Riga Autobus Factory
The Riga Autobus Factory (Latvian: Rīgas Autobusu Fabrika, Russian: Рижская Автобусная Фабрика) (abbreviated RAF) was a factory in Jelgava, Latvia, making vans and minibuses under the brand name Latvija.
During the Soviet period, RAF and UAZ were the only producers of vans and minibuses in Soviet Union. RAF vans and minibuses were used only by state enterprises, most often as ambulances and for public transit. Private persons were not allowed to own them, the only exception being for families with at least five children.
In 1949 the factory began producing van bodies on the site of the Riga auto repair factory №2. In 1955, it was renamed the Riga Experimental Bus Factory (Latvian: Rīgas eksperimentālā autobusu fabrika, Russian: Рижский Опытный Автобусный Завод), and the products started to be abbreviated to RAF.
RAF’s first product was the RAF-251, a 22-seat local bus, based on the GAZ-51 chassis. From 1958 the factory started to produce RAF-977 minibuses, based on GAZ-21 Volga assemblies. It was planned to produce passenger, freight and specialized versions of the vehicle. The first batch of 1-ton vans was produced in 1962 and was based on modernized 977D chassis. However, the factory size was not large enough to put this model into mass production, and therefore it was moved to ErAZ (Yerevan, Armenia).
By the beginning of the 1990s, the RAF-2203 was completely outdated and the factory set about designing a new model. The original plan was to build a new RAF vehicle to be called the “Roksana”, designed with help from the British consultancy International Automotive Developments. The model was successfully displayed at several auto salons, but never got further than a prototype. The same thing happened to the front-wheel drive “Style” microbus.
After the collapse of the USSR, the new borders broke the supply chains and production fell drastically. An investment proposal came from the Russian GAZ company but it was rejected by the Latvian government which considered Russian capital a threat to Latvian independence. Although some Western and East Asian investors also showed their interest in RAF, all of them considered this investment too risky as the local market was too small to support large production and the Russian market was virtually closed due to the complicated political relationship of Russia and Latvia.
In 1998, RAF went bankrupt. The only part of the company that survived was RAF-Avia, a charter airline set up using the four airplanes owned by the plant. The 120,000 m² manufacturing site, complete with machinery, is owned by JSC Balitva. They considered selling it to a western auto maker, but this proved unrealistic. As of 2002, the assembly shop was still in order and all the design documents existed, so production could be started again if there should be a need. ErAZ expressed interest, but probably only for the designs. 
- RAF-251 - GAZ-51 based bus (1955-1958)
- RAF-08 - 8-passenger prototype bus (1957)
- RAF-10 - GAZ-M20 based 9-11-passenger bus (1957-1959)
- RAF-977 Latvija - GAZ-21 based 10-passenger van/bus/ambulance/taxi (1959-1976). Also made in D, DM and IM models.
- RAF-2203 Latvija - 4x2 4dr van (1976—1997)
- RAF-2203 Latvija (delivery) - 4x2 4dr delivery van
- RAF-2203 Latvija (cardiology) - 4x2 4dr cardiac ambulance
- RAF-2203 Latvija (fire) - 4x2 4dr fire minivan
- RAF-2203 Latvija GAI - 4x2 4dr police van
- RAF-2203 Latvija (mail) - 4x2 4dr mail van
- RAF-2203 Latvija (taxi) - 4x2 4dr taxi van
- RAF-2203 Latvija VAI - 4x2 4dr military police van
- RAF-22031 Latvija - 4x2 4dr ambulance
- RAF-2907 - special car for Summer Olympic in Moscow
- RAF-2914 - 4x2 ambulance van
- RAF-3311 Latvija - 4x2 pickup on RAF-2203 chassis
- RAF-33111 Latvija - 4x2 light truck on RAF-2203 chassis
- RAF Latvija - collector - 4x2 cash collector on RAF-2203 chassis
- RAF Latvija - tourist van, motor home
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to RAF vehicles.|
- RAF (Photo, info..)