IST has recently released a scale model of everyone’s favorite bespoke V8-powered Russian minibus from the 1960s, the ZiL 118 “Yunost.” That’s right, this is a 1:43 model of the luxury minibus based on the ZiL 111 limousine, which were handbuilt at Moscow’s ZiL factory from 1961 till 1970. Originally, around 2000 of these were supposed to be built each year, but the 118 fell victim to the complications inherent in a planned economy as well as internal factory politics. But instead of being completely forgotten and the whole project being scrapped, ZiL continued to build these minibuses as the orders came in. And not a whole lot came in. Before the model received a substantial facelift in 1970 (which we briefly saw last week in police livery), just twenty ZiL 118s had been built for various government customers. Yes, that’s averaging about 2 minibuses a year, an indulgence that would have bankrupted just about everybody who didn’t have carte blanche in the environment of a planned economy.
Powered by ZiL 130′s V8 engine making 150bhp, the ZiL 118 could reach speeds of up 140km/h. No two 118s were alike, each one had slightly different interior and exterior details. Most of these were built as luxury MPVs with 17 seats, but a number of special versions were also built, such as an ambulance and a TV truck. Fabrication techniques differed very little from those of the government limousines built alongside the 118, meaning that all body panels were hand-beaten, and it took months to assemble each example. ZiL’s output of limousines was even lower that Rolls-Royce’s at the time, so you can imagine just how much each ZiL limo or MPV would have cost if it was available on the open market. Amazingly enough, the Zil 118, is given very little attention in Andy Thompson’s Cars of the Soviet Union: The Definitive History, which we took a look at a couple months ago. Though arguably, the ZiL 118 was not a mass produced car by any stretch.
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