Last year, a young man named Roman Grudinin brought with him a Lada to show at Greenwich and won the award for Best Special Interest Car. This year, yet another piece of Soviet iron took away the hardware–but this time, it did so in the lap of true Luxury (only with a capital L, for Lenin). Say hello to the ZiL 41045 limousine. ZiL was a company in the former USSR which mainly built trucks, but also made cars on the side for either the super rich or the ultimate in politicians (high ranking members of the Politburo, KGB, or the Premier himself). The 4104 series was made until the mid 1980s, and this particular model, a 41045 sedan, was the state vehicle of none other than Mikhail Gorbachev–the last General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
As a state vehicle, the ZiL had to look imposing–so it sports plenty of lights and probably the loudest siren I’ve heard in more than a decade (it nearly took my left eardrum out!). But, the engineers who worked on this car did not stop with just audio/visual cues. This thing weighs over four tons, stretches to over 20 feet long, and packs a 315hp, 7.7L V8 engine with a four-barrel carburetor. It’s not the Beast–but it looks plenty threatening. The doors are bulletproof, and the interior appointments would make a contemporary Rolls-Royce or Mercedes sweat in their moccasins–look at that thick-pile carpeting and puffy leather seats. For years, in the Communist world, all were created equal–but some were more equal than others, and for the most equal, the ZiL was the only mode of transport of the time. These cars were truly one-of-a-kind, and I do not believe that I’ll see another for quite some time. Enjoy the photos of this rarely-seen Russian state cruiser.
-Albert S. Davis