Minibus ZIL-118: USSR autolegends

ZIL 118 "Youth" - an amazing car with a difficult and sad fate, if I may say so about the car ...

Project History

In 1962, the first premium minibus appeared in the Soviet Union . The mere fact that the government ZiL-111- “Moscow” became the basis for the creation of this machine speaks of its eccentricity. And the fact that the “Kremlin” limousine was assembled on the basis of American models of cars that belonged to the highest category, such as the Buick, the Packard, the Cadillac, made the new minibus, generally, something “out of the ordinary”.

ZIL 118

In the history of the creation of Zil-118, it was unusual that initially this car was considered illegal. Work on the project was carried out in the Design Bureau, without any instructions, instructions or orders from above. Moreover, the authorities of the car factory reacted negatively to such an initiative. But it is worth giving them their due that they did not interfere with the work of young enthusiasts. A group of like-minded people worked exclusively in their free time. The management of the project was taken by Nikolai Grincharo. Moreover, the group did not set itself a specific goal - to create a minibus, this idea was born already in the course of work. Young designers, first of all, wanted to find a more efficient use of the ZIL-111 design than the transportation of six people.

Minibus Transmission

The long and powerful chassis made it possible to use a wagon-type body, and without any sacrifices in terms of performance and comfort. The first thing that it was decided to abandon was the limousine mounted engine, since high octane gasoline was required for its operation. At that time, for production cars, it was an unacceptable luxury. The "old" engine was found an alternative in the form of a power unit ZiL-375. This engine, with a capacity of 170 l / s, was intended for URAL trucks. However, this unit was installed only on a prototype. Later it was replaced by a motor from ZiL-130, with a capacity of 150 l / s.

The rest of the mechanics almost remained unchanged, borrowed from the original prototype. They even decided to leave even the automatic transmission from the government limousine unchanged. What was already a bold decision for the car, preparing in series.

ZIL 118 Youth

Engineers decided to make the model body partly bearing. That is, to install the engine, the entire front suspension with the brake system, as well as elements of the steering mechanism, the designers used a separate subframe, which was then attached to the body assembly. If necessary (for repair of mechanisms or their maintenance), the subframe was easily dismantled. The front independent suspension of the future minibus was supplemented with a stabilizer, providing lateral stability. The steering was equipped with power steering.

The resulting transmission design was distinguished by quality and reliability, however, it was nothing extraordinary. But the exterior and interior of the ZIL-118 can be considered, if not a work of art, then certainly something “out of the ordinary”.

Import similarity

In the appearance of the new domestic car, the features of the American Chevrolet Corvair Greenbrier Sportswagon were visible, but this was not a copy. "American", rather, was the inspiration for the designers. But if you put two cars side by side, then, despite the large size, the Yunost minibus ZIL-118 looked much more elegant, lighter and more beautiful than an imported car. Against its background, the "American" looked like an unsuccessful analogue of the economy class.

Minibus Youth ZIL 118

Exterior and interior

Eric Szabo and Alexander Olshanetsky - young design artists, as well as Tatyana Kiseleva, who was engaged in the interior of the cabin, focused on providing comfort for passengers. By the way, it was Tatyana who came up with the name for the minibus, reflecting in it not only a new trend in the development of the automotive industry, but also the age of the participants developing the project.

ZIL 118 Youth of the USSR auto-legend

As a result of their joint work, the ZIL-118 saloon turned out to be bright, with excellent visibility. This effect was ensured by panoramic glazing with additional tinted windows on the roof of the minibus and a huge sliding sunroof (183x68cm). Thermo and sound insulation was supplemented by a polyurethane foam layer between the external and internal panels of the body. For the microclimate of the cabin, a highly efficient heating and ventilation system was responsible. In addition, for each soft and comfortable passenger seat it was provided: individual lighting, an ashtray and a hook for outerwear. For boarding passengers, a side door was provided on the starboard side of the car. Oversized luggage could be packed in the back, for this there was another door.

ZIL 118 domestic legend

And if according to the overall data ZiL-118 (almost 7 meters in length and more than two meters in width) the prefix “micro” can be considered relative, then in terms of the level of comfort created for each of the 17 passengers, “Yunost” can be compared only with a luxury passenger car.

Unsuccessful attempt

After the design sample passed test tests, on which it showed excellent performance, the new domestic minibus was presented to the top leadership of the country. N.S. Khrushchev enthusiastically appreciated the new car. After that, the inspired leadership sent a request to the Sov.Min.SSSR for the allocation of funds for the mass production of ZiL-118 and its modifications. Pointing out that to satisfy the country's consumer needs, a minimum batch of 1000 cars per year will be required. But, despite the high appreciation of the car by the state leadership, the plant did not even receive money for the initial series. The planned economy of the country has done its “dirty deed”, there was no place for a new truly valuable development in it. The plant management tried on its own to prevent a decent car from dying by organizing at least a temporary production of 300 cars, but nothing came of it. However, the designers of the plant continued the struggle for "Youth", in every way improving its design and creating various versions of modifications.

Unquenchable faith in success

Trying to expand the scope of the new minibus, thereby paying closer attention to the model, ZiLovtsy made a minibus out of the new car, sending the car to the balance of one of the capital's taxi parks.

Two ZIL-118 ("Ambulance") went to serve the "Kremlin" hospital. By the way, in this model of the car, only in order for doctors to stand upright when serving patients, they made a lifting roof.

ZIL 118 Ambulance

In the fight for the car, he was even sent to France in 1967, for an exhibition at which advanced models of buses of world manufacturers were presented. Among the 130 vehicles presented, the domestic ZIL-118 won 12 prizes in various categories and, in fact, made a splash. But even this triumph did not open the way to the future for a new minibus.

ZIL-118 "Youth" - USSR autolegends

Why did the new machine fail to break into serial production? There is simply no reasonable explanation for this. After all, after the exhibition in France, the Americans proposed to establish a joint production of ZiL-118, but they were refused this. Even the request for the sale of a Ford patent for the manufacture of a machine remained unsatisfied. The country's leadership “ditched” with its own hands a domestic model that could compete with any of the world’s counterparts, transferring it to the category of “legend of the automobile industry of the USSR”.


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