Zil 117_cCaptain Haddock and Professor Calculus are in Tapiocapolis to meet the dictator of San Theodore, General Tapioca. The General had alleged that Captain Haddock and Tintin had been conspiring to overthrow his legitimate regime. He had arrested Bianca Catafiore to force our heroes to meet him for a round table conference. Once the plane landed at Tapiocapolis, the Captain was received at the tarmac by Colonel Alvarez, the ADC to the General himself. The Colonel escorted our friends to a waiting black limousine. The car is a complete custom job with the mustache symbol of General Tapioca every where. However, a close look reveals that the car may be based on a Soviet car. Remember, “Tintin and the Picaros” was written in the 1970s, it was the peak of the cold war and the Soviets were the villains for the West. So what better car could Herge find to put the villain in but a Soviet car. This car was the ZIL 114.

Zil 114_1ZIL (Zavod Imeni Likhachova) is a Russian automobile company. It was established under the Tsarist rule in 1916 as the AMO (Moscow Automobile Society) to produce Fiat trucks. However, the Russian revolution happened in 1917 followed by a civil war. Finally the company started production of Fiat F15 trucks in 1924. In 1931 the company became the Automotive Factory No 2 Zavod Imeni Stalina (ZIS). It was expanded with the help of the AJ Brandt and Co of USA. In 1956 it was renamed as ZIL after its Director Ivan A Likhachov. ZIL mainly manufactured trucks for the Soviet and Eastern Block countries. However, it also manufactured a very limited number of cars ( a few dozen a year) for the senior most Soviet officials. The trend continued after the disintegration of USSR and Russian presidents continued using ZIL cars. Even now the Special Purpose Garage of the Federal Protective Services has a few ZILs which are seen on Victory Day Parades. Production stopped at ZIL in 2012.

Zil 114_3The ZIL 114 was manufactured from 1968 to 1977. It was a huge and luxurious car which was reserved for use by the top most Soviet officials. The original was based on a Packard 180 which was gifted by President Roosevelt to Josef Stalin. The ZIS 110 was manufactured from 1946 till 1958. These cars had the best leather interiors and wood veneer with luxurious carpets. Air conditioning was added to the ZIL 114 which was not available in the 111. Power steering, power windows, power door locks, remote control driver’s window and armour plating was standard fitment on these cars. Some cars were manufactured with a cutaway roof allowing the occupants to stand while inspecting a military parade or when required for political reasons.  A total of 150 cars were manufactured of which 2 were ambulances with high roof.

Zil 114_5The ZIL 114 was a huge car. It measured 6,285 mm (247.4″) in length, 2,070 mm (81.5″) in width and 1,510 mm (59.4′) in height. They weighed in at 3,600 Kgs (7,937 lbs). To move this behemoth at speed and to provide it with the capability to quickly escape to safety in case of an attack on its important occupants it was powered by a 6,962 cc (424.5 Cu-inch) naturally aspirated V-8 petrol engine. This engine breathed through two pushrod operated valves per cylinder and produced 296 BHP of power at 4,400 rpm. It also produced an earth twisting 580 N-m (428 ft-lb) of torque at 2,900 rpm. The forward placed engine drove the rear wheels through a two and later three speed torque converter automatic transmission. This huge engine could push this behemoth to a top speed of 200 km/h (120 mph).

Zil 114_4Handling of the car was controlled through torsion bar front suspension while the rear live axle was supported by leaf springs. The stopping power was provided by power assisted disc brakes on all four wheels. In an attempt to provide redundancy and safety for the very important occupants, no less than three braking circuits were provided. The “handbrake” was also pedal operated.

Zil 114_2This car had a short wheel base sibling called the ZIL 117. The 114 was reserved as Official State Car for the General Secretary and the members of the politburo of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The ZIL 117, with four doors and seating five people only was meant for use by the Secretaries of the Central Committee and escort vehicles  for the users of the 114. The Guinness Book of World Records recorded the 114 as the World’s widest or heaviest production car in the years 1971, 1974, 1975 and 1976.