About

Vehicle and Robotics Engineering Laboratory

The Home of Mechatronics

Origins

In fond and respectful memory of Dr. Anatoliy Kh. Lefarov,
Engineer, Scientist, and Educator

In occasion of the 100th Year Anniversary
February 2, 1913 – February 2, 2013

Dr. A. Lefarov was my advisor, teacher, mentor, and great supporter for 17 great years of our work, who shaped me as an engineer and researcher, and, most importantly, as a person. Grown up on engineering traditions brought by Henry Ford to Russia and further advanced to an outstanding vehicle design engineer, Dr. Lefarov determined my life to multi-wheel vehicle engineering and provided me with a charge that drives my professional life for last 30 years.

The Vehicle and Robotics Engineering Laboratory was established as a logical continuation of the R&D Group on Multi-Wheel Vehicles that was established by Dr. Lefarov in 1963. I firmly believe that we at VREL will inspire many students and engineers to join innovative research and design of vehicles and robots at VREL.

Dr. Vladimir V Vantsevich, PhD, ScD, ASME Fellow
Professor and VREL Director

 

 

 

 History

My father, Anatoliy Khristoforovich Lefarov, was born on February 2, 1913, in a rural family of intellectuals. His father was an accountant and his mother was a teacher. From a young age, my father devoted his life to education and work. He graduated from a peasant’s youth school in 1929 and from a technical school of agriculture in 1932. From 1934 onward, he worked as a grain-harvesting combine operator and as a driver of Caterpillar and International Harvester Farmall Tractor, first at the Evpatoria, and then at Simferopol farms that specialized in grain growing.

In recognition of the high quality of his professional work, the People’s Agriculture Commissariat of the Crimean Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic sent my father to Leningrad Industrial Institute (subsequently renamed as Leningrad Polytechnic Institute) in 1935, where he was successfully admitted.

Upon his admission to the institute, my father immediately devoted all his time and energy to his studies. His diligence, which consisted of studying 12–14 hour daily, did not fail to bear fruit. During the third year of his school, he became one of the best students in the institute and was awarded a higher-level stipend; he was later awarded the highest student honor at the time—the Stalin grantee.

Having graduated from the institute with honors in 1940, my father was assigned to work at the design department of the Gor’kiy Automotive Company (GAZ). He started his work under the guidance of one of the U.S.S.R. founders of the school of off-road equipment design—Vitaliy Andreyevich Grachev. It was precisely at this time that the direction of his scientific activity, which subsequently became his entire life purpose, germinated. Using his knowledge and through diligent work, he rapidly gained the respect of his coworkers and the leadership of the design office.

After Nazi Germany attacked the U.S.S.R. in 1941, my father was drafted and sent to the front. But he was soon recalled, as his engineering expertise was needed by the military, and he was returned to the GAZ design office. He continued working in this office donning the role of a senior designer. During the war, he designed and refined a number of mechanisms and assemblies of off-road wheeled and tracked vehicles for the military. With the end of the war in 1945, my father, who was now a fully established expert, was transferred by the order of the Secretary of Automotive Industry of the U.S.S.R. to the Dnepropetrovsk Automobile Company (DAZ) as a deputy chief designer. Here fate again brought father together with his superior at the Gor’kiy Automotive Company, Vitaliy Andreyevich Grachev, who had been appointed as the chief designer of DAZ the previous year.

In DAZ, the following vehicles were designed under the guidance of V.A. Grachev with the direct participation of my father: the DAZ-150 4 ton self-loader, the DAZ-485 3-axle amphibian truck (LAT, large amphibian truck) for the military, the Ukraina passenger car, and other vehicles. But soon, by decree of the Soviet government the DAZ was switched to other manufacturing tasks and my father was sent to Minsk, the capital of Belarus, and appointed as the deputy chief design engineer at the Minsk Automotive Company (MAZ). In Minsk, he resumed his work with heavy-duty trucks, in particular, high-mobility trucks and tractors.

