Welcome to Soviet Saturday, comrades. Here, I discuss the greatest automotive legends from the Soviet era and beyond.
I know I haven’t posted the last 2 weeks, life got in a way but I couldn’t skip this Saturday.
First of all, it is required that you have this playing on a continuous loop before continuing to read this post.
This coming Tuesday, May 9th will mark the 71st anniversary of the end of WWII in Russia which they celebrate annually by having large scale military parades all over the country. The biggest one will be held in Moscow on the Red Square. What better way to celebrate the occasion then to show you a couple of diecast models of ZIL parade convertibles.
Victory Day has been celebrated in USSR every year starting in 1946 in a similar fashion. Two military head honchos drove around the Red Square in a pair of matching convertibles and saluted the troops. The troops would then march down Red Square followed by a bunch of antiquated military vehicles and aircraft.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, Russian officials put a lid on the whole thing and celebrations all but sezied. It wasn’t until Putin came into power that tradition was resurrected.
First parade vehicles weren’t actually convertibles but rather horses.
First actual car used for a parade was a ZIS 110, followed by ZIL 111.
Throughout the 1970s and part of the 80's the parade convertible of choice was a ZIL 117V. It was based on a a ZIL 117 limo that was shortened and made into a 2 door. Both limo and convertible had a body on frame construction, rear wheel drive and a 7 liter V8 engine that made 300 horsepower. They also had an automatic gearbox which was rare for Soviet cars.
The next generation of convertible was a ZIL-41044. Much like it’s predecessor it was a limo based 2 door sedan. The base was Gorbachev’s ZIL-4104 limo. It too had a conventional layout and even bigger 7.7 liter V8 which only made 15 more horsepower. This car served as a parade limo thorough and into the 90's.
When Putin came into power ZIL convertibles made a come back. ZIL-410441 was the latest model which continues to serve to this day. Three cars were built specifically for parades. These are the cars that you would see in this year’s parade.
There is actually an interesting story to go along with the current gen cars. When 2000s rolled around and it was time to build the new cars, ZIL was only a fraction of what was ones a large company. The special division that built government limos was long gone along with engineers, manufacturing equipment and even technical documentation.
So what the government ended up doing was buying three used limos from private citizens and letting contractors pimp them out. Think Russian Xzibit. The limos were cut in half, a meter long section was taken out and then welded back together. According to my sources, the cars were placed on a new (foreign) chassis which required every body panel to be altered.
It is rumored that they are riding on a GM based truck chassis similar to a Chevy Tahoe. The drivetrain is also rumored to be LS based.
If you are interested in seeing some close up photos, check out this page.
Now onto the models. I only have 2 parade limo models. They are ZIL 117V and ZIL-41044. Both are made by Deagostini in 1/43 scale. I really hope they will some day release ZIL-410441. If not, the limo version is out there for anyone who is interested in making a conversion.