Specifications  Road Tests  

ZIL Cars
Country of Origin : Russia
First Car : 1916

Brief History of ZIL 

The Russian company ZIL began operation in 1916 as AMO building its first basic automobiles on concepts that were still very close to the old carriages. The factory was given a complete facelift and renamed ZAVOD IMJENI STALINA (ZIS) in 1931. Subsequently this was changed to ZIL. ZAVOD IMJENI LIKHACHEVA after the name of the Director of the plant. 

The first small series of cars was produced in 1933 using the Buick 5650 straight 8 engine. The ZIS101 came out in 1936 with a streamlined aerodynamic body following the current trend in the US. The 101 represented a turnabout in Russian automobile technology with the introduction of windscreen demisters, a synchromesh gearbox and even a thermostat dual effect dampers and the twin body carburettor. The ZIS101 remained in production until 1940 when the 101/a was brought out with a modified front end in 1946, ZIS/ZIL went into operation again introducing a new flagship onto the market which was a virtual copy of the Packard 180. It had a 6 litre 140hp engine and weighed 2.5 tons and was 6 metres long. It was used as an official saloon, a taxi and even an ambulance and remained in production until 1958 when a 6 litre 200hp V8 ZIL3 came out introducing the 3 speed automatic gearbox. The 114 of 1967 had a longer wheelbase and body and was fitted with a bigger 7 litre light alloy engine instead of cast iron. Disc Brakes and electronic ignition were introduced on the 114 as well as the first central door locking system. The 117 short wheel base saloon, 3.30 metres long, came out in 1972 and was also available as a soft top (117v). In 1978 came the 4104 limousine with a 7.7 litre V8 engine.

The Swedish company Volvo in September 1998 attempted a joint venture with the Moscow city government to assemble
some of its FH12 trucks in Russia. With ZiL, the Volvo project fell through because Volvo wanted to use Russian facilities
without manufacturing any spare parts here, analysts said. 

The executive vice president of AB Volvo, Lennart Jeansson, said in an official statement at the time that the company planned
"to meet the demand for modern heavy trucks on the Russian market" by assembling trucks in Russia and by manufacturing
trailers facilities. The Volvo Truck Corp. in Moscow claims that the joint venture failed because the tax concessioins offered by
the Moscow authorities were not sufficient to make the deal profitable. 

On April 14, 1999, Moscow city authorities said they wanted to promote agreements between its car and truck manufacturers
and foreign companies.

French vehicle manufacturer Renault, Moscow authorities and AMO ZiL, a Moscow-based plant, signed an agrement to start
negotiations for producing and selling trucks in Russia.

"In-depth discussions on the project have began with hopes of reaching a definite accord by the end of 1999," Renault said in a
statement. The deal will focus on "the production and sale in Russia of heavy trucks."

It is hoped that ZiL will assemble up to 2,000 Renault Premium and Kerax trucks annually and will manufacture 50,000 to 60,
000 engines, officials said.

The $100 million project will unfold in three stages. From early 2000, ZiL will assemble heavy trucks using French- made
parts. In the second and third phases, AMO ZiL will produce its own engines and mid-range trucks, officials said. 

Only 600 Renault trucks have been sold via official channels in Russia since 1992 and the demand for heavy trucks built by ZiL
has been diminishing, say industry analysts, who add that it is risky for Renault to build trucks using both Russian and foreign
parts. They argue that the mixture will only increase the price of the trucks without making them more reliable. 

ZiL, a heavy-truck, refrigerator and limousine enterprise, is equipped with old, Soviet-style technology and is controlled by the
Moscow government. However, the June 29 agreement stipulates that Renault would first conduct a feasibility study before
engaging in the joint venture.

Avtofamos, Renault's first joint venture in Moscow with Moskvich, started in April 1999, building two to four Megane Classic
cars daily and employing 93 people. 

Two heavy-truck manufacturers, GAZ and ZiL, have refocused their production on mid-range trucks to suit the increasing
demand for cheap and reliable vans, such as the Gazelle or Bychok.

"ZiL's mini-truck, the Bychok, has good prospects of becoming a successful merchandise, but the plant needs engines to meet
European enviromental standards," Yan Dorisson, an Avtoframos representative, told The Russia Journal. 

MAZ (Minsk Automotive Plant, Belarus) now equips its heavy trucks with engines matching the Euro-2 standard for exhaust
fumes. KAMAZ has just completed certification of its new engine, while ZIL and GAZ seem in no hurry. Renault's agreement
with ZiL will change this once the plant starts manufacturing whole mid-range trucks.