The life and influence of Yuri Dolmatovsky

Who was Yuri Dolmatovsky? If you find the answer online in English, you won’t find a Wikipedia entry or an article on his life. A few years ago, an article in the German-language Automobile Revue Katalog dismissed him as someone who just copied Western ideas. It is simply not true. Dolmatovsky was a talented and visionary Russian (Soviet) designer, whose influenced was felt in the COMECON region.

Yuri Dolmatovsky was born in 1913. His brother, Yevgeniy went on to become a very popular Soviet poet. When Yuri grew up the first motoring magazines appeared in the Soviet Union: e.g. the first issue of Za Ruljem (At the Wheel) was published in 1928.
Yuri started drawing cars in his free time.

In 1934 he became a member of the NATI, later NAMI – the Soviet Automobile Industry Research Institute. During the 2nd World War he was a member of the team which designed the Pobeda, one of the first succesful applications of a pontoon body. The GAZ M20 Pobeda debuted in 1946, a year before the British Standard Vanguard. By that time Dolmatovsky was no longer working with GAZ.

By the late 1940s he became a respected correspondent of both Za Ruljem and Avtomobil, another publication, contributing several scientific pieces. At NATI (NAMI) he focused on the aeordynamics of automobiles. Between 1949-1953 he completed his first prototype. Called the NAMI-013, this was a very forward-looking vehicle.

NAMI 013 and a Pobeda
NAMI 013 and a Pobeda

Though it was based on the Pobeda, it had a very different body and interior. It actually premiered the “cab forward” idea. Eventually the head of NAMI Institute thought the car is weird and extremely radical, so the project was stopped.

In 1955 Dolmatovsky built two prototypes in Irbit. The IMZ NAMI A50 Belka, which was powered by a motorcycle engine should have previewed a new military Jeep-like vehicle. But again, his ideas were far ahead of the time.

Closed version of the A50 Belka

Dolmatovsky was forced to focus on its journalistic activities. In addition to magazine articles, beautiful paintings of cars he published several books. These books were read all over the COMECON region and prompted many younger designers and engineers to study their fields more seriously.

In 1962 the Ghia Selene, a prototype with a cab-forward design by Tom Tjaarda was shown in Moscow. And this is why the Western press thinks Dolmatovsky “stole” some ideas from Tjaarda. But as you can see above, that’s not the case at all.

Dolmatovsky at work

By this time there was an acute need for a specific taxi in the Soviet Union. A decree was issued and VNIITE, the All-Union Scientific Research Institute for Technical Aesthetics tried to come up with a radical idea. Dolmatovsky developed a new minivan concept.


The VNIITE PT had sliding doors, looked great, but again it was too daring. Dolmatovsky’s last design was the VNIITE Maxi in 1968. Afterwards he focused on books and articles again.

For €7 you can download his last book, Creation of the automobile

Sources:, and a few books

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