Cars of Soviet and Russian leaders as for any heads of state are not just a means of transportation. The machines should meet special requirements: they should emphasize the status to be most comfortable and meet the highest safety requirements. Sometimes the choice of a vehicle became a part of the policy – only the machine of production of their own country was preferred. The Heads of State usually take in foreign trips entire fleets for which several aircraft were used.
For his inauguration in May 2018, Vladimir Putin rode in a new limo developed by Russian carmakers for the first time since the 90s. Previously, he opted for foreign cars, like many of his predecessors. What brands did they prefer?
1. Nicholas II
“A miracle of the contemporary automobile industry. It is not possible to ask for more from its designers.” That’s how Moscow-based magazine “Automobilist” wrote about the Delaunay-Belleville car owned by Russian tsar Nicholas II in 1910.
For that epoch it really looked like a miracle – back then it was very unusual to start the engine from behind the wheel as opposed to winding it up from the front. The car also drove very smoothly and it’s roof was customized according to the tsar’s height.
The French company specialized in the production of luxury automobiles. Nicholas II owned two Delaunay-Belleville limos that were both named SMT – Sa Majeste le Tsar – His Majesty Tsar.
The Royal garage
In the car park of the last Russian Emperor Nicholas II in 1913 there were 29 cars, and in 1917 – 46. The main machine was a French king Delaunay-Belleville SMT.
These limos were only a fraction of the grand collection. By 1910 the royal garage consisted of 22 cars, 17 of which served the needs of the tsar’s entourage and five belonged to the royal family (four were made by Delaunay-Belleville). Nicholas II himself preferred Cabriolets as he believed he should be seen by the public, while his security naturally opted for more inconspicuous rides. Video
2. Vladimir Lenin
After the Revolution the royal cars were transferred to the Provisional government and then to the Bolsheviks after they seized power. Lenin used two of the royal Delaunay-Belleville limos. However, one was ruined during an attempt on his life and the second was stolen. Lenin’s car was simply stopped in the middle of the road and the robbers took it despite the leader’s attempts to reason with the gangsters.
Later, Lenin switched to a Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost limo. It’s said the first one he adopted was confiscated from a Russian business tycoon but the Soviet government later bought several. Lenin was officially presented with one and from 1923 used it as his personal car.
3. Joseph Stalin
Stalin’s favorite car was the Packard 12 which he received as a present from U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt in 1935. It was this car that he used during famous Allied conferences in Tehran, Yalta, and Potsdam. Rumor has it that he observed the ruins of captured Berlin in 1945 from the windows of his Packard.
During Stalin’s reign Soviet car makers were tasked with building a Soviet limo that could be used by the highest ranked officials. During WWII, ZIS (the factory named after Stalin – literally Zavod Imeni Stalina) produced such a car – the ZIS-110. This version was customized for the Soviet leader and coined the ZIS-115. Although Stalin used the new Soviet-built car from 1947, he never entirely gave up on his beloved Packard.
The origins of the ‘Soviet’ ZIL car plant. ‘Press ganged (German) residents dismantled the Kadett production tooling in Soviet-occupied Germany and loaded fifty-six freight cars destined for Moscow where the newly built Stalin Factory (ZIS) was located. The equipment was transported to Moscow. Everything was re-assembled and documentation compiled with works produced in Germany by order of the Soviet Military Administration (SMAD) forces. These were assisted by mixed work collectives consisting of abducted German civilians and Soviet and German experts working in Soviet design offices.
General Secretary of the CPSU Joseph Stalin preferred American Packard Twelve. Since 1949, Stalin drove an armored ZIS-115 (ZIS-110C)
4. Nikita Khrushchev
First Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee Nikita Khrushchev preferred ZIL-111 and ZIL-111V with an open top.
They say that the Soviet leader who replaced Stalin, Nikita Khrushchev, was so impressed by the Cadillac of his American counterpart Dwight Eisenhower that he ordered the creation of a new Soviet limo to rival it. His demand was in line with his famous slogan: “To catch up and overtake America.” This is how the ZIL-111 model – and the later modified ZIL-111G – appeared (the ZIS factory was renamed to ZIL in 1956 following the period of de-Stalinization).
