehicles” series of toys in 1966/67. They were unlicensed but based on contemporary Soviet military vehicles and weaponry. The factory utilised what materials were to hand: the green finish was a protective paint used on the ammunition. Surprisingly, it’s said the Tula workers took British Dinky Toys as an inspiration, which could explain the somewhat erroneous inclusion of a replica British 25-Pounder Gun in the line.

An original advert featuring a stylised KrAZ multiple rocket launcher and the “All Terrain Vehicle” (GAZ-47)

The rest of the series ranged from toy soldiers to a replica of a MAZ-537 tank transporter complete with T-34. Sold individually and in sets, production continued until 1992, with some remoulded plastic models being made until 1994.

The models seen here are the “Passenger Car” based on the GAZ-69, and the “Airborne Vehicle”, a stylised GAZ-66. And they’re solid, heavy and simple toys, with a very decent finish. They’d have certainly survived being battered off skirting boards in a Moscow Khrushchyovka!

They may not look 100% identical to the real vehicles, but they’re close enough for anyone who knows their Russian vehicles to know what they are supposed to be. The construction is solid, and many of these toys seem to survive without much metal fatigue. They’re very well finished, and can easily compare to contemporary Western toys.

And for me they’re a perfect representation of my passions and hobbies in life, and they’ve got such a cool back story, they’re effectively rolling bits of history.

So, Lamley readers (and writers!) what diecasts would you say best represent your hobbies? Hit me up, it’d be great to see what you come up with!

Instagram: @alex_the_hoarder

Facebook: facebook.com/alexthehoarder

(Tula models can be hard to search for on Ebay due to sellers being unable to identify their maker, but try using this link as a few items were listed at the time of posting)

3 Replies to “Diecast history: Tula Cartridge Plant GAZ-66 & GAZ-69”

  1. Wow, blast from the past! My daddy brought some of these heavy beauties from the USSR. He was an officer in the Hungarian Army of the People (if I translate right). I think we still have them somewhere at my parents’ in a box. Now I swear I’m gonna get them once we’ll pay a visit in the flash there… Thank you for the article!

    1. No worries! That’s so cool, and I hope they are still at your parents! If you find them feel free to send me some pictures on Instagram or Facebook 🙂 I’d love to see them.

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