Riga bus factory, RAF ( Latvian. Rīgas Autobusu Fabrika, RAF ) - a minibus production plant in Latvia .
|Riga Bus Factory|
|Type of||Public company|
|Reason for abolition||bankruptcy|
|Location||Latvian SSR → Latvia : Jelgava|
|Products||buses and minibuses|
|Number of employees|
|Affiliated companies||RAF Avia|
In 1949, on the basis of the Riga Car Repair Plant No. 2 (RARZ No. 2), which was located in the former Deitsmanis workshops and Potreki on ul. Terbatas, the Riga Bus Body Works (RZAK) was established. The task of the plant was the production of medium-sized buses.
In 1951, RZAK was merged with the Riga Experimental Automobile Factory .
First Riga buses
In 1953, the plant produced the first 25 buses of the RAF-651 . The bonnet of the RAF-651 was a copy of the Gorky - based GZA-651 bus on the GAZ-51 truck chassis, it carried 25 passengers and had 16 seats.
On June 10, 1954, the plant was reorganized into the Riga Pilot Bus Plant by order of the Ministry of Motor Vehicles, but on September 30, 1954 it was renamed again and this time it received the final name: Riga Bus Factory ( Latvian. Rīgas Autobusu Fabrika ).
In 1955, the production of own-developed buses was launched. The new RAF-251 bus was also based on the GAZ-51 chassis, but already had a carriage layout.
The city bus RAF-251 had two pneumatic double-wing doors in the cabin, it could hold 28 passengers (21 seats). In addition to the basic version, the RAF-251S service buses were produced (1 hinged door in the cabin, 27 seats) and the RAF-251T cargo and passenger (the rear double-glazed door and cargo area were behind).
RAF-251 buses were produced until 1958 (a total of 1,460 were manufactured), then it was replaced by a modernized version, which received its own index - RAF-976 .
In 1957, employees of the RAF met with Volkswagen minibuses and decided to organize the production of minibuses in Riga . Chief engineer Laimonis Klege ( Latvian. Laimonis Klege ), designers J. Ositis ( Latvian. J. Ositis ), G. Sils ( Latvian. G. Sils ) and 4 more enthusiasts on their own initiative created the first RAF-10 minibus.
In honor of the VI World Festival of Youth and Students in Moscow , the RAF-10 was given the name "Festival" ( Latvian. "Festivāls" ). The RAF-10 was built on the platform of the GAZ-M20 Victory car, had a carriage layout, a steel bearing body and 10 seats (hence the model index).
The original body structure caused a lot of complaints and in 1958 was changed. The car also received an engine from the GAZ-21 Volga. On November 20, 1958, the plant began mass production of the RAF-10 “Festival” minibus, and by the end of the year 11 copies were made.
In the same year of 1958, the RAF-08 “Spriditis” minibus ( Latvian. Sprīdītis , Finger-finger ) was developed on the chassis of the Moskvich-407 passenger car. After the modifications, the baby was planned to be launched into a series in 1960 under the symbol RAF-978 , but the project was curtailed shortly after the release of a small industrial batch in order to free up production capacity for the RAF-977 .
The experience gained in the development and fine-tuning of the RAF-10 and RAF-08 was realized in the RAF-977 "Latvia" model ( Latvian. "Latvija" ), built on the chassis of the Volga GAZ-21 car . In 1958, the first 10 copies were produced, and since 1959 full-scale mass production has been deployed.
In 1960, the cars of the first generation were replaced by upgraded RAF-977V.
Since 1961, the production of minibuses was moved to the street. Duntes Shops on the street. Terbatas was returned to the status of Riga Car Repair Plant No. 2 (RARZ No. 2), while production of buses on the GAZ-51A chassis continued.
On the new site, the production of the RAF-977D model was launched, which received a completely new and more technological body in production.
On the basis of the RAF-977D was prepared a series of delivery vans RAF-977K, with a lifting capacity of 850 kg. The trial batch was released in 1962 . The capacities of the RAF did not allow them to expand their production, and in 1966 the model was transferred to Yerevan ( Armenia ), where a new YerAZ plant was built specifically for this.
