"Rafik 2203" is the favorite of many motorists, and today it evokes nostalgic notes in their souls. And even now, when this model has long been out of production, this minibus remains a valuable rare item for lovers of retro and antiquity.
Nimble and maneuverable RAF-2203
The RAF model 2203 was produced in Riga from 1976 to 1987. It was intended for a variety of purposes. Most often, this vehicle was used as shuttle cars, ambulances and simply as civil and business vehicles.
The layout of the minibus RAF-2203 - wagon. His salon consists of 2 departments:
- The front compartment, where the driver’s seat and one passenger seat are located.
- The rear compartment is equipped with nine passenger seats, behind which there is luggage space.
I must say that the RAF-2203 minibus reviews are extremely positive. People who have worked on this "rafik" do not hide their enthusiasm for the named vehicle. According to them, the car is magnificent, fast, hardy and economical. In addition, a good build, excellent maneuverability and a twist in the turns and turns of this obedient to drive car are highly appreciated.
Motor is the heart of any car
The RAF-2203 engine with a carburetor fuel supply, which was equipped with a minibus, worked on gasoline. For this model, an engine from the GAZ-24 was used. It was located in front and powered the rear wheels. The engine had an in-line layout, 4 cylinders and 8 valves. Actually, I must say that this model was equipped with two types of engines:
That the second engine was more powerful was the only difference between them. However, there was another distinctive nuance - the first engine worked on AI-76 gasoline, and the second - on AI-93.
The mechanical 4-speed transmission of the minibus has synchronizers in all forward gears, which increased the service life of the Rafika gearbox.
The machine could reach speeds of one hundred twenty to one hundred thirty kilometers per hour.
Body and suspension of a minibus
Body RAF-2203 - bearing, all-metal. The car has 4 single-leaf doors:
- 2 of them - on the right - are intended for boarding passengers;
- the door on the left is for the driver;
- the back door gives access to the luggage space.
The sprung suspension of the minibus with shock absorbers, and as for the braking system "rafica", it is made according to the system of drum brakes installed on all four wheels of the car. If necessary, repair of the RAF-2203 could be done at many domestic service stations.
Production - Latvia
The very first production models of RAF-2203 minibuses, photos of which you can see in this article, left the assembly line of the new Latvian automobile plant in December 1975. And the very next year a green street was opened for their mass production. A year later, a separate modification appeared on the conveyor - the ambulance car of medical assistance RAF-22031.
When modifying a car as a minibus, its capacity allowed transporting up to eleven people in a row. Thanks to this and its other qualities, RAF-2203 was widely distributed throughout the USSR. After the collapse of the country into separate states, these minibuses were supplanted by new models, in particular the Gazelle car. But individual copies are still preserved in some countries of the former union.
Some vehicle specifications
Technical data and dimensions of RAF-2203 are as follows:
- In length, the car reaches 4 m 980 cm, in width - 2 m 035 cm, and the height of the car - 1 m 970 cm.
- The track of the front wheels of the “Rafik” is 1 m 474 cm, the track of the rear wheels is 1 m 420 cm.
- The mass of the minibus with equipment is 1670 kg.
- Its total mass is 2710 kg.
- Carburetor engine, 4-cylinder, ZMZ 2203 / 2.445 l.
- Number of seats - 11, plus driver's.
- The braking distance at a speed of 60 km / h is 25.8 m.
- The front overhang is 1 m 200 cm.
- The rear overhang is only 1 m 120cm.
- The height of the car step above the road level is 40 cm.
- Dry single plate clutch.
- Manual gearbox
- Hydraulic shock absorbers.
- Spring-mounted front suspension independent on wishbones.
- Dependent rear suspension on longitudinal semi-elliptic springs.
Features of the RAF minibus
Loved by everyone minibuses, which the people affectionately nicknamed "rafiks", they featured a rounded front bumper without “fangs”, window leafs of the front doors, dimensional white lights on the roof, round rear-view mirrors and chrome wheel hubcaps, like the Volga GAZ -21.
Until the end of 1976, the serial RAF-2203 minibus was equipped with an original high instrument panel equipped with round dials. In 1977, the model acquired a new panel with a combination of instruments adopted from the GAZ-24. Then it was decided to abandon the vent located under the middle window on the port side.
Let us turn to what people say about RAF-2203. Owner reviews, as mentioned above, are very good. There are only some small details that can be considered a minus, but they are not so significant for the general situation. Representatives of companies, as well as those who purchased RAF for business, argue that given the low price of the car, its payback is simply excellent. This is firstly, and secondly, an important fact is the absence of problems with spare parts. Almost everything you need is suitable for the Volga car, except for body iron.
