It turns out that the automobile industry in Armenia used to have decent prospects. It seems that the first product of the Armenian automobile industry left the assembly line in 1972.
It was the passenger car “Hrtir” (Rocket). However, the authorities of the USSR naturally did not approve the mass production of this car, motivating this decision with the fact that the car was “too expensive and pathos-filled for a socialist society.”
We do not have more detailed information about this car, unfortunately.
But it should be noted that closer to the end of the 1970s, production of buggies and karts was nevertheless established in Armenia. A prerequisite for the establishment of a factory for the production of karts and buggies was the car that conquered the world – from the Soviet vast lands all the way to America.
A two-seater sports car with a modern design unlike any other appeared in Soviet Armenia in 1977 and instantly conquered the vast country.
More is known about this car than about the Rocket.
The idea to create a car unlike any other came into the mind of design engineer Rafik Ordyan at an early age. He assembled his first two-seater at the age of 14.
“We met Rafik at the Ashtarak Institute of Physics. I was immediately attracted by the idea of creating a sports car, and I decided to help him at all costs,” told Ordyan’s friend and Ph.D. in physical sciences Mkrtich Sargsyan.
According to Sargsyan, Ordyan’s idea required difficult decisions because the car had to be sports, and it should have been assembled exclusively from modern materials.
“If Rafik had something in mind, then he made sure to finish the job,” Sargsyan recalls.
Fiberglass, a light yet durable material, was extensively used in the new car. However, due to the excessive employment of the authors of this project, its assembly dragged on for five years.
“At that time, a car boom began in Armenia – everyone sought to manufacture their own unique car. However, ours was distinguished by both design and a competent approach to business,” Sargsyan said.
The Moscow furor of the Armenian auto industry
On the 60th anniversary of the Great October Revolution in 1977 in Moscow, a parade contest of amateur cars and motorbikes for the prize of “Technics of the Youth” journal gathered numerous car builders from all Union republics.
“I remember how we arrived at the parade, stopped, and got out of the car. At first, no one paid attention to us – people must have thought that it was a foreign car and that we were foreigners. However, the car caused a furor,” Sargsyan recalls.
According to him, the Americans who attended the event expressed interest in this car. Later, the car was presented at an exhibition at VDNH in Moscow. This exhibition was attended by the President of Poland and members of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union – specifically to see the car.
“We returned to Yerevan, and a few days later, General Baghramyan called us and asked if we could go back to Moscow,” Sargsyan said.
It turned out that Marshal of the Soviet Union and chairman of DOSAAF Pokryshkin hadn’t seen the car and thus asked us to come back to Moscow as soon as possible.
A month later, a meeting was organized in Moscow with the DOSAAF team.
“Pokryshkin was angry – without limiting himself in expressions, he said that we couldn’t assemble such a car for decades, while the guys did it in a basement,” Sargsyan recalls.
The car that became the backstory of a factory
The idea of this car laid the foundation for the production of go-karts and buggies in Armenia. As a result, a factory was established for the production of such cars. This factory was of national importance – here, military buggies were produced in the 80-90s, which helped the Armenians a lot during the Karabakh War.
It was decided to use sports cars for military purposes. A similar practice had already existed in all the armies of the world.
“Vazgen Sargsyan was the Minister of Defense in those years. We told him about the car and showed a photo of it. He asked what was needed for its production. We replied that there was nothing special and that we only needed electricity,” Sargsyan said.
The minister approved the project, and the first pilot machine was ready in three months. Ordyan’s friend recalls that Vazgen Sargsyan really liked it, and an order for its production was issued immediately. In a short period, more than a hundred cars were produced. They were used in several fields.
After the Karabakh war, it was attempted to produce Armenian “jeeps” and “hammers”. Five such cars were produced, but soon, this project was closed.
In fact, at that time in Armenia, there was only the YerAZ (Yerevanskiy Avtomobilniy Zavod, Yerevan Automobile Factory) automobile factory producing UAZ-like trucks with elements from the RAF-2203. At one point, it produced minibusses that were not bad at that time.
But, in November 2002, YerAZ OJSC was declared bankrupt by the decision of the Economic Court of the Republic of Armenia at the request of creditors. The production of Armenian minibusses was stopped.
Draw your own conclusions.