This was the time when the MAZ had just established a special design office (SKB-1 as further mentioned in the preface) for designing multiaxle rocket tractors. This office consisted of a large scientific, engineering, and manufacturing task force that subsequently not only established an entirely new direction in the design of military and civilian multiwheel heavy-duty trucks but also became a prominent scientific and engineering school of the Soviet Union. This office was headed by Boris L’vovich Shaposhnik, a leading design engineer, and my father became his first deputy. The SKB-1 was established in 1954; the project of the base four-axis chassis MAZ-535 was already completed by 1955, and just a year later, the MAZ-537 tractor with a hydraulic gearbox, locked by a torque converter, lockable differentials, and independent suspension of all the wheels was also completed. In 1962, under the leadership and direct participation of my father, gear-type free-running differentials for heavy-duty MAZ tractors were designed. These differentials became an integral part of the driveline system of the well-known four-axle MAZ-543 chassis that went into production in 1962. The design of the differentials was so successful that they are still used on tractors that serve as carriers of various rocket launchers. Drs. Otto Ya. Zaslavskiy and Lev Kh. Gileles, who worked for many years with my father, write in their memoirs that my father had a sharp intellect, tact, and exceptional precision. This he most probably acquired from the old Russian engineering community and professors, some of whom remained in the Stalin years at Leningrad Polytechnic Institute, which was his alma mater. His colleagues made mention of the fact that he was the first one to point to the organic link between engineering developments and scientific studies, and was the first to call attention to the importance of intellectual property in modern society. He was the first staff member in the SKB-1 who was issued a certificate (Soviet equivalent of patent) for an invention. It is most likely that for these reasons my father performed experimental and analytic studies and wrote scientific works while being engaged in designing new vehicles. He authored articles and books and was the first in the SKB-1 to defend a PhD dissertation.

But father did not devote himself exclusively to military vehicles. He also worked actively on designing MAZ trucks, MAZ-501 and MAZ-509, and various modifications of the MAZ-537, for civil use. For example, he developed and put into production an original lightweight front axle for an all-wheel-drive timber carrier. The MAZ-501 automobile was the first automobile in the U.S.S.R. to employ a differential in the transfer case. This was a significant achievement for Dr. Lefarov as a designer. The locking differential designed and tested by my father under actual operating conditions started coming into use on MTZ-52 and MTZ-82 tractors of the Minsk Tractor Works, and also on the K-700 tractor of the Leningrad Tractor Company named after Kirov.

While working at the MAZ, my father, on the invitation of the administration of the College of Automobile and Tractor Engineering of Belarusian National Technical University (previously Belarusian Polytechnic Institute, BPI), Minsk, Belarus, became involved in teaching students—future experts in automobile and tractor engineering. He left his company in 1963 for the chair of the tractor engineering department of BPI.

In this institute, my father acquired students; he then established a school of study—a research group on multiwheel drive vehicles and driveline systems. His school investigated power distribution among the wheels connected with different types of driveline systems, and developed techniques of calculating the torque bias of self-locking differentials of different types. He also investigated the effect of many factors on the properties of locking and self-locking differentials. The studies performed by father and his students were not restricted to two-axle automobiles and tractors, but concerned themselves with all multiaxle, many-wheel-drive vehicles. The main purpose of my father’s school was, and still is, to find methods of optimizing the properties of systems of power distribution among the wheels and, in the final analysis, improving the overall mobility and other operational properties of wheeled vehicles operating under various road and off-road conditions. As a result of the large volume of work performed at the SKB-1 and at the institute, my father defended his DSc dissertation (the highest degree in the U.S.S.R.) in 1976, and in 1977 he was conferred the rank of professor. For his contributions to the national machine-building industry, he was conferred the honorary title of Deserving Machine Builder of Belarus. My father devoted all his life to work; more precisely, work was his entire life. He passed away on February 10, 1992, but left behind his scientific works, the automobiles and tractors that he designed, and, most importantly, his students who continue his work.

Dr. Victor A. Lefarov
Minsk, Belarus