The story of my GAZ
This is the advertising picture of the GAZ I found on the internet. At this stage I thought that I'm getting bulk standard soft top.
All original, side valve engine with the ignition system shielded against radio interference.
Incredibly low, genuine mileage. Forty years old and only 11.135 km – 6.919 miles from new!
The most important plate under the bonnet stating:
Ulianovskij Avtomobilnyj Zavod (Motor Factory Ulianovsk)
Model: GAZ-69-E68
Year of manufacture: 1971
Engine number: 914709
Chassis number: 641209
Made in USSR
634.256 of 69s were built, but there were also UAZ vans and trucks made on the same chassis, that's probably why the chassis number is greater. Anyway, this is one of the very last off the line. The production was halted in early 1972.
Original, Polish tyres 'Stomil'.
My GAZ is fitted with very rare wooden hard-top called OREL-1M (Eagle-1M). It is the genuine Russian top built for the army.
As I was told when I bought it the vehicles fitted with this kind of hard-tops served as radio-trucks or, like mine, mobile battery charging stations. A sort of 'jump-pack' on wheels. Unfortunately all the equipment was removed before the vehicle was decommissioned. Only the sad remains were left and I had to removed them.
Another view of the inside of my GAZ and the truth about it's intended duties.
The true purpose of the GAZ with this kind of hardtop was very different to the explanation I was given. It was designed for the intelligence service (the KGB) as a radio scanner. Equipped with 'radio transparent' wooden top, covered with regular canvas for camouflage, even little blinds in the back windows it could drive without looking 'suspicious'. The whole apparatus, including the antenna was hidden inside.
The production started in 1968 and it is estimated that no more than 10 were built every year.

More details here
GAZ 69 Orel-1 dashboard.

A hole in the dashboard. None of the GAZ-es I have seen had one. Apparently the clock from the BRDM fits there.
This mystery in now solved. See below.
The first service.
Registered in the UK.
The winter stopped me from doing anything to my GAZ.
In August 2011 my unique GAZ 69 Orel-1 won the prize for the most interesting vehicle in the club for the year.
In August the GAZ received stylish black number plates.
Another prize for the best military vehicle.
April 2012
April 2014.
After three years it was time for a change. The wooden roof started to deform which made it almost impossible to close the driver's door. The canvas shrunk and split in many places. I really struggled in choosing between trying to rescue my unique "Orel" or to install a standard soft top instead. The decision wasn't easy. I acquired the hard top by accident and never really liked it. Driving wasn't very pleasant - the wooden roof acted like a resonator. On hot days it was hot and stuffy. Unable to even open a window I always was a bit cut off the outside world.
Bye bye nasty spy. It's time for joy ride!

The work extended to refreshing the paintwork. The GAZ had needed it for long time. Many layers of paint started to flake and I had even noticed some rust around the rear wheel arches. Rear only for now. The rest will have to wait till winter.
A brand new, very good quality canvas top made by Autoplachty Nekvasil in Czech Republic.
And here is final effect. Still needs some work done but I have achieved my goal.
This was a problem I had from the very beginning. The distributor was seized in the cylinder block. It was impossible to precisely adjust the timing.
It didn't go easy. We had to destroy it and replace with new one.
At last! Stylish, round rear lights as it should be. All legal with amber indicators and a new, off road tyres.
Transformation from a spy to a warrior is almost complete.
A new clock to fit the mysterious hole in the dashboard fitted in July 2015. We found it in one of the stalls at the War and Peace show.
In May 2016 I decided to partially overhaul the engine. Its performance has never been great and the test showed a slight loss of compression in the cylinders. Set of nominal pistons, piston rings and a set of gaskets I bought in Poland (link to the store).
Trouble began at the very start of the job. Despite cleaning the studs and very careful unscrewing the nuts, some threads did not survive and were unsuitable for reuse.
The head did not give up without a fight. After forty years the aluminium alloy had fused with the studs and we had to use a hydraulic lift together with the hammer, lifting the front of the vehicle off the floor.
The damaged studs and nuts have been replaced with new ones. They were purchased from the British company Trapper Industries.
The head was skimmed in a specialized workshop and the small corrosion hole was filled with liquid metal. It's been a year and it still holds!
Honing cylinders was quick and easy. Grinding valves and valve seats was a tedious and time consuming job.
Of course after that it was necessary to adjust the valves accurately. We did it several times. Combined with the brand new, original carburettor and ignition distributor, the whole venture brought the expected result. Engine starts "on a button" and works smoothly.
Experienced owners knows that after the head has been off it needs to be tightened several times over long period of time. The nuts must be tightened before each engine start and initially even after stopping. This has to be repeated many times until the torque wrench "clicks" without moving any of the nuts. Initially coolant leaks will occur. It is normal and will disappear after the process of tightening the head is finished. From experience I also recommend re-adjusting the valves. It is the key to smooth running engine.
A stylish copy of a Polish military number plate of 1960's made by company "Manufaktura Blach Tłoczonych" in Poland. They speak English and post to the UK.
In May 2018 the GAZ and I were invited to the 70 Years of Land Rover show at British Motor Museum in Gaydon and got a Certificate of Merit for the most unusal vehicle. Very interesing was a copmarison between the GAZ-a 69 and the Land Rover series II in the arena...
This was the last stage of the transformation from the spy to a warior. Rear benches are imposible to buy so I had to make them.
Based on an old, wrecked set they are made to the exact specification, including two layers of foam, the bottom being firmer and the top softer. I used as many original components as possible. All the nuts holding bottom hinges are M8 with 14 mm heads.
The story of my GAZ