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ZIL "Zavod imeni Likhacheva"
Moscow Automobile Factory named after Likhachev-ZIL

The original Leningrad factory, Krasny Putilovjets, was well-established in the manufacture of heavy industrial equipment, and it was eventually decided to increase the output of arming machinery there and move the manufacture of prestige cars to Moscow. The plant was conceived of as the First Car Plant in 1916 by the Russian merchant house "Kuznetsov, Ryabushinskiye & Co." After the 1917 Russian Revolution it was nationalized by the Bolshevik government and started functioning as a repair shop for trucks.

The works at Moscow operated under three different names, starting with AMO (from 1916-1932); ZIS - Zavod imjeni Stalina (in English it means a factory named after Joseph Stalin, 1933-1956); and ZIL - Zavod imjeni Likchaceva (Ivan Likchacev was a director of the works and later became Minister of Transport and Highways).

The origins of the company can be traced back to 1916 when it was known as AMO (Avtomobilnoe Moskovskoe Obshchestvo). At the time, it functioned as a repair depot for World War I military vehicles, but within the next two years the plant also built a handful of Fiat F-15 1 ton trucks. Elements of the F-15s design found their way into the 1924 AMO-F-15, which is considered to be the first true vehicle of Soviet origin (Russia became a communist country following the October Revolution in 1917).

At the beginning of 1927, Autotrust, which controlled the factory, adopted a decision on the reconstruction of the plant. The object of the production truck was selected the American company avtosborocnoj "Truck" with lifting capacity of 2.5 tons. In 1931, after the commissioning of the plant reconstruction and 1 October of the same year the plant was named after I.V.Stalin (VMS). On October 25, 1931 the first domestic car assembly line started, from which descended the first 27 trucks AMO-3.

In the late 1930s to early 1940s a group of ZIL designers under the direction of P. Smetannikov developed a model of the six-cylinder diesel, the ZIS-D7, which was not bad for that time. After the war it was modernized. But the plant did not have the production facilities to produce the MD7. Then came the time of the V-shaped, eight-cylinder ZIL-645 diesel.

Stalin was bent on achieving passenger car production and his wish came true in 1936 with the unveiling of the ZIS-101 limousine. Stylistically, the ZIS-101 drew heavily from American cars of the day, and it was manufactured under the direction of Ivan Lickhachov. Stalin was reportedly pleased with the final product.

ZIL began assembling top-class representational vehicles in 1936. The ZIS 110 [the name is a fantastic reflection of the times. ZIS stands for Zavod imeni Stalina] expanded on the wartime collaboration between the US and the Soviet Union. The 110 was a sovietified Packard 1942 Super Eight, originally made by the factory named after the brothers Packard. This was Stalins parade car for the last three of the vicious years between the end of World War II and his death in 1953.

The ZIS production was temporary stopped in 1941: the production lines were dismantled and sent to Miass (in order to build the UralAZ, another truck factory) and to Ulyanovsk (to create the well-known UAZ ). The Moscow truck production of the ZIS was resumed just a year after, in 1942.

During the Great Patriotic War, the factory made mortars and grenades that went straight from the conveyor belt to the front line. The ZIS-6 truck, on which the famous Katyusha rocket launcher was mounted, rolled all the way to the walls of the Reichstag. During the war years, the ZIS auto plant produced around 100,000 trucks and ambulances in total. In June 1942, the plant was awarded the Order of Lenin for arms supply excellence, which was followed up in October 1944 by the Order of the Red Banner of Labor.

ZIS-110, a luxury class limousine, was constructed with account of all latest technical achievements in car industry. This was the first new product mastered by our industry in the first year of peace. Car design engineering began in 1943, during the war years. On September 20, 1944 the car samples were approved by the Government, and a year later, in August 1945, the first batch was assembled.

In 1952, automotive journalist, Joseph H. Wherry test drove the car analyzed by Packard and published his findings in magazines such as Modern Man and Speed Age. Wherry labeled the vehicle as Stalins sloppy copy and mentioned that all parts were Russian-made with the exception of the Stromberg carburetor and sealed beam headlights.