5. Leonid Brezhnev
Khrushchev‘s successor Brezhnev used the next ZIL model – the 114. Brezhnev liked modern cars, so the ZIL-114 was modified several times during his 18 years in power. He also had a soft spot for foreign cars, so they say that the first version of the ZIL-114 resembled the 1965 Lincoln Continental and the updated 1977 Cadillac Fleetwood 75. These references to foreign car design were not enough for the General Secretary, so he amassed a huge collection (more than 50) of imported rides that included fancy Rolls-Royces and Mercedes, among others.
6. Mikhail Gorbachev
The limo used by Gorbachev was essentially a development of Brezhnev’s ZIL-114. It was labelled the 41052. Four years ago one of these limos (produced in 1989) was put up for sale for $1.7 million. It’s thought to be one of the best-armored limos in the world and able to withstand heavy explosions and gunfire.
Mikhail Gorbachev moved by the ZIL-4104 (ZIL-115). The number of cars ZIL-115 in each foreign tuple of Gorbachev reached 20 units, which required seven transport aircraft IL-76 for their transfer. In the photo: Mikhail Gorbachev (left) and Nicolae Ceausescu (right) during a visit to Bucharest, 1987.
7. Boris Yeltsin
The first Russian president Boris Yeltsin used the same ZIL model as his political rival Gorbachev. However, it’s believed he did not like the car much because as a tall man with back problems he struggled to get in and out of it.
Yeltsin and his Mercs
The uncomfortable entry problem was resolved with Yeltsin switching to Mercedes-made limos. In 2017 it was reported that his Mercedes was also put up for sale. The Mercedes-Benz S 600 Pullman-Limousine Guard was much cheaper than the ZIL, with the owner asking for a cool $570,000. The car was originally designed for German Chancellor Helmut Kohl but he gave it to Yeltsin as a present. However, some of the Russian president’s aides denied this. In open sources, the Mercedes-Benz-S500 usually features as the car of the first Russian president. The limo was ordered for Yeltsin back in 1994.
Boris Yeltsin, when he was chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the RSFSR in 1990 moved by the “Volga” GAZ-3102. Becoming the first president of Russia (1991-1999), used the first armored limousine ZIL-4105 (ZIL-117), and then – the Mercedes S500 Pullman Guard (W140)
8. Vladimir Putin
At the disposal of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev are armored Mercedes S600 Pullman Guard (W-221)
Mercedes was also Putin’s official car make until his inauguration this year, when he used a Russian-made car. The $200 million Kortezh project was launched in 2012 to create a series of special rides for the leader.
U.S. President (1961-1963) John F. Kennedy used Lincoln Continental. At the time of the assassination in Dallas, Texas (USA) November 22, 1963 Kennedy is in an open limousine Lincoln Continental SS-100-X. Car – Kennedy Historic Auto Attractions museum in Illinois.
China People’s Republic Chairman Mao Zedong drove limousine ZIS-110, which he received in 1949 as a gift from Stalin. In 1958, Chinese leader moved by the newly created especially for him limousine by Chinese brand FAW Hong. Chinese FAW models were not taken out of the country.
The former President of Uruguay José Alberto Mujica 90% of his income pays to charity, and the largest of his own property – car VW Beetle 1987.
U.S. President Barack Obama uses an armored limousine Cadillac One (Cadillac Presidential Limousine), also known as The Beast. Presidential motorcade has over 40 vehicles that during trips abroad are delivered by three military transport planes Boeing C-17 Globemaster
Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II during official trips uses Bentley State Limousine, which was created specifically for monarchs in two copies in 2002 for the 50th anniversary of the reign.
The former British Prime Minister David Cameron used the luxury Jaguar XJ X351. In the photo: the damage to the Cameron’s car.
The ex-French President Francois Hollande abandoned armored modifications Renault Vel Satis and as an official vehicle uses a mid-size 2012 Citroen DS-5.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel travels by armored version Audi A8 L Security. At the disposal of the Chancellor also BMW 760 Li E67 and Mercedes-Benz S600 Guard V221.
Spanish King Philip VI prefers Rolls Royce. King Philip and Queen Letizia on the way to the Royal Palace, June 19, 2014.
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