Design Capsule: ZIS 112 Cyclops – Does This Russian Car Look A Bit Too Familiar?


(first posted 2/15/2011)

The fact that Russia did some major automotive cribbing back in the day is old hat. But here’s one that managed to escape me until today: the ZIS 112. Well, they weren’t the only one: the inspiration for this beast was very influential, and influenced a raft of vehicles, including some unexpected ones. But despite being cribbed, the ZIS 112 has a fascinating history and evolution.

Obviously, the 1951 Buick LeSabre was a very distinctive, with it’s high-mounted single jet air intake. But the Russians converted that into a single headlight, which of course reminds me of another car, a former CC.

The ZIS 112, known appropriately enough as the Cyclops, was hardly as fresh as the very innovative LeSabre, with its all-new aluminum V8. Cyclops was a re-bodied ZIS 110, and you can the two of them side by side below.

This led to some serious compromises: the Cyclops sat on the 110’s limo-like chassis, and ended up being over six meters (20 plus feet) long, hardly the stuff of a competition car, which was part of the Cyclops agenda. Well, if it was going to race against it’s donor like pictured here, the Cyclops was bound to do a bit better, even if it only had 140 hp from the 110’s V8.

ZIL 112 Cyklon Experimental Car 1951 (Russia)

Here’s a better shot of the hardtop.

But the ZIS’s sporting ambitions didn’t end there. You can read the whole evolution of the 112 at Kustomrama,  but let’s just say that this final evolutionary stage of the 112 ends up looking a lot like some of GM’s other Motorama concepts of the time.