In the years following World War II, the Packard Motor Car Company struggled to keep pace with the larger automakers that had been buying-up the smaller companies to form the Big Three. Those not part of the Big Three had to merge to stay competitive: Kaiser and Willys formed Kaiser-Willys, Nash and Hudson formed American Motors, and Packard joined forces with Studebaker. The experiment was short-lived, however, and Packard plunged into bankruptcy soon after.

Packard paid 54 million dollars for Studebaker stock. Unfortunately for Packard, Studebaker was of lower prestige and quality. The effects of the merger quickly manifested themselves on Packard cars: poor build quality, less-innovative design, and horrendous planning. Studebakers influence had Packard building the wrong car at the wrong time. The 1950s were not kind to Packard; they went from being one of the premier car builders outselling Cadillac up until 1950 to complete bankruptcy. 1958 was the last year of production for automobiles that carried the Packard name. In 1959 Studebaker sold some trucks to South America that were labeled as Packard trucks to circumvent certain import and contractual restrictions on Studebaker. The Packard name was dropped from the corporate name in 1963.

From 1931 to 1956 the plant was named Zavod imeni Stalina (Plant of Stalin's name). On 26 June 1956 by a Resolution of the Council of Ministers of the USSR, the plant named after Stalin (ZIS) was named IA Likhachev. The first machine, which received a new brand, became a bus ZIL 158.

The biggest problem with ZiL was its size. Instead of reconstructing it, they were building additional warehouses and workshops, and sometimes one component was driven by a car to the other side of the plant to be attached to another component. There was a free bus driving employees from one plant's facility to another.

At times ZiL had as many as 70,000 workers and a "particularly socialist" atmosphere. There was no freedom there, your every move was registered: when you come to work, when you leave, where you go, when you take a break. But most people were comfortable with that. ZIL employees lived in company-owned flats, with amenities somewhat beyond those available to the average worker. The ZIL factory had a Palace of Culture with winter garden, concert halls and theatre, and its dance and opera sections have produced some top Soviet and international arts festival winners. Some 8000 Muscovite children attend ZIL's hobby groups. In all, ZIL was a 'total package' of work and play not dissimilar to that practised by Japanese motor firms at the time.

During its most productive years it produced hundreds of thousands of vehicles a year. During the 1970s, ZIL vehicles could be found in 57 countries - more than 300,000 were exported by the Soviet motor industry export agency Avtoexport, and some 5000 mechanics were trained in various foreign markets.

Adaptability was the keynote of ZIL truck design - the ZIL-130 truck was the basis for sixty different versions, and the group which devised it won a USSR State Prize. The ZIL 130 was probably the most popular truck in the ex-USSR territory over the past 50 years. They were widely used all over the Soviet Union, the ZIL base was presented in different kinds: flatbed truck, fire truck, dump truck there were plenty of variations. Also there was quite exotic modification of ZIL with passenger trailers for airports that carried passengers to the aircraft and back.

Through standardization the amount of training is reduced, repair parts were reduced, supply actions were simplified, maintenance tasks were simplified, economy of production was achieved, and substitutability and interchangeability actions were increased markedly. For example, of the 3,544 parts of the ZIL-131, 2.5 ton truck, 45 percent of these parts could be used on other ZIL vehicles and 23 percent may be used on other trucks which have the same weight class.

The Directives issued in 1969 by the 23rd CPSU Congress on the five-year plan for national economic development posed the task of increasing the output of high-roadability and high-capacity automotive vehicles. Implementing the party's resolutions, Moscow's automotive vehicle builders produced such machines.

The I.A. Likhachev Automotive Vehicle Plant was a specialized enterprise. Its basic output consisted of bi- and tri-axle trucks. It also produced automobiles. These were high-class cars. The limousine "ZIL-111" was well known. The chassis of this vehicle ess used for the microbus (panel truck) "ZIL-lll" - "Yunost" (Youth). At an international rally in France, this representative of Soviet low gas-consuming automotive buses was judged best. It won first place and a prize of the President of the French Republic.

