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RAF koveijers

Minibus "Latvija" - the star-studded wonder of the Soviets

Riga bus factory

It is hard to imagine nowadays, but in the not-so-distant past there was no such type of vehicle as a minibus. For the transportation of people, medium-capacity buses were very common, which were made by putting a "hut" - a body - on a truck chassis. 

For this purpose a bus body factory was established in Riga in 1949, which was later named Rīgas autobusu fabrika - RAF (Riga bus factory).

Autobuss RAF-251
Mikroautobuss RAF-977

In 1957, the RAF design team got acquainted with Volkswagen minibuses produced in Germany and decided that they should be produced in Riga as well.

The first prototypes were developed, the Soviet government liked them, and in 1959 the production of the first serial minibus RAF-977 began. 

All RAF-produced buses were decorated with the inscription "Latvija" on the front. Their application in various modifications was very wide - tourist buses, ambulances, route taxis, etc

In 1975, along with the need for more space for starting the production of the new minibus model RAF-2203, the factory was moved to Jelgava city, where a whole village was built for the needs of the factory workers.

Minibuses "Latvija" were in great demand throughout the Soviet Union, they had no competitors. They were produced in countless modifications, adapted to various needs - route taxis, ambulances, police cars, cargo vans, etc. More than 700 cars in various special modifications were made specifically for the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow.

Mikroautobuss RAF-2203
Pamests RAF-2203-01

The golden age of the factory ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union, when there was a transition from a planned economy to a free market. Demand for the technologically outdated RAF minibuses began to decline rapidly. Western analogues appeared on the market, the Russian factory GAZ began to produce its own minibuses. Although the factory tried to modernize its model range, it did not succeed. It ceased to exist in 1997. The last factory car released was a hearse ordered by the city of Moscow.

Our bus is a 1991 production, model RAF 2203-01, passenger minibus. Spent 20 years in a garage in Lithuania, later restored and after a long time standing went out on the streets again in 2023.

Such cars were mainly used in state institutions and companies. They were not available for purchase for private use, except for large families in later years. Consequently, these cars have remained in relatively small numbers today.

RAF-2203-01 Līgatnē
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