The GAZ-66 is an off-road truck which was manufactured in the Soviet Union, Ukraine and Russia from 1968 to 2000. The Finnish military purchased or otherwise obtained hundreds of these vehicles from the beginning of the 1970s until the early 1990s. The bulk of the vehicles was purchased in two batches. The first batch was procured in 1973–1975 to serve as general-purpose off-road trucks, and the second batch in 1986–1989 to provide a platform for communication system containers. The truck at our museum was used as a repair workshop for Strela and Igla MANPADS missiles, and was built in 1988.
In the recollections of both conscripts and regular personnel, the GAZ-66 was the worst-built Soviet vehicle in Finland in terms of ergonomics. The cab was extremely noisy, the seats were considered by many to be terrible as their adjustment possibilities were non-existent and they were upholstered with faux leather, which was highly uncomfortable. In addition, there were frequent engine failures and the gears were very heavy to operate. The off-road capabilities of the truck were, however, praised. Many drivers also liked the hammocks found as standard in the cab. The hammock was far more comfortable than sleeping in a tent or on bare ground, especially in winter or in the rain. As the vehicle approached its top speed, it began to make leaping movements, earning it the nickname “the frog” among conscripts. The nickname was used at least in the 1990s, if not earlier.
The model of this particular vehicle is GAZ-66-04-4×4/3300. These vehicles served as communications test vehicles and workshop trucks from 1973 onwards. Towards the end of their service life, the vehicles were even used as part of the YVI-1 digital communications system before they were phased out. They were used by the Defence Forces until 2000, when most of them were discarded. The vehicles were scrapped, auctioned to civilians or handed over to museums in Finland and abroad.
References: Mäkipirtti, Markku, Puolustusvoimien moottoriajoneuvot 1960–2000, Apali Oy, Hämeenlinna/Tampere 2006; Mäkipirtti, Markku, Ajoneuvot Suomessa 2 – Neuvostoliittolaiset ajoneuvot GAZ-66, Apali Oy, Hämeenlinna/Tampere 2009