At the end of 1983 the Politburo of the CPSU Central Committee approved proposals by the USSR Council of Ministers on organizing the production of diesel trucks at ZIL [Motor Vehicle Plant imeni Likhachev] and GAZ [Gorkiy Motor Vehicle Plant]. ZIL started working on it eight years ago, as the plan for experimental design work called for. The base model was initially called the ZIL-169. The index ZIL-4331 was used for it. Altogether 33 experimental models were manufactured and put through plant tests, including tests for design safety and tests in mountainous conditions in a hot climate and in the Far North. In 1980 the trucks passed acceptance tests and were recommended for production.

ZIL was generally acknowledged as the leader of the industry and as one of the technical leaders of all Soviet machine building. The Kriger Design Bureau at ZIL had designed since at least the early 1950s all military and civilian medium and heavy ZIL trucks (except the 8x8 missile transporter-erector-launchers), as well as trucks being built at the Kama, Kutaisi, and Ural truck plants. ZIL also was a leader in automated machining technology.

Articles in the Soviet press suggested that the industry R&D base was uneven in quality. ZlL was almost universally praised. Others like Gor'kiy were accused of having a weak scientific and technological experimental base. inadequate to bring it up to par with leading world automotive manufacturing technologies. NAMI and, even more, NIITavtoprom were accused of not meeting the needs of the industry, and individual plants were urged to develop stronger in-house R&D facilities.

On 01 November 1924 the first vehicle was assembled - the first truck AMO-f-15, and ten vehicles participated in the parade. This date is considered the birthday of the Soviet automobile industry. In 1925 the factory was renamed the 1st State automobile plant (formerly VIb). In 1927 the factory was headed by I.a. Likhachev, a named associated with rapid development of the enterprise.

The Deputy Chief Designer at ZIL, V. Rodionov, designed the ZIL-114 limousine - stoic, proud and stately, it took "box-car" styling to its fullest. The car's sheer size - and the quality of assembly - was unsurpassed by the whole of the Russian automotive industry. The gargantuan 248.25 in. long seven-seater weighed 60.6 cwt despite having the cast iron engine block replaced by a shorter aluminium one. With one four-barrelled carburettor the output was a claimed 300 bhp with a top speed of around 118 mph. Transistorized ignition and electric fuel pump were significant novelties in Russia in 1967.

Among the countries that have their own car manufacturing industries, custom vehicles for heads of state are only made in the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, China, and South Korea. The leaders of Germany, France, and Italy ride in domestic cars, however, they are not custom-made, but rather slightly modified models.

At one time, the country's leaders used to ride around exclusively in individual armored limousines produced in Russia. Since manufacturing began in the 1930s, these cars have always been at the Moscow ZIL factory. Soviet leaders Nikita Krushchev, Leonid Breznev and Mikhail Gorbachev all rode in luxury pullmans made by ZiL.

The factory went through a lean period after the fall of communism. Once an example of Soviet industrial might, the factory was now unprofitable and unable to exist in the new circumstances. The workforce had been greatly reduced and replaced by unskilled, cheap migrant labour from the former Soviet republics. The factory's continued existence depended above all on the protection of Moscow authorities and the efforts of a handful of aging specialists and engineers who had dedicated most of their life to the plant, which is still a great source of pride to them.

The company's high end car business was dealt a significant blow when Russian officials decided to switch to the Mercedes as their official mode of transport. When Boris Yeltsin became president of Russia he mothballed the stale Soviet-built ZIL limousines. This might have had something to do with the fact the hand built cars ZIL was producing were, in typical Russian fashion, still based off of a design introduced in the mid 1980s. In 1999 ZIL officially closed their premium car division.

