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    Trucks manufactured at the Moscow Likhachev Automotive Plant

    Ruler of the Road…And Off-Road: Most Famous Car Models of Russia’s AMO ZIL

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    The history of AMO ZIL, a major Russian automobile, truck, military vehicle, and heavy equipment plant, began exactly one hundred years ago, on August 2, 1916. During this time, almost 8 million trucks, cars and heavy machinery were produced at the factory workshops based in Moscow.

    Now, the city government has ordered AMO ZIL to clear the area for a new residential quarter; the car plant stopped production.

    AMO ZIL has experienced several name changes: it was founded as the Automotive Moscow Company (AMO); then, in 1931, it changed its name to the Stalin's Plant (ZIS); and finally, in 1956, the name was changed again to the Likhachev's Plant (ZIL), after its former director Ivan Likhachov.

    Here is a review of legendary models produced by the Russian manufacturer.

    The "Firstborn"

    The AMO-F-15 was the first Soviet truck ever built. Serial production of the truck started in November 1924. It was actually a copy of the Italian Fiat F-15, collected from the components sent from Italy.

    Workers of the AMO Factory hailing the first Soviet automobile rolling off its conveyer
    © Sputnik / V. Leonov
    Workers of the AMO Factory hailing the first Soviet automobile rolling off its conveyer

    Zakhar Ivanovich

    The production of ZIS-5 (AMO-5) trucks, which was nicknamed by drivers as "Zahar" or "Zakhar Ivanovich," began in 1933. The output of this model amounted to nearly 1 million. ZIS-5s were exported to Spain, Turkey and Bulgaria. During World War II the truck became one of the main and most common transport vehicles used by the Red Army.

    An assembling workshop of the Moscow Likhachev Automotive Plant (now JSC Likhachev Plant, AMO ZIL)
    © Sputnik / Yuriy Zaritovskiy
    An assembling workshop of the Moscow Likhachev Automotive Plant (now JSC Likhachev Plant, AMO ZIL)

    Luxury Limmos

    AMO ZIL is also known for manufacturing official state cars. In November 1936, the company produced the very first domestic limousine the ZIS-101. It was created on the basis of the American Buick. Later that same year, the plant released the modified car version the ZIS-101L (Lux) — the only exemplar which had a phone.

    A ZIS 110 limousine assembly conveyor line at the Moscow Autoworks
    © Sputnik / Shagin
    A ZIS 110 limousine assembly conveyor line at the Moscow Autoworks

    The latest version of a Soviet ZIL limousine was the ZIL-41047, designed in 1985. The vehicle's length was 6 meters. The limos were designed to serve the members of the Russian Politburo meetings and foreign delegations, so the model was produced in limited series up to 20 pieces per year. The last vehicle of this type was released specially for the President of Kazakhstan in 2002.

    A ZIL-41052 limousine of Russia's first President Boris Yeltsin at the Boris Yeltsin Presidential Center in Yekaterinburg
    © Sputnik / Pavel Lisitsyn
    A ZIL-41052 limousine of Russia's first President Boris Yeltsin at the Boris Yeltsin Presidential Center in Yekaterinburg

    This model was also produced in a shortened version, as well as in armored modification.

    Russian Defense Minister, Army General Sergei Shoigu at a military parade to mark the 71st anniversary of Victory in the 1941-1945 Great Patriotic War, on Moscow's Red Square
    © Sputnik / Grigoriy Sisoev
    Russian Defense Minister, Army General Sergei Shoigu at a military parade to mark the 71st anniversary of Victory in the 1941-1945 Great Patriotic War, on Moscow's Red Square

    ZIS-150

    Work on the creation of this new generation truck began in 1937, but its serial production began only 10 years after. Over 770 thousand cars were sold since then. The model has gone through several stages of modernization and, apart from Russia, was built in Romania and China.

    In Romania, the truck was released as the SR-101 by Steagul Rosu plant. Their Chinese triplet received the name of Jiefang CA-10, which means "Liberation," and has been in production in Changchun City since 1956. This model was even depicted on the Chinese banknotes.

    World's Most Common Truck

    The ZIL-130 truck, which was commercially produced from 1964 to 1995, found 3.4 million customers. The ZIL-130 became the most common truck in the world.

    The millionth car ZIL-130 produced by the Likhachev Car Factory, Moscow
    © Sputnik / A. Knyazev
    The millionth car ZIL-130 produced by the Likhachev Car Factory, Moscow

    Engineers equipped it with a gasoline engine model of government limousines. The ZIL-130 could carry up to 5 tons of cargo. For the first time in the USSR the vehicle was equipped with power steering, a three-seater cabin, windshield washer and starting preheater.

    The Bull

    In late 1994, the automaker began producing the ZIL-5301 Bull. The first light truck capable of carrying up to 3 tons was based on Renault models.

    A view of the building of the factory named after I. Likhachev in Moscow
    © Sputnik / Iliya Pitalev
    A view of the building of the factory named after I. Likhachev in Moscow

    The Bull received its name due to its specific appearance and its industry index by mistake. The model's index was supposed to be 3301 to correspond to its low-tonnage class. However, a certificate for the car issued in the Ministry of Automobile Industry had a typo, and when the error was discovered six months after that, it was already too late to correct it. The 5301 index was introduced in all the technical documentation, and it would have been too long and expensive to fix the error.

    The Blue Bird

    In 1954, the AMO ZIL opened the Special Design Bureau to create experimental models of cars, all-terrain and armored vehicles. The complex 490 called the Blue Bird was designed and built there in the period from 1980 to 1991, in a limited edition of 20 pieces in total.

    The Blue Bird was commissioned by the lead Soviet rocket engineer and spacecraft designer Sergei Korolev for astronaut search and rescue operations should they land in an inaccessible locations.

    ZIL Bluebird cross-country vehicle for rescuers off-road transportation in cold weather
    © Sputnik / Sergey Subbotin
    ZIL Bluebird cross-country vehicle for rescuers off-road transportation in cold weather

    The complex consists of three air-transportable amphibious cars: the ZIL-4906, a truck with an open deck and a crane for transportation of landers; the ZIL-49061, a passenger vehicle with a closed cabin; and the ZIL-2906, a small screw-driven craft that can pass through the snow and marsh.

    The Others

    The company also produced buses, armored personnel carriers, amphibious trucks, refrigerators, bicycles, and even casted bells.

    The first Soviet fridge ZiL
    © Sputnik / Yuriy Zaritovskiy
    The first Soviet fridge ZiL

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