In the mid-1960s the Kremenchug automobile plant manufactured the KrAZ-214B truck in large quantities, playing a very important role in the structure of the motorized forces of the Soviet Army. This truck was assigned the role of a transporter of various auxiliary engineering installations, as well as of fuel, missile systems, etc. Considering the operating conditions of the KrAZ-214B in the territory of the USSR where normal paved roads are absent by definition in most areas (and especially where its secret military units were dispersed and as a rule they didn’t exist at all), the military authorities demanded improvement in the cross-country ability of the vehicle. For this purpose the Bureau SKB-1 designers developed a new type of wheel in 1966, the VI-3. Unlike the narrow wheels of all other types then existing for Soviet vehicles, the VI-3 had a wide profile, and also could be pumped up with air while moving – thus changing the pressure in the tire which offered crucial advantages in altering the area of surface contact of the truck’s wheels. The centralized tire pressure control system, managed by the driver, also had one more essential advantage in a military vehicle – in case of gunfire holing a tire, the driver could strengthen the wheel’s air pressure and, thus, the truck could drive on notwithstanding a degree of damage.
The KrAZ with its new wheels looked like a bear – the car became visually more massive although externally, except for the wheels, and also its headlights and a new form of fuel tank, it didn’t differ greatly from its predecessor. However another essential difference of the new truck, designated the KrAZ-255B, was hidden inside, under the hood. The KrAZ-255 received a new, more powerful ‘heart’ – the powerful V8 YaMZ-238 engine. Its capacity increased to 240 horsepower which significantly affected the dynamics and traction of the truck. In comparison with the KrAZ-214 the top speed of the KrAZ-255 increased from 55 km/h to 70 km/h, and loading capacity from 7 to 7.5 tons.
The first production trucks rolled off the assembly lines in 1967. The machine justified the wildest hopes of the military, so orders for the KrAZ-255 was enormous. Outside the USSR, the KrAZ-255 was delivered to the armies of ‘brotherly countries’ of the Warsaw Pact, and it was also widely exported around the continents of the world, to where at that time many countries were determining their choice of the socialist way of development. The KrAZ-255B went to Cuba, to many countries in Africa (Angola, Ghana, Egypt, etc.) and the Middle East (Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, etc.), and to several countries of Latin America (Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela, Bolivia). Later, as a result of local conflicts, and also after the mass sale of the remains of the former armies of the Warsaw Pact, individual KrAZ-255’s even found their way to the USA, Canada, England, and the Netherlands – generally into private collections and museums of military equipment.
In the Soviet Army the KrAZ-255, like its predecessor the KrAZ-214, found a vast range of uses. Engineering units received the PMP pontoon truck, the TMM mechanized bridge layer, the FM truck-mounted crane, the
5T99 crane, and the E-305BV and EOV-4421 excavators. For the Strategic Rocket forces the TC-8 and AKTs-4 fuel carriers were provided; while logistic support units received water tanker and desalination vehicles; and the air defense army, the PRV-16 radar on the KrAZ-255 chassis.
The KrAZ-255 was used not only by the military, but extensively in civilian life as well. Mastery of the infinite spaces of the USSR, construction of the BAM railroad, and the gas pipelines from Siberia to the western border of the country, are all closely associated with this great truck. More than 29,000 KrAZ-255L timber carrying trucks were made, and a considerable number of them were rebuilt as transporters of wide diameter pipes. For exploration parties, drilling machines and equipment for wells were constructed and special logging buses.
In 1993, 25 years after the beginning of series construction, when the Soviet Union had ceased to exist, the last KrAZ-255B came off the production line of the automobile plant in Kremenchug. However, orders for the vehicle still continued to arrive: at that time more than 195,000 of all variants of the KrAZ-255 had been built. It seemed that time had not diminished this majestic mastodon whose roots lay in the era of the post-war years. But in 1993, despite all the complexity of the economic conditions of the first few years of Ukraine’s independence, the plant finally started production of the KrAZ-260 trucks which, although differing externally with a new type of cabin, in fact structurally remained a descendant of the KrAZ-255.
The KrAZ-255 displays healthy vigor in its old age and to this day remains in the ranks of armies of Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, the countries of the former Yugoslavia, and Cuba. Civilian vehicles, still frequently seen on city roads, always attract the eye – potent with the elegance and massiveness of this machine, reminding us that a former huge nation may have gone, but its automotive industry continues to achieve success.
Height with an empty cover 2940mm
Base bogie 1400mm
Ground clearance 360mm
Empty weight 11700kg
Maximum speed 70km/h