High local authorities praised the car, promised to find investors. Moreover, at the RAF, a second, no less interesting car was already ready - the Stills (M2). Alas, both he and Roxane were destined to remain only prototypes … But the designers and testers of the Riga Bus Factory expected their minibus to be modern at the beginning of the 21st century.
Back in the mid-1980s, when the vast country lived on perestroika hopes, the RAF closely engaged in the modernization of the 2203 model. The need for this unique in its class Soviet car was enormous, although there were drawbacks to the 12-seater car, which was unified with the Volga as much as possible enough. The durability of the suspension, steering, brakes was very low. The latter, by the way, despite the two hydraulic boosters (one in each circuit), were also ineffective.
The Riga designers, who planned to “pull up” the RAF-2203 to an acceptable level, found a like-minded person in the US - an ardent supporter of front-wheel drive Vladimir Andreevich Mironov. He created a simple and reliable suspension with a guide apparatus of two tubes inserted one into the other and shock absorbers resting against the upper ends of the body - a kind of simplified likeness of McPherson. There were no racks suitable for the RAF in the USSR, and no one would produce them specifically for a relatively small minibus factory. The pendant developed by Mironov in US, Riga designers called McMiron.
Mironov, together with the chief designer of the RAF, Ivan Stepanovich Danilkiv, also conceived a radical modernization of the brakes. Two “Nivovskie” calipers were installed on the minibus on each front wheel and a vacuum, instead of hydraulic, amplifier. Designed and a new safety steering shaft. At the same time, they refreshed the “rafic” design: new radiator grilles, front door windows, and mirrors appeared. Tests of 1986 showed that not only reliability was improved, but also the controllability of the machine.
The “smallness” was ahead: to convince the management of the plant and, most importantly, the Minavtoprom, to allocate considerable funds for modernization. Riga residents saved as they could. They decided to make the suspension themselves - in Jelgava they planned a workshop for this. While the decision at the top was ripening, in 1989 two modernized RAF-22038-30 were sent to run in Vladivostok. The cars (one of them passed the state tests before the long journey) returned to Riga with almost no complaints. But the series managed to launch only version 22038-02 with an old suspension. As very often happened in those years - “bye” …
And in the country the time of unprecedented hopes and grandiose projects has already begun. What is the modernization of the model almost 20 years ago? The new, the first in the USSR, chosen by the collective (remember this?) RAF director Viktor Davydovich Bossert proclaimed: we will make a car of the 21st century! Which of the designers and designers would not have responded to such an appeal. Bossert initiated an all-Union competition, patronized by Komsomolskaya Pravda, on the design of a minibus. Experts from several Soviet factories participated, but their own, Riga residents, defeated them. No manipulation: they were simply more "in the subject."
Originally planned a car with front-wheel drive, but still settled on the classic layout. Such a car was easier to bring to the conveyor, relying on components manufactured in the USSR. The M1 prototype with the design of Riga citizen Vladimir Vasiliev was equipped with the ZMZ-406 injection engine - the most modern in the Union at that time, McPherson struts from the promising representative Volga GAZ 3105, a five-speed UAZ gearbox. The steering rack and amplifier for the prototype had to be borrowed from Ford. In 1990, a minibus, a bit similar (but by no means a copy!) To Transit, made its first flight near the Scientific and Technical Center of the RAF on Duntes Street in Riga.
The prototype was entrusted to the British company IAD, which had already collaborated with US and UAZ to create a one and a half ton truck (ЗР, 2003, No. 1). The British did a great job bringing to mind the body and interior of the Roxanne and having learned a lot from Riga. By the way, the car got its own name just at this time. But Danilkiv and Mironov were already promoting another project - a car with a shortened “nose” and, nevertheless, front-wheel drive. The end of the 1980s is the time of the maximalists!
The RAF-M2 project was led by Deputy Chief Designer Roman Popov. The design was developed at US, the layout was made at ZAZ, with which the RAF had good connections. The motor on the "Stills", assembled in 1993, was still the same - ZMZ-406. The front suspension is double wishbone, because the high struts in the hoodless car did not fit. The rear suspension was reminiscent of the Moskvich 2141. The residents of Riga dreamed of pneumatic, but understood that this was not a business tomorrow. Steering on the prototype again put the import - from the Mercedes-Benz.
Road tests failed. Testers, like other experts, one after another left the factory, life on which, like many other enterprises of the USSR, slowly died away. However, the body of the "Stills" was tested for strength and vibration resistance at the still working Riga carriage building. The car, or rather, the body, as the engineers say, turned out to be “honest” - it showed good results.
The designers still hoped to bring the car at least to small-scale production. We went to the factories of the former USSR, trying to find suppliers of electrical equipment, gearboxes, windows. To begin with, it was planned to produce Stills in a small-series workshop, along with trucks and special vehicles based on RAF-22038.