A small reliable "tank" - as some motorists RAF-2203 call it. Owner reviews for the most part are imbued with respect for this auto-workaholic. Some noted a comfortable fit in the car, so getting used to it is possible in just one day. And although the instrument panel is not rated by the highest score, but most found it quite convenient. The high clearance of the minibus makes it easy to ride on a dirt road.
From the negative it is said that in winter the handling is a little worse, but again, a habit is needed here. A little training for the driver, and dexterity will come. As a minus, it is also noted that the position of the engine is in front, due to which the weight of the minibus is shifted to its front. And, of course, the RAF-2203 high fuel consumption can be attributed to the minus.
The characteristics of the minibus (in which all those who agreed) make it perfectly suitable for small businesses, as this car is inexpensive and very practical.
Beginning of model 2203
In the late 60s, the Latvian car industry experienced a catastrophic shortage of production space. For this reason, it was almost impossible to satisfy the needs of a large country in minibuses. And therefore, in 1969, they began construction of a new plant, which was located 25 km from Riga in the city of Jelgava.
Actually, this giant plant was originally designed and built to produce a new model of a minibus and was equipped with the most modern equipment at that time. Officially, production began in 1976. It was in the same year that the production of serial production of a minibus with an index of 2203 began.
In terms of production, the Rafik-2203 minibus significantly surpassed its predecessor, the 977 model. In 1984, in February, the plant released the anniversary hundred-thousandth RAF-2203 - and this is only 9 years after the start of mass production!
In the coming 80s, up to about 17 thousand minibuses a year were already produced at the factory in Jelgava. For this, all the old workshops and buildings of the enterprise in Riga were also involved, but basically small small-lot batches of cars on special orders were now assembled in them. The design bureau itself and the special bureau intended for testing were located in Riga.
Moments of history
The earliest RAF cars have their own distinctive features, such as sidelights from the GAZ-24 and the presence of a factory logo on the tailgate. The turn of 1978-1979 was marked by the replacement of optics from the Volga with single bus repeaters, plus the factory logo was removed from the back door. Further, for almost 10 years, minibuses were produced in this form without any significant changes.
Quality mark at the peak
In 1979, the RAF plant received the State Quality Mark for its products. But, for some irony of fate, immediately after that, the quality of the cars produced began to decline every year. The plant increasingly began to receive complaints, complaints, and complaints, especially from medical workers using an ambulance. An unpleasant incident also occurred in February 1986, when state acceptance of almost 13% of new minibuses was returned to the plant to eliminate the detected defects.
Disagreement Among Leadership
In the same 1986, a public discussion began among the management of the plant. The acutely raised topic was precisely related to the reasons for the steady decline in the quality of products of the Jelgava Automobile Plant. During the conflict, it was decided that to improve the situation, the plant needs to produce not only new minibus models, but also another director.
After the election, he became Victor Bossert. In connection with everything, the Riga Bus Factory received significant funds from the country's budget for total technical re-equipment with the requirement that the manufactured models, including the RAF-2203, have significantly improved technical specifications.
Cessation of production
After the collapse of the USSR, the RAF plant, like many other similar industrial Baltic giants, was doomed. The break with Russia did not play into the hands of production. Because the production cycle of the plant required supplies from Russia, and this applied to almost all components. At the same time, all the same because of the severance of ties with Russia, the sales market fell sharply, due to which production had to be reduced to 4-5 thousand cars a year.
Trying to survive and stay afloat, the plant management made attempts to expand the range of products. A number of new utility vehicles and special purpose minibuses based on RAF-2203 were launched into production. In small batches, vans of the RAF-2920, cargo-passenger pickups of the RAF-3311 and other cars were produced. But, unfortunately, such measures of success did not bring production, because, in fact, the basic model “rafika-2203” was completely hopelessly outdated by this time.
Production of sensational "rafik" closed completely
The year 1993 was marked by the start of production of the Nizhny Novgorod Gazelle, as a result of which the Baltic plant producing rafiki finally lost its largest sales market - Russia. Local, that is, Baltic citizens, also did not particularly show their interest in the products, their preferences were given to used cars from Western Europe.
A change in the base model could help the enterprise, all the more so since around the end of the 80s the plant created 2 modern concepts at once, these are Roxana and Stills. These models had high hopes. But in order to proceed to their serial production, a radical modernization of the enterprise and significant investments were required. The search for an investor did not bring success, the number of issued “rafiks” monthly became smaller, and besides, the plant’s debts grew.
The moment came when in 1997 the Baltic RAF plant released its last batch of products, and in the spring of 1998 the company was declared bankrupt. This is where the story of the most massive minibus in the entire history of the Soviet Union ended, and also the history of the Latvian automobile industry ended with it.