Fancy a ZIL with a Chevy V8? Maybe you hadn't realised you did, but PistonHeads is here to help...
Russia's thirst for new cars is in the spotlight as the Moscow Motor Show opens its doors to the public. But the country is also very keen on its classics, driven in part by the most influential classic car fan in the world: President Vladimir Putin.
East meets west as a ZIL awaits its Chevy V8
Trouble is, old Russian cars are (whisper it) a bit rubbish. So if you want to get politically comfy with Mr P and stay physically comfortable yourself, you get your old Volga or whatever stripped down to the bare shell and have everything replaced that can't be seen with bits from a modern donor car. The best place to do that is housed within an old Soviet car factory in the town of Nizhny Novgorod, refitted to the tune of $10m (£6.3m) and charging between $50,000-$500,000 for the privilege.
PistonHeads had the good fortune to get shown round by the guy who manages it together with the wider GAZ Group, Swede Bo Andersson. No names were mentioned, but clearly, his customers weren't just your average millionaires.
Old Volga is typical of the work here...
He points to pictures of past projects. "This one is a gift to the Ukrainian president, by, er, someone. This one was a private customer, this one was ordered by someone very important and given to someone very important."
Two of the blocky and immense ZIL limousines favoured by Soviet Politburo members were on ramps, one stripped to its shell to accept its donor parts. These come from a brand-new Chevy Silverado pickup: V8 engine, chassis, drivetrain, gearbox - the lot. Any bodypanels that no longer fit? No problem - GAZ will just stamp out new ones.
The biggest coup was winning a commission to supply three ZIL limo convertibles for use in the Victory Day Parade in Moscow's Red Square, most recently held this year.
...in that it has far from typical Toyota power
In winning the job, GAZ beat ZIL. Yup, the original makers of the limo, still surviving as a truck maker and still able to build its behemoth car, lost out to a company making what are basically copies of its signature vehicle. Maybe it helped that the overall owner of GAZ is well-connected oligarch Oleg Deripaska, the guy on whose yacht Peter Mandelson and George Osborne famously schmoozed.
As well as the Silverados, other donor vehicles include Toyotas, although they didn't say what. We did however spot a Volga 21, originally made by GAZ in the same Nizny factory back in the 60s, packing a turbocharged 2.5-litre engine from a JDM Toyota Supra.
The old GAZ 69/UAZ jeeps come out of the workshp essentially Toyotas with retro Soviet bodies. We also saw old GAZ Chaika limos being stripped. These too were made new at the factory, until Mikhail Gorbachev ordered that all the tooling be destroyed.
What's going in there? God knows...
Andersson is proud of the work done here. "We had the former manager of Rolls-Royce, Karl-Heinz Kalbfell, here and he said our shop is up there with the Rolls-Royce restoration workshop," he tells us. It will produce 10-15 cars a year but that rate could be improved. "There are enough oligarchs we can sell to," he says.