ZiL 114: A Super-Sized Russian From The Times Of The Soviet Union
Images: Peter Singhof/Artcurial Motorcars
Although founded in 1916 to make mostly trucks and commercial vehicles branded AMO, the Moscow-based factory imported a Chrysler and two Packards by the end of the 1950s, the designs of which went on to strongly inspire the styling of the new ZiL 111, unveiled in 1959.
The Russian answer to Lincoln and Cadillac presidential cars in the US or the Mercedes-Benz 300 Adenauer and Rolls-Royce Phantom V from Germany and UK, the ZiL 111 was powered by a V8, which was the first engine of this type in a Soviet car.
A 1963 restyling brought the ZiL closer to Cadillac looks, and a total of 112 of the 111 was made until 1967. It was replaced by the 114 in November 1967. The new flagship of Russian automobile production was once again inspired by contemporary American full-size models, in particular the top-of-the-range models of the Chrysler group, specifically Imperials.
The ZiL 114, like the 111, was powered by a light alloy V8 engine, and like the evolution of Detroit models from that period, the engine grew to a humongous 7-litres (6959cc), with maximum power going up to 300bhp, all of which was needed to move the 3085kg, 6.3m long behemoth to a rather impressive 190 km/h.
The rest of the technical sheet, apart from the adoption of disc brakes on all four wheels, remained unchanged from that of its predecessor. Initially it was available in only one version, the 6.3m long limousine.
In June 1971, a shorter version, the ZiL 117 was launched. The wheelbase was reduced from 3.88m to 3.26m, and overall length came down to 5.78m, comparable to the full-sized Cadillac, Lincolns, and Imperials.
The shorter-wheelbase 117 also spawned a convertible version for ceremonial use: the 117V. Launched in 1972, the 117V was ordered in very limited numbers, and was sold to several of the Eastern bloc countries too; it is speculated that barely nine 117Vs may have been made between 1972 and 1985.
The ZiL 114 was the most popular of the range, with around 150 made, several of which were used by Leonid Brezhnev during his tenure as the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Brezhnev, incidentally, was famous for his passion for automobiles, and he was supposed to have at his disposal the use of more than 80 cars!
Since the fall of the Soviet Union a few of the ZiLs have found their way abroad, to mostly museums. A few came from other satellite countries. The car that you see here used to belong to the President of Mongolia.
At some point in time the car became a part of the Musée des Voitures des Chefs d'Etat, a museum based in the chateau of Montjalin, in the Yonne region of France, which had a collection of presidential cars from across the world.
In 2004, this rare ZiL 114 was sold by the museum to enthusiast Paul Thanry, who had the car for all these years since. Thanry confirms that the car features the license plate YB0001, reserved for the President of the Republic of Mongolia.
Thanry parted with the car last year, offering it on auction through Artcurial at the last year's Rétromobile salon in March 2022, when it sold for a little over €100,000 (Rs 90L). This spectacular ZiL remains in a very original state, although repainted once some years back. The car seems to be in a very sound condition, except for the beginnings of some corrosion on the sills.
The opulent interior, draped in fabric for the rear compartment and leather for the driver's area, is in a very good condition. At the rear, space and equipment are really and truly generous and very worthy of a head of state, while the pennant holders on the front fenders immediately suggest that the car had been used for official parades.
This car was, incidentally, working when it was purchased in 2004, but has not been used for about 15 years as the gearbox had jammed. That’s about the only thing needed to be overhauled before the car could be back on the road. Hopefully the new owner is doing that.
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