The company reopened their premium car division on a much smaller scale in 2007, repairing older models and producing 5-7 ZIL 41047 limos a year for private collectors. After standing idle between March and September 2011, production at ZIL was reopened with aid from the Moscow Government. It helped the company avoid bankruptcy, and started to partially cover ZILs debt estimated at $483.9mln. As of November 2011 ZIL settled with major creditors and was not a "candidate" for bankruptcy. At that time GAZ Group was the biggest truck maker with 47.3% of the Russian market. KAMAZ and ZIL were ranked the 2nd and the 3rd biggest.

In 2012 the Kremlin revived an idea to commission the design and production of a series of luxury cars for use by bureaucrats. Putin said in April 2012 that all "state and municipal" officials should only purchase cars produced within the countries of the Customs Union, which includes Russia, Belarus and Kazakstan, the Kommersant report said.

A project was started to enlist a Russian carmaker to make multiple models of luxury cars for use by officials. Putin ordered government departments to find a domestic alternative to the upscale German car brands, including Mercedes and BMW, that he and other officials typically use. Izvestia reported that Putin tested the model and said it needed adjustments. It is not known exactly what he did not like. Two other Russian carmakers vied for the prestigious contract are Marussia Motors and GAZ. GAZ developed a luxury model based on the Volkswagen Phaeton and Audi A8, with the car to be ready in 2014. Marussia completed a competition in cooperation with Cardesign.

For the first time in twenty years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the workers and engineers of the Soviet ZIL car factory in Moscow received a special order from the Russian Ministry of Defence. Three brand new trademark ZIL limousines had been commissioned for the Victory Day Parade on Red Square. In times past they would have had 5 years to make these, but now they only had 2.

In 2012 "Limo Number One", as the vehicle was dubbed, was especially made for the head of state and took six years to complete. The six-door ZiL 4112R has a huge 7.7 liter engine, calf-leather upholstery and a video screen to show passengers the road ahead even when shutters are drawn over the windows. It weighs 3.5 tonnes, has a top speed of 125mph and covers about 18 miles per gallon of fuel.

The ZIL-4112 "Commie Cruiser" is weighed down with luxury. It seats six: two in front, and four in back in two rows of facing bucket seats. The rear passengers enjoy Learjet-like amenities, including tray tables and a wood-covered overhead panel with vents and lighting. Other perks include privacy curtains and a built-in champagne cooler. Aesthetically the 4112-R is essentially the same as the limousine that ZIL built in the 1970s and the 1980s. The design has been updated for the 21st century with plastic body-colored bumpers, a chrome grille and modern-looking tail lamps.

The workforce was depleted and the machinery was obsolete. The writing was on the wall for the factory: the government has plans to 're-assign' the factory land. This was the last order the factory fulfilled. At the end of 2011, authorities announced a tender for the best ZiL development project.

The Moscow authorities took the decision to build a technopark and a residential area on the factory site. The plant officially ceased to exist in 2013, and most of the buildings were dismantled in 2015. Now the former factory site is being actively built up. It will be replaced by a residential quarter and a technopark.

The ZIL peninsula with an area of about 400 hectares had long been a vital link in the network of the citys industrial areas, concentrating within it the lions share of places of employment. With the end of production operations in this area, a new urban planning task has appeared, just a 10-minute drive from the Kremlin. One of the largest reconstruction projects of an industrial zone in the capital the former ZIL car factory was presented in 2014 at the forum Culture. Look into the Future. Filling the peninsula with cultural and social functions in the near future will make it a full-fledged part of the city center.

OOO Razvitie, a joint venture of LSR Group and AFK Sistema, won the auction for the right to acquire 100% of OOO ZIL-Yug for RUB 34.2bn (including LSR Group's share of RUB 17.1bn). According to the terms of the auction, the acquisition cost was to be paid in installments over the period of eight years. The down payment of RUB 1.5bn has been already provided, which covers the installments for 2015-2016. As a result the first installment worth RUB 2.5bn to be paid in 2017.




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Page last modified: 16-01-2019 13:13:16 ZULU