GAZ GL-1

Isn't this just the prettiest-looking hot rod?

It only it was a hot rod, of course. Machines like this are likely what would have competed in international motoring events had the Second World War not occurred. Introduced in 1938, it was based on the GAZ-M1—which was based on the Ford Model B. The M1 is interesting because apparently Ford sent little more than drawings as part of its technical partnership, which led to a fair amount of local interpretation.

Even more local interpretation led to differences in both engine and body design, elements that took the car farther away from its Ford roots. A number of websites like kustomrama.com have good overviews of the car, but what you really want to know is how it came to look so bad-ass with a bubble top. Used as a test bed to explore the limits of speed, by 1940, the car had ditched its Ford V8 for a 3.5-litre-ish Chrysler 6-cylinder engine.

With about 100 horsepower, in late 1940, the car became the fastest in the Soviet Union with a run to 161.9 km/h (100 mph), which is quick…but I wonder how epic this thing would be with a Turbonique drag axle out back…

The red car at the top of the page is a recreation of the original, which was lost to the Second World War. The recreation lives in a museum in Moscow—everyone seems to say it's in "Moscow Museum" but I have no idea which museum in Moscow… (If anyone knows, please leave a note in the comments!)

Wouldn't you have loved to see a GAZ and team of Russians run Bonneville in, say, 1941?