ZIL refrigerators: brand history + secret of longevity

The USSR collapsed long ago, many factories modernized or completely replaced production lines that produced household appliances. But some engineering projects are still surprised by their reliability, despite the imperfect operating conditions.

One such example is the ZIL refrigerator, a truly “unkillable” equipment that can still be found in the kitchens of our apartments or cottages. What is the secret of such longevity? Let's try to figure it out.

The history of the production of refrigerators ZIL

The starting point for the start of production of domestic compression refrigerators working on freon is the Order of September 7, 1949, by order of which a design bureau was created at the Moscow YV Stalin Plant.

It was here that the blueprints for the manufacture of small 85-liter units "Saratov" and more spacious 165-liter ZiLs were developed and prepared.

Assembly shop ZIL
For the first time, the famous refrigerators came off the assembly line in April 1950, but since their “native” automobile plant was named after Stalin, the device logo was made up of the abbreviation “ZiS-Moscow”, and since 1956, when the company was renamed “ Likhachev Plant ", its products became a brand ZIL

The prototype for the first ZiS-Moscow refrigerator was a sample of US pre-war production. One of the "premiere" devices, by the way, was donated to Brezhnev and received high marks from him.

But in the difficult post-war time, the people were not able to purchase expensive equipment - the plant initially had serious problems with sales, but after a couple of five-year periods, the production queue was scheduled for many years to come.

More than 5 million ZILs were assembled at the Likhachev plant, but after the collapse of the Union, foreign manufacturers appeared on the market.

With them, domestic technology could not compete due to interruptions in the financing of new developments and the wrong marketing policy.

In order to keep afloat, the management began to reduce the quality of the products, to “close their eyes” to various defects, which immediately affected consumer demand.

ZIL factory zone
Today, on the territory of the former multi-kilometer industrial zone of the enterprise, only a few buildings remained, which were reconstructed and turned into an auto center with showrooms

In 2016, the legendary Likhachev plant celebrated its centenary, but the restoration of its production capacity is already out of the question - most of the shops were demolished for the construction of a new residential neighborhood.

The reasons for the popularity of ZIL

The main secret to the longevity of Soviet refrigerators is the high quality of all parts.From body materials to all components.

For a long time, these devices belonged to an elite technology, which is far from being accessible to everyone: a third of the output produced was exported, the same was sold in Moscow, and the rest was distributed according to the schedule for high-ranking officials from various cities of the Union.

Advantages of ZIL refrigerators:

  • stylish (at the time) appearance;
  • high-quality assembly;
  • thick-walled strong body;
  • durable, height-adjustable, odorless and easy-to-clean shelves;
  • loyalty to voltage drops in the network;
  • easy disassembly and high maintainability.

Each product passed strict quality control.Even a fully serviceable device could be rejected if there were only minor scratches or minor irregularities on the welded material of the housing.

But in other factories producing refrigerators, such nuances were not considered defects.

High standards were imposed on all the details. There are cases when whole cars with blanks were rejected, on which spots or deviations were detected on the surface color.

Components that did not pass the control were redirected to other, less “fastidious” plants. Such a tough position was the main reason why the ZIL brand was long considered the manufacturer of the most reliable refrigerators in the Union.

Construction features of various models

Several lines of ZiLs were created at the Likhachev plant, each of which had its own indisputable advantages at that time.

Of course, it was not without flaws, but in terms of service life, Soviet refrigerators leave far behind modern appliances, and many of them faithfully serve their owners until now. Let us consider in more detail the range of ZILs.

№1 - the first bird "ZiS" DH-2

The company's flagship was assembled at the plant from 1951 to 1960. The first "swallow" KB plant them. Likhachev had a small 8-liter freezer, a stainless steel evaporator and a reliable steel condenser.

The case with rounded corners and streamlined shapes was made of 8 mm thick welded steel and protected from corrosion by a layer of silicate enamel. The characteristic highlight of the model is a massive handle that could be used as a lock.

