We are about to visit the shop where they make executive class cars, and we are going to do it illegally. It’s one of the shops of the factory named after I. A. Likhachev. In some areas it looks abandoned nevertheless it still works and remains under guard.
This shop was built in the 30s, probably during the second reconstruction of the factory.
There was time when even authorities were not allowed to enter the shop freely. They were required to have a special pass from KGB.
The first executive class car made by the factory was ZIS-101 ( 1936 – 1941 г.). In general they produced 8752 cars.
The next attempt to make a car for the Soviet authorities was made in the times of the war. It was an executive class ZIL.
Stalin liked cars of “Packard” so it became the basis for the new car. It pretty much resembled Packard 180, the main changes were inside the car (bigger distance between cylinders, for example, that improved engine cooling). From 1945 to 1958 they made 2072 ZIS-110 cars.
Marshal Zhukov in ZIS-110B.
They applied typical Soviet methods of production.
When they still were making limousins 800 people worked in the shop. Today their amount is tive times less.
Body panels are made with help of special oak moulds on which metal sheets are tapped, planished and evened. Manually.
It’s a hard work for professionals.
With such methods of production they could not make many cars. Though it was not necessary. Soviet people did not need thousands of limousines.
As opposed to mass production where a future car moves on a conveyor and obtains new parts, here they used stocks. Car frame was fixed on it and details were welded on.
Body elements are welded on upwards.
All the equipment as well as such methods of assembly are out-of-date, of course, but the cars are even more unique that way.
It took approximately half a year to make one executive class car. In the best years twenty cars were made in the shop annually. Today this amount is equal to 5-7 cars only.
The heaviest limo was made for ex president Mikhail Gorbachev. It weighed six tons and had armor seven centimetres thick.
The shop made practically the full cycle of cars production.
70% of an entire car was made right here.
Special chambers for painting.
Cars were painted with nitro enamel, the paint was applied in 9-15 layers. Each layer was followed by drying and polishing.
The last layer was applied and polished after running tests during which cars often overcame more than 1000 km.
Wooden elements of interior trim were made here as well.
By the end of the forties ZIS-110 had already become obsolete but the athorities were still satisfied with it. Nevertheless in 1949 it was decided to create a new car.
They say that in 1955 Nikita Khruschev was impressed by a splendid car of the American president Eisenhower and commanded to design a new executive car in the shortest possible time. In 1956 that car was presented at the exhibition of agriculture – it was ZIL-111 “Moscow”.
Khruschev did not like “Moscow” because the car did not look modern compared to new American models. So they arranged a contest for a new limo design. The winner of the contest was the man who was designing GAZ-13 “Chaika” at that time. Traditionally they used foreign experience again, they even bought some American cars to examine them. They did not copy any of them though, but the new car was not fully designed by Soviet people. ZIL-111 had all attributes of expensive American cars of the mid 50s. The first car was produced in 1959 and modified in a couple of years already. The authorities didn’t like its resemblance with “Chaika”.
The modified ca ZIL-111G had been produced until 1967. It was fully oriented to the needs of the Kremlin, and only 112 cars in different variations were made based on it.
The shop used to make minibuses as well. The first one, ZIL-118, appeared in 1961, it was based on a limo ZIL-111.
Minibus “Yunost” (“Youth”) was rather comfortable, even posh. And Nikita Khruschev liked it very much. But the shop made only twenty units of “Yunost”.
“Yunost” even gained international recognition.
Modified models of “Yunost”.
They also repair cars which they made.