In 1962, the RAF-977D assembly was set up in Lugansk at the Lugansk auto repair plant under the name LARZ-977 "Lugansk". It was released a few dozen cars.
In 1976, in the city of Jelgava, near Riga, a new plant was put into operation, designed to produce 17 thousand cars a year. Here began the production of 11-seater RAF-2203 “Latvia” minibuses on GAZ-24 Volga units.
Many modifications were produced on its basis, and the Finnish company Tamro created a reanimation car . In the 1980s , sightseeing autotrains based on RAF-2203 operated at the VDNH in Moscow.
Attempt to upgrade
In the late 1980s. work was carried out on the modernization of the outdated series, two prototypes of the RAF-22038-30 successfully passed factory tests. Also fundamentally new samples of the RAF-M1 Roxana and the RAF-M2 Stils were developed and built in a single copy, but all of them were never delivered to the conveyor.
Perestroika, election of the director of the RAF
By 1986, the decline in the quality of products of the RAF caused a public outcry in the USSR , which led to the resignation of the former management of the plant.
In the spirit of perestroika reforms, in 1987, the appointment of a new director was preceded by his election by a plant team from the list of proposed candidates. Victor Bossert won the election. Bossert served as director of the RAF until 1990 .
On September 6, 1991, the RAF was reorganized into a joint stock company. In the same year, Latvia became independent, and the end of the Soviet planned economy came.
Production of light-duty commercial vehicles begins at RAF. The first was a double -sided truck RAF-33111 with a lifting capacity of 1 ton. A wide range of models were produced at its base: delivery vans (including isothermal bodies), double and five-seater pickups. The most successful model of this direction was a flatbed truck with a 5-seater two-row cab RAF-3311 , whose production lasted until 1996. The factory modification of the RAF-22038 -02 minibus was in good demand as a route taxi. In 1995, a new version of the route taxi was offered to consumers: the 12-seat, high-roof model RAF-22039 .
At the same time, the plant was preparing to replace the twenty-year-old design of the RAF-2203 . Since the end of the 80s, with the participation of the well-known English company “International Automotive Design” ( IAD ), the development of the new model RAF-M1 “Roxana” has been carried out. On September 20, 1991, the concept was presented to IAD in England , and in 1992 an experimental sample under the name "RAF-1" appeared at the Avtotekhnika exhibition in Moscow. The model was not brought to the series due to the lack of an investor.
On December 20, 1993, the RAF demonstrated the new RAF-M2 minibus Stils ( Latvian. Stils , “Style”). The front-wheel “Stills” had a spectacular design and progressive design, but the plant also failed to find an investor for its mass production.
After the large-scale production of minibuses of the GAZ-3221 GAZel family at GAZ in March 1996, which exceeded the RAF products in many ways, the export of Latvian minibuses to Russia disappeared.
Ironically, the latest car of the RAF, created by the Russian order, was a car for transportation of the deceased RAF-2926 (isothermal van based on RAF-3311). A batch of 21 such cars was purchased by the Moscow ambulance service.
The last car assembled on the assembly line of the plant was the ambulance service car. The semi-assembled car, taken from the stopped conveyor, has remained unchanged to this day.
Since 1996, the RAF has tried to enter into an alliance with GAZ as a car assembly production for special versions of " GAZelle " , but the agreement was blocked by the Government of Latvia.
In 1997, production was halted. The owners declared bankruptcy of the enterprise in 1998. Subsequently, many production buildings were destroyed, in their place are rented commercial space.
In 2012, the Latvian racer Andris Dambison opened a factory history museum at the RAF.
In 2018, a new enterprise “Rīgas Autobusu Fabrika, RAF” was registered. He plans to launch production of minibuses and city electric buses together with European partners  .
In 2019 it became known that GAZ turned out to be the “European” partner. At the plant of the RAF it is planned to assemble the electric gazelles.
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