Refrigerator ZIS DH-2
The volume of the first DH-2 refrigerator was 165 liters, but at the same time it had rather compact dimensions: its height was 133 cm with a width of 67 cm

But the “first pancake” of the plant had impressive drawbacks:

  1. In the freezer, the normalized temperature was not maintained (even up to the stated indicator of -6 ° C, the device did not pull out in hot climates).
  2. By production the huge amount of metal was used.
  3. The unit itself was massive, heavy and took up a lot of space in the kitchen.
  4. At that time, a volume of 165 liters was considered unnecessarily large (consumer demand for models of 85 liters was much higher).

But over time, when people appreciated the advantages of storing food in the refrigerator instead of a string bag outside the window, this shortcoming not only turned into a virtue, but also served as an impetus for the development of more capacious appliances.

There were few such refrigerators - about 50 thousand a year. And today, this model is equivalent to rare technology.

There is a case when Kazakhstan managed to sell the unit for almost 1 million tenge, but this is rather a happy coincidence than an adequate price of the device.

No. 2 - improved ZIL-Moscow KH-240

The second model of the plant. Likhachev was produced in 1960-1969, and production volumes increased significantly due to the already high demand and the best advertising - positive feedback from consumers.

Refrigerators of this line had a total volume of 240 liters, and the capacity of the low-temperature compartment increased to 29 liters.

Refrigerator ZIL KH-240
Every year the company produced about 120 thousand. "ZiLov" KH-240, and it was this model that became the first Soviet refrigerator sent for export to other countries.

In addition to increasing the useful volume, the modernized ZiL had 4 dural shelves for dishes of various sizes, lighted and opened with varnish.

Also appeared trays for eggs, storage space for oil and the "nest" for bottles. A retractable metal tray for fresh vegetables / fruits and other chilled products was installed at the bottom of the refrigerator.

Diagram of the device ZIL KH-240
The temperature in the freezer of the refrigerator was maintained by the operation of the thermostat with the ability to manually adjust the degree of cooling

In addition, the designers corrected many of the shortcomings of the previous model and increased the shelf life of the provisions due to the temperature established for the NTO by -10 degrees.

The doorway was lined with plastic lining, and thin glass fiber was used as a thermal insulation material.

Hermetic closure provided elastic rubber seal installed around the perimeter of the inner wall of the door, and the trigger bolt.

No. 3 - rectangular "ZIL-62" KSH-240/26 **

In the third model, "ZiL" significantly changed the appearance of the unit. It turned out that despite the attractive rounded lines, the design of the device does not allow to compactly place it in small Soviet kitchens.

Therefore, the shape of the body acquired the appearance of a rectangle with clearly defined right angles.

Refrigerator ZIL-62
Marking with two asterisks meant that in the new models of the ZIL-62 refrigerators the freezer is able to maintain the temperature at the level of -12 degrees

The volume of the device remained the same - 240 liters,on the other hand, new models could be installed in the same unit as the kitchen unit, and the upper surface could be used as a shelf (objects from the previous sloping forms were constantly falling).

In addition, the rubber seal on the doors was replaced by a magnetic one, which is still used on almost all refrigerators, and the width of the case is in line with the standard - 60 cm.

The disadvantages of "ZIL-62":

  1. Outdated compressor model, famous for its loud "sound" at work.
  2. Low quality insulation, which did not allow to significantly reduce the thickness of the walls of the case and led to the appearance of a snow "coat" on the freezer.
  3. Shelves that made it difficult to store products in non-standard containers.
  4. New "traumatic" handle design with sharp edges.

In addition, the developers did not manage to eliminate the main production problems of previous versions - high metal consumption and labor-intensiveness of manufacturing.

No. 4 - “transitional” version of “ZIL-63”

With the appearance on the Soviet market of the first two-door models “Minsk” and “Oka” with an auto-defrost system and a volume increased to 300 liters, the demand for ZILY has plummeted.

