The ZIL-131 3500-kg (7,716-lb) 6×6

ZIL-131 R-409 Radio truck

At times ZiL had as many as 70,000 workers and a “particularly socialist” atmosphere. There was no freedom there, your every move was registered: when you come to work, when you leave, where you go, when you take a break. But most people were comfortable with that. ZIL employees lived in company-owned flats, with amenities somewhat beyond those available to the average worker. The ZIL factory had a Palace of Culture with winter garden, concert halls and theatre, and its dance and opera sections have produced some top Soviet and international arts festival winners. Some 8000 Muscovite children attend ZIL’s hobby groups. In all, ZIL was a ‘total package’ of work and play not dissimilar to that practised by Japanese motor firms at the time.

During its most productive years it produced hundreds of thousands of vehicles a year. During the 1970s, ZIL vehicles could be found in 57 countries – more than 300,000 were exported by the Soviet motor industry export agency Avtoexport, and some 5000 mechanics were trained in various foreign markets.

Adaptability was the keynote of ZIL truck design – the ZIL-130 truck was the basis for sixty different versions, and the group which devised it won a USSR State Prize. The ZIL 130 was probably the most popular truck in the ex-USSR territory over the past 50 years. They were widely used all over the Soviet Union, the ZIL base was presented in different kinds: flatbed truck, fire truck, dump truck — there were plenty of variations. Also there was quite exotic modification of ZIL with passenger trailers for airports that carried passengers to the aircraft and back.

Through standardization the amount of training is reduced, repair parts were reduced, supply actions were simplified, maintenance tasks were simplified, economy of production was achieved, and substitutability and interchangeability actions were increased markedly. For example, of the 3,544 parts of the ZIL-131, 2.5 ton truck, 45 percent of these parts could be used on other ZIL vehicles and 23 percent may be used on other trucks which have the same weight class.

Late in 1966 the ZiL-131 3500-kg (7,716-lb) 6×6 truck entered production at the Likhachev Motor Vehicle Plant in Moscow as the replacement for the older ZiL 157 2500-kg (5,512-lb) 6X6 truck which had been developed in the late 1950s and was in turn based on the ZiL-151 6×6 truck which had been produced from 1947 to 1958. The ZiL 131 is used for a wide range of roles b the Soviet armed forces and by the many other countries that receive Soviet aid. The type shares many components with the ZiL-133 6×4 truck which is used for both civil and military applications

The ZiL-131 can carry 5000-kg (11,023-lb) of cargo on roads or 4000-kg (8,818-lb) across country, the maximum towed loads being 6500-kg (14,330-lb) and 4000 kg (8,818-lb) respectively. The engine is located at the front of the vehicle and is coupled to a manual gearbox with five forward and one re verse gear and a two-speed transfer case. The front suspension consists of semi-elliptical springs with hydraulic shock absorbers, while the rear suspension consists of an equalizer arm on longitudinal semi-elliptical springs. Tyres are 12.00×20 all round, with a central tyre pressure-regulation system fitted as standard. The all-steel fully-enclosed cab has a heater as standard. The rear cargo area consists of a wooden platform with drop tailgate removable bows and a tarpaulin cover. To enable the vehicle to be converted quickly for use in the troop transport role, hinged bench seats are fitted down each side of the rear cargo area. All vehicles are fitted with a 4500-kg (9,921-lb) capacity winch.

The ZiL-131 is used for a wide range of roles in addition to its basic tasks of carrying cargo and towing artillery and other weapons. The ZiL-13D is a dump truck, while the ZiL-131V is used to tow semi-trailers. The ARS-14 is a special decontamination vehicle which can be used to fight fires as well as to decontaminate vehicles weapons and other equipment. The chassis is also used to mount a wide range of fully-enclosed box bodies for in the command, communications transport and repair roles, while there are also many tankers (fuel and water) and fuel service trucks to refuel vehicles in the forward areas. One of the more interesting versions is the MA-41 tanker which carries diesel fuel, oil water and petrol, the diesel and water tanks being provided with heaters so that vehicles can be resupplied even in the coldest weather. The chassis has also been used to mount the 140-mm (5.51-in) BM-14-16 and 122-mm (4.8-in) BM-21 multiple rocket-launchers.

Missile batteries have to be resupplied in the forward area, and to this end the ZiL-131 has been modified to carry the SA-6 Gainful and SA-3 Goa missiles. In the former case three missiles are carried with a foldable crane mounted at the rear of the truck to enable the vehicle to resupply the SA-6 Gainful launcher without external assistance. The SA-3 Goa resupply vehicle has two missiles, which are winched on to the SA-3 launcher.

An improved variant, the ZiL-131N, was introduced in 1986.

In 1995 a new ZiL-4334 was proposed as a replacement of the -131N. A small number of these trucks are in service with the Russian Army. Though it was generally replaced in service by Ural-4320 and KamAZ Mustang series military trucks.

ZiL-131 KShM (box art for ICM), Valery Petelin

ZiL-131 was the main all-road Soviet Army truck of the 1970s and 80s. Serial production was launched in 1967. The truck featured high reliability and all-road abilities. The basic model was used mainly as personnel transport or a 5-t cargo truck. They were supplied to Warsaw Pact countries and also many countries in Asia and Africa. There were several ZiL-131 modifications for the Soviet Army and civilian use, and one of them was the KShM Command Vehicle. In total there were about a million trucks produced from 1967 to 1990. Small batches of chassis for different special purpose vehicles are still being produced presently.