ZIL 118 “Youth” is an amazing car with a difficult and sad fate, if I may say so about the car…
History of the creation of the project
In 1962, the first premium minibus appeared in the Soviet Union. The mere fact that the government ZIL-111-"Moskva" became the basis for the creation of this machine speaks of its originality. 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 Buick, Packard, Cadillac, made the new minibus something "out of the ordinary."
In the history of the creation of the 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 and orders from above. Moreover, the authorities of the car factory were negative about such an initiative. But it is worth giving them their due in that they did not interfere with the work of young enthusiasts. A group of like-minded people worked exclusively in their free time. Nikolai Grincharo took charge of the project. Moreover, the group did not set a specific goal - to create a minibus, this idea was born already in the course of work. Young designers, above all, wanted to find moreeffective application of the ZIL-111 design than the transportation of six people.
The long and powerful chassis made it possible to use a wagon-type body, and without any sacrifice in terms of performance and comfort. The first thing it was decided to abandon was the engine installed on the limousine, since its operation required high-octane gasoline. At that time, for production cars, this was an unacceptable luxury. The “old” engine was found an alternative in the form of the ZIL-375 power unit. This engine, with a capacity of 170 l / s, was intended for cargo URALs. However, this unit was installed only on a prototype. Later it was replaced with a motor from the ZIL-130, with a capacity of 150 l/s.
The rest of the mechanics remained almost unchanged, borrowed from the original prototype. Even the automatic transmission from the government limousine was decided to be left unchanged. Which was already a bold decision for a car preparing for the series.
The engineers decided to make the body of the model partially load-bearing. That is, to install the engine, the entire front suspension with a brake system, as well as elements of the steering mechanism, the designers used a separate subframe, which was then assembled to the body. If necessary (for the repair of mechanisms or their maintenance), the subframe was easily dismantled. The front independent suspension of the future minibus was supplemented with a stabilizer that provides lateral stability. The steering was equipped with hydraulic booster.
The resulting transmission design was of high quality and reliability, but nothing extraordinary. But the appearance and interior of the ZIL-118 can be considered, if not a work of art, then certainly something “out of the ordinary.”
The appearance of the new domestic car showed features of the American Chevrolet Corvair Greenbrier Sportswagon, but it 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.
Exterior and Interior
Eric Szabo and Alexander Olshanetsky, young designers, as well as Tatyana Kiseleva, who was in charge of the interior of the cabin, made the main emphasis in their work on ensuring comfort for passengers. By the way, it was Tatyana who came up with the name of 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.
As a result of their joint work, the interior of the ZIL-118 turned out to be bright, with a great view. Such an effect was provided by panoramic glazing with additional tinted windows on the roof of the minibus and a huge sliding sunroof (183x68cm). Thermal and sound insulation was supplemented with polyurethane foamlayer between the outer and inner body panels. A highly efficient heating and ventilation system was responsible for the interior microclimate. In addition, each soft and comfortable passenger seat was provided with: individual lighting, an ashtray and a coat hook. For boarding passengers, a side door was provided on the starboard side of the car. Oversized luggage could be stowed at the back, for this there was another door.
And if, according to the overall dimensions of the ZIL-118 (almost 7 meters long and more than two meters wide), the prefix "micro" can be considered relative, then in terms of the level of comfort created for each of the 17 passengers of "Youth" can only be compared with a luxury car.
After the design model passed the test tests, in which it showed excellent performance, the new domestic minibus was presented to the country's top leadership. N.S. Khrushchev enthusiastically appreciated the new car. After that, the inspired leadership sent a request to the Sov.Min.USSR for the allocation of funds for the serial production of ZIL-118 and its modifications. Pointing out that to meet the country's consumer needs, a minimum batch of 1000 cars per year will be required. But, despite the high appraisal 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. Factory managementtried 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 to fight for Yunost, improving its design in every possible way and creating various modifications.
Inextinguishable faith in success
Trying to expand the scope of the new minibus, thereby paying closer attention to the model, the ZiLovtsy made a fixed-route taxi out of the new car, sending the car to the balance of one of the capital's taxi companies.
Two ZIL-118 ("Ambulance") went to serve the "Kremlin" hospital. By the way, in this model of the car, only so that doctors could stand to their full height when servicing patients, they made a lifting roof.
In the struggle for the car, it was even sent to France in 1967 for an exhibition where advanced models of buses from world manufacturers were presented. Among the 130 presented cars, the domestic ZIL-118 won 12 prizes in various categories and, in fact, made a splash. But even this triumph did not pave the way for the future of the new minibus.
ZIL-118 "Youth" - auto legends of the USSR
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 offered to establish a joint production of ZIL-118, but they were denied this. Even the request to sell the patent to the Ford company for the production of the car remained unsatisfied. Country leadership“ruined” with their own hands a domestic model that can compete with any of the world’s analogues, transferring it to the category of “legends of the USSR auto industry.”