Therefore, the design office of the plant.Likhachev was commissioned to create a project of a three-compartment refrigerator that could compete not only with domestic, but also with foreign appliances.

Three-chamber refrigerator "ZIL-65"
One of the prototypes of the three-chamber "ZIL-65" with an electrical control system and a working volume of 600 liters, which was never included in serial production.

The design of new devices was developed together with the relevant institutes, and a license was purchased from the American brand Tecumsen to replace an outdated compressor.

But, as it turned out, the industrial capacity of the plant was not ready for the implementation of a promising project in life - it “stalled” as soon as it turned out that it would require the construction of a new plant and the purchase of a production line for the then deficient currency.

Therefore, on the basis of new developments, the model of increased comfort was released - “ZIL-63” KSh-260/26 **, which was assembled at the plant until 1988.

And although the device was conceived as a transitional model before the launch of a fundamentally new refrigerator, high demand and excellent profitability indicators “delayed” its production for 12 years.

The management arranged high sales volumes, therefore, promising developments were put aside.

Diagram of the device ZIL-63
In the “ZIL-63” refrigerators, the technology of “suspended handle” was used for the first time, which could be installed for left or right opening

In the “Zil-63” a compression refrigeration unit was installed, and the compressor and the asynchronous electric motor with a starting winding were mounted on a spring suspension and hid under a common casing.

Advantages of the new line:

  • improved thermal insulation;
  • noise reduction - the machine compartment of the device began to close with a sound-absorbing shield;
  • shelves of metal rods, comfortably adjustable in height in increments of 3 cm;
  • increase in net volume by 20 liters;
  • the ability to "outweigh" the doors in a convenient direction;
  • Lightweight, removable handle of comfortable length.

In addition, the device was supplemented with numerous elements of comfort - a small shelf for small products, compartments for butter and cheese, a tray for 15 eggs, a limiter of the maximum door opening up to 105 degrees.

As well as adjustable rollers for transportation, a form for making ice, a container with a glass lid to preserve fresh vegetables and fruits.

The disadvantages were the remaining manual defrost, a reliable and durable, but obsolete compressor, which was still manufactured at the plant itself.

But the persistent use of backward technologies and the cessation of the continuous improvement of their product took away the "palm" of the ZIL refrigerators.

№5 - representative of the "transition" line "ZIL-64"

Since 1988, the upgraded model ZIL-64 KSh-260/30, which were produced until 2001, went on sale.

In these refrigerators, an automatic defrosting function has already appeared, improved PU foam insulation and the ability to reduce the freezing temperature to -18 degrees.

NTO volume was increased to 30 dm3, it has a plastic separation shelf for rational placement of products.

System of automatic defrosting in ZIL-64
Innovative cooling system and autofrost with the output of melt water from the chamber in the refrigerators "ZIL-64" - an analogue of the modern "NoFrost"

But these devices could not compete with foreign manufacturers for a long time, so their production was stopped.

Conclusions and useful video on the topic

Despite its reliability and build quality, the "old" ZILs also fail.

But even here they have a slight advantage over modern technology: it is easy to disassemble the devices themselves, and consumables are inexpensive, however, problems may arise with their prescription for years.

More information about the famous refrigerators - see our video selection.

The history of the Soviet brand of refrigerators "ZIL":

Replacing the thermostat in "ZIL-64":

How to make a stylish rarity from the old device - restoration of the ZiLa case:

Despite its glorious history,“ZIL” models have become outdated long ago and cannot be compared with modern refrigerators neither in terms of spaciousness, nor in noiseless operation, nor in ease of defrosting.

But if you have a similar rarity, do not rush to part with it - some workshops offer services for the modernization of old appliances and will be able to turn your ZIL into a stylish highlight that will decorate the interior of the villa or apartment in a vintage style.

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