Starting from the middle of the 20th century experimental prototypes with extraordinary design in USA received the name “dream car”. The main objective of their creation – to attract public attention to a certain brand and implementation of the imagination of designers and search for new shapes.

In USSR, with a total shortage of automobiles of all types, interest to design was rather low.

However, among the engineers there were enthusiasts, who wanted to go beyond the economic expediency. Almost the only opportunity for Soviet designers to express their own idea of the car was to create sports prototypes. Sport was encouraged in the USSR and the creation of the “new” cars, using production parts and components was even welcomed. Using standard components on the sports cars allowed testing serial units under extreme conditions of high-speed racing competition and detect their weak points. All this made it possible to create the unique, even by the international standards, sports car ZIS-112 on the chassis of limousine ZIS-110.

As a role model for ZIS-112 partly served “dream car” Buick LeSabre ’51, first presented at the “Motorama” show in the USA. Being later described in numerous technical magazines, it has inspired the gifted designer Valentin Rostkov, who developed the design and overall arrangement of Soviet analog.

However, ZIS-112 was not the exact replica of Buick. Having borrowed from him the main feature, “jet” body with the air intake in front, it had a great personality: enormous, almost six meters long, with o-shaped radiator grill and single headlight. By the way, due to this single headlight the car was nicknamed “Cyclops”. In accordance with the order of the ZIS factory director two cars were put into production.


Initially the serial 140 h.p. engine from ZIS-110 was installed on the new car. It turned out that it was not powerful enough. A group of designers under the direction of Rodionov developed an experimental eight-cylinder engine with the upper inlet and the lower outlet valves. Engine capacity was 6005 cubic sm., and compression ratio had grown from 6,85 up to 7,3. Instead of serial inlet and exhaust collectors were mounted new, with the intake collector existing in two options: one for the version with two serial carburetors MKZ-LZ, and the other – for the version with four. Furthermore, was installed oil cooler, two oil pumps and manual control of ignition timing.


Car body was designed as an open two-seater with two doors. During test rides hard top was mounted and fixed by eight bolts. It was supposed to be removed at the race to reduce the weight of the car. At the rear car had two trunks, one of which served as a compartment for fuel tank. The drag ( without the hardtop did not exceed 1,5 square meters. Body was made of steel, and interior equipment complied with the requirements for equipment of an ordinary car.


For the first time ZIS-112 took part in the USSR Motorsport Championship in 1952.

Together with two ZIS 112E cars it took part in three races (500km, 50km and 1km). In general the results had been considered successful but not excellent.

However, at the next race on the Minsk highway, it became clear to drivers and designers, that the car has too many flaws. Since the chassis was of serial production type, it retained a vast framework, designed for the seven-seat limousine body. With the wheelbase of 3760mm, overall length was 5920mm and total weight with full fuel tank – 2915kg. ZIS-112 was a two-seater with eight-cylinder inline engine, the weight distribution on the axes was improper: front wheel load was significantly more than rear.

Soviet dream-car turned to be a “tadpole” – a car with the very heavy front, which led to skidding. At the same time fuel consumption was horrible – 35litres per 100km.

Another cause of  poor track record was the danger of  overheating the engine due to the high temperature of the oil in the casing, which after 50-70km reached 100 -105 degrees be centigrade, did not stabilize and tended to further increase. It also turned out, that in case of start at full throttle engine oil temperature reached 100 degrees by centigrade within 8-10km, which required reducing of speed.

To solve the problem of overheating certain amendments were made. Oil cooler was mounted in front of the main cooler. For this the front bumper was lowered and extra openings were made to increase the airflow to radiators. For this reason front position lights had to be raised.

In what followed, the single existing ZIS-112 was reworked continuously, from race to race: shape of windscreen was changed, wipers and additional air intakes installed. Some decorations also appeared  - logo on the bonnet, taken from some American car, and an inscription “ZIS – Moscow” ( in the style of ZIL-111.)

