RETRO

1958 ZiL-111

Wheels (Australia) - - CONTENTS - WORDS MICHAEL STAHL

IN ROUGHLY 30 YEARS as leader of the Soviet Union, Joseph Stalin showed the world just what com­mu­nism can do; most no­tably the deaths of around 20 mil­lion ci­ti­zens through im­pris­on­ment, famine and state-sanc­tioned mur­der. Odd, then, that super-com­mie Stalin was a fan of Amer­i­can lim­ou­sines.

The Soviet Union’s ZiL state au­to­mo­tive con­cern be­gan in 1916, with the found­ing of the AMO fac­tory near Moscow to pro­duce li­censed Fiat trucks. How­ever, the Rus­sian Rev­o­lu­tion stalled pro­duc­tion un­til 1925 – around the same time that Stalin be­gan engi­neer­ing his dic­ta­tor­ship.

In 1931, Stalin re­named the car and truck maker Zavod imeni Stalina (ZiS) af­ter him­self. From 1936-1941 the ZiS fac­tory pro­duced around 9000 ZiS-101 state lim­ou­sines, taxis and am­bu­lances, un­til the Ger­man in­va­sion forced a switch to de­cen­tralised, mil­i­tary pro­duc­tion.

Just as the pre-war ZiS-101 had echoed 1930s Amer­i­can cars (its body was even sourced from the US), the suc­ces­sor ZiS-110 of 1946 was ‘in­ter­preted’ from a 1942 Packard 180 – one of five Amer­i­can cars re­port­edly sent as post-war good­will gifts from US Pres­i­dent Franklin Roo­sevelt. Like the 101 be­fore it, the 110’s en­gine was a Packard-copy, in-line eight-cylin­der.

The ZiS-110 (and ar­moured 115) was Stalin’s favourite ride un­til his death in 1953, which led to the suc­ces­sion (af­ter a few months) of Nikita Khrushchev. The ZiS plant was soon re­named ZiL in honour of long-serv­ing fac­tory man­ager Ivan Likha­chov, and in 1956, un­der ZiL pas­sen­ger-ve­hi­cle de­sign head An­drei Ostro­vt­sev, pro­duced the pro­to­type for a new limou­sine, the ZiL-111.

The ZiL works had ac­quired a trio of cur­rent-model Packard cars. The 111 re­lied heav­ily on the 1955 Packard Caribbean, copy­ing not only much of the styling, but the chas­sis and, it’s be­lieved, new V8 en­gine. It was far from a straight­for­ward trans­la­tion, the 111 be­ing longer and wider than the Amer­i­can.

In pro­duc­tion from 1958 to 1963, the ZiL-111 ap­peared in two sedan ver­sions – 111 and 111A, the lat­ter with air-con­di­tion­ing and a smaller rear win­dow. A dozen spe­cial state-pa­rade ‘111V’ four-door con­vert­ible phaetons, pic­tured here, were also built, bring­ing the to­tal for this series to 112 units.

In 1963 a thor­ough restyle pro­duced the 111G, with a ’61 Cadil­lac-in­spired four-head­lamp frontal styling and less se­vere tail­fins. ZiL pas­sen­ger-car pro­duc­tion con­tin­ued only spo­rad­i­cally af­ter the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union, ceas­ing in 2002. The fi­nal ZiL truck was built in 2016.

COPY THAT, CHIEF

The 111’s cast-iron, 5980cc ohv V8 has misty ori­gins, but the sin­gle-carb V8 claimed 149kW/441Nm and drove through a twospeed, push-but­ton au­to­matic, ev­i­dently copied from Chrysler’s Pow­erFlite. The lad­der-frame chas­sis car­ried in­de­pen­dent coil-spring front sus­pen­sion, a leaf-sprung de Dion axle at the rear, and boosted all-drum brakes.

PO­SI­TION OF POWER

ZiL’s 111V con­vert­ible phaeton was the full monty for com­mu­nism’s more-equal-than-oth­ers. The dash housed an ar­ray of push-pull con­trols and the novel four-but­ton panel for the auto. Power win­dows and the huge can­vas soft­top were hy­drauli­cally op­er­ated. Rear pas­sen­gers had softer cloth up­hol­stery, a pa­rade han­dle, and con­trols for ra­dio and heat/vent/air-con.

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