Military Review

Plastic ZIL-135B and a boat on wheels


Experienced fiberglass ZIL-135P breaks trees. Source:

MVTU them. Bauman hurries to the rescue

В one of the previous parts The cycle on the development and development of ZIL-135 family machines was a reference to the amphibian with the “B” index, which Vitaly Grachev, head of the ZIL design bureau, built for rocket launchers. It is on the basis of this machine Zilovtsy together with scientists and engineers MVTU them. In the early 60s, Bauman tried to build an amphibian with a plastic carrier. Even now, creating such a thing is a non-trivial task, and 60 years ago it was revolutionary. And, of course, secretly. Information on the work on the plastic supporting body of the 135th series is not even in the well-known book “Overcoming off-road. Developments of SKB ZIL ”. Just a mention of the ZIL-5B frame with a fiberglass body built on July 1962, 135. According to the authors of the book, on July 24 of the same year, a four-wheeled amphibian was tested on a reservoir in Bronnitsy. At the same time, in 1965, an article by engineers V. S. Tsybin and A. G. Kuznetsov, dedicated to amphibians with a plastic carrier body, was published in the profile and secret (for its time) magazine “Bulletin of Armored vehicles”. I repeat, with a supporting body, that is, deprived of a frame. Subsequently, Professor Tsybin will become one of the founders of the domestic system for designing and creating elements of wheeled vehicles from composite polymer materials. The work was carried out at the SM-10 “Wheeled Machines” department, which since 1953 was led by the famous automobile engineer, chief designer of the Gorky Automobile Plant Andrei Aleksandrovich Lipgart.

Experienced amphibian ZIL-135B. It was this car at MVTU that received a fiberglass load-bearing body. Source:

The choice in favor of a completely plastic body for ZIL-135B was made due to the heavy weight of the original steel machine. As you know, with the Luna rocket the four-wheeled vehicle couldn’t float normally and once in the tests almost went to the bottom. Therefore, Vitaly Grachev did not just try to sheathe amphibian plastic panels, but completely replace the metal in the structure with lightweight material. At ZIL they did not know how to do this, and therefore they turned for help to MVTU im. Bauman.

One of the advantages of an all-plastic body was the reduction in machine weight: a material with high strength characteristics had a low specific gravity. In addition, there is the possibility of manufacturing monolithic (seamless) body structures of any complexity and configuration with minimal costs for tooling and equipment. Traditional sheet steel did not allow simple and inexpensive to make body streamlined. Plastic technologies increased the corrosion resistance of the structure, reduced operating and maintenance costs, and also facilitated repairs. Researchers from MVTU noted among the pluses the almost complete absence of leakage with a bullet lumbago of the case and the possibility of staining the material in bulk. Among the obvious disadvantages are high creep under long-term loads, relatively high cost, low rigidity and low long-term heat resistance.

Plastic ZIL-135B and a boat on wheels

[Center]Design scheme ZIL-135B with a plastic carrier. Source: "Bulletin of armored vehicles"

The base ZIL-135B was a frame machine without suspension, which seriously increased the load on the body in motion. In this case, the engineers could not change anything in the layout, otherwise it would lead to a complete reformatting of the design of the future missile carrier. The practice of copying the sizes and shapes of metal parts did not allow making units similar in properties: plastic did not possess the necessary rigidity. Three-layer elements made of fiberglass, polystyrene and glue were chosen as the base material at MSTU. They did not completely abandon the metal. Steel were kilson (longitudinal power element of the hull-boat), braces of the towing device, edging of the hull and sides, instrument panel, brackets for fastening the power units, drain plugs and wheel niche inserts.

The main supporting system is an external monolithic panel, into which an internal panel with amplifiers and cross-pieces between wheel niches is inserted. The space between the panels is filled with polystyrene with a specific gravity of 0,1-0,15 g / cm3. On the power elements of the supporting body hereinafter:

“Between the wheel arches in the longitudinal direction there are also power elements: between the 1st and 2nd axles - box section arches under the motor compartment panels, resting on niches, the rear panel of the cab and the 2nd cross member; between the 2nd and 3rd, 3rd and 4th, 4th and rear cross-pieces - panels of horizontal and vertical amplifiers, forming box-section elements and resting on the side beams, and base amplifiers. ”

The case was built of panels with a thickness of 2 to 8 mm, interconnected with epoxy glue, as well as bolts, rivets and screws. The main body material was fiberglass, consisting of PN-1 polyester resin and TZhS-0,8 fiberglass tow. The largest panel weighing 900 kilograms and a thickness of 8 mm was molded by the contact method on a wooden mold. About 280 man-hours were spent on this.