Shortened version of ZIS-112

Aforementioned changes did not solve the problems of the car, and in 1956 on the initiative of the racer Boris Kurbatov was created shortened version of ZIS-112. Wheelbase was shortened by 600mm. By this the distance between the wheel axes was reduced to 3160mm, and the car length – to 5320mm. Weight of the car was decreased by 550kg. Now the full weight was 2250kg, and “deadweight” – 1900kg.

The car engine also underwent changes: the compression ratio increased from 7, 3 up to 8, 5 points and two more carburetors were mounted. Due to these improvements, as well as some amendments of main gear, ZIS-112 managed to reach the speed of 210 km/h.

Ring races

Starting from 1955 USSR championships were carried out on the ring track in Minsk. However, it was hard to name this track as a ring one. Two highways had been connected by transverse roads, making the “circle” of 42 km. long. There were 40 turns and some steep slopes and ascents, therefore dynamical and brake performance of the car became most important.

And again ZIS-112 did not live up to its promise, since more maneuverable cars were required for such races, and the maneuverability  of even shortened version left much to be desired… But on this the history of ZIS-112 did not come to the end. In 1960 it was decided to use its chassis as the basis for the new race car, named ZIL-112/6.

For the first time new car took part in the races of USSR championship in the city of Kaunas in 1961. It performed together with ZIL-112/4, piloted by Kurbatov.

The results, shown by ZIS-112 on the 500km. races on the USSR championship were noted by Sports Committee of USSR as the remarkable, since the average speed of 156,13km/h on that distance was reached for the first time. And the maximal speed of 188,19km/h, shown on the distance of 1km, was the highest in the USSR for the cars with the 5-8 liters engines. The previous record, set by ZIS-Sport car in 1940, was 162,4km/h.


In 2009 “DIP Models” had set the goal to make the model of the very first ZIS-112 of 1951. (company plans include production of other versions as well.) It turned out, that it was not the easy task. In spite of certain popularity (mostly, due the drawings by Zakharov in the “At the wheel” magazine), not so many archive photos of ZIS-112 has survived, especially the initial version. Moreover, it seemed, that absolutely no photo from the rear exist, which made impossible to create correct model.

However, soon fortune smiled to enthusiasts. It turned out, that in Germany there was published the book “Dem Silber auf der Spur” by Alexandrov with some desired photos. Further information started to arrive at a speed of flood. It became possible to look at photo from the archives of pilot Kurbatov, where the car was photographed from all directions, and examine factory documentation, kindly provided by Vladimir Kireev. Due to continuously arriving more specific information, the prototype was remodeled as much as 6 times. As a result of painstaking search and selection of the information, “DIP Models” managed to create a highly accurate model of ZIS-112. When holding this model in hand, everyone realizes that a year of hard work was not for nothing. As the original, the model causes admiration. Almost 14cm. long, it does not seem a sports car from the past, but the bolide from the future. Undoubtedly, the striking feature of the model is the two-color white and blue painting and an abundance of chrome parts, that make the model look very impressive. Rather pleases the quality of minor elements as well. Especially worth paying attention are the taillights, which have rather complicated shape in original. Even minor features have not been forgotten – many people ask, what for are the holes in the trunk lid? We do not know exactly, but there could be a handle or decorative element, about which there is no information. But, since these holes were on the original car, we decided to reproduce them on the model for greater accuracy.

In general, model for collectors turned out to be very successful – not so many were in Soviet history such spectacular cars. There is no doubt, that ZIS-112 could be the decoration of every collection.

Coming soon

Useful info

ZiS 110
“We have mastered the passenger car ZIS-110 – a very difficult automobile. Besides the fact that it requires a great level of production culture, it also demands a great technical maturity,” said I.A. Likhachev, Director of the automotive plant, now named after him, 30 years ago at the plant party conference. ZIS-110, a luxury class limousine, was constructed with account of all latest technical achievements in car industry. This was the first new product mastered by our industry in the first year of peace. Car design engineering began in 1943, during ... More »