The amphibian body was quite flexible. Source: "Bulletin of armored vehicles"

When the plastic ZIL-135B assembled using the new technology was put on the scales, it turned out that the designers won a whole ton of amphibian weight. This is about 10% of the weight of steel ZIL. Further, the prototype had dynamic tests on the highway, in rough terrain, in a country road with an empty body, with full and half load. The lack of suspension played a cruel joke here - it cut the material under the wheel brackets. High thermal loading of the motor compartment led to the destruction of amplifiers near the motor. Tests were also conducted on the bench in order to determine the static deformation of the body under load. It turned out that the body is bent, but, in comparison with steel, slightly. When an experienced amphibious all-terrain vehicle ran 10 thousand kilometers, it was dismantled. The power elements between the 1st and 2nd axis were destroyed due to the thermal influence of the motor, but everything else was in excellent condition, with the exception of reducing the tensile strength of body elements with static bending immediately by 43%. But here the blame was laid on the poor quality of PN-1 resin. Despite the fact that engineers are more likely to positively evaluate the results of the experimental work, the plastic ZIL did not go into the series. As did not go into a wide series of other plastic vehicles. The experimental work at MSTU has remained an example of domestic engineering. But experiments with floating equipment in SKB ZIL did not end there.

"Dolphin" that swam quickly

In the early 60s, almost simultaneously with the theme of ZIL-135B, the Karbyshev Central Research Institute puzzled SKB ZIL with an order to develop a self-propelled pontoon. It was supposed to be used for guidance of floating crossings. Here, the Zilovites also could not do without outside help: Doctor of Technical Sciences Colonel-Engineer Yuri Nikolayevich Glazunov helped with the shape of the hull and the navigational mover. By the way, Dr. Glazunov was the creator of the pontoon park, and it was him who came up with the idea of ​​a floating ZIL. As planned, the deck of a wheeled boat was to become part of the pavement for ferry equipment. At the same time, a sliding platform was mounted on the deck for transporting cars weighing up to 40 tons. It turned out to be a self-propelled ferry capable of transporting equipment on itself, docking in mobile bridges, and also working as a tugboat. At the stage of the sketches, the car was very unusual: on the water, a wheeled boat moved stern forward, it was here that the wheelhouse was located. General management of the development under the “Shuttle” code was led by SKB engineer Yu. I. Sobolev. When everything was ready for the production of amphibians, the main customer made a choice in favor of a similar machine developed in Bryansk. It is good that the decision was made before the construction of the machine, otherwise it would not be possible to re-profile it promptly. This is not to say that the amphibian from Bryansk was better: the developers simply reinforced their model with the possibility of production. At ZIL, Director Borodin categorically refused to put a military model into production. This played a major role in the choice of the military department. But Grachev did not despair, renamed the car to "Dolphin", redrawn the layout and built one copy by the beginning of 1965.

ZIL-135P in tests in Baltiysk. Source:

The Dolphin, created as part of the ZIL-135P project, appeared on trials in the fall of 1965 at sea in the Baltiysk region as a transport vehicle for marines. A 13,8-meter four-axis giant was also tested in the Arctic Ocean as a reloading vehicle - a lighter. The case of the car was plastic bearing (taking into account developments according to ZIL-135B), and the total weight was about 20 tons. An important advantage of the choice of fiberglass was resistance to bullet and fragmentation "wounds" - water through such holes did not whip, but only oozed through the "soaked" fiberglass. This is not to say that the plastic body was fragile. In one of the tests, the Dolphin easily broke a birch with a diameter of 400 mm with its nose.

Water screws. Made of both brass and fiberglass. Source:

The amphibian aggregate base was completely borrowed from the original ZIL-135, but was supplemented by an air pressurization system in underwater units. Movement on the water was provided by two propellers with a diameter of 700 mm, located in special annular shaped nozzles. ZIL-135P was turned not with the help of water rudders, but by turning the speakers with screws. In many ways, this was an analogue of modern ship azipods. The propeller blades could be made of both brass and fiberglass. On land, the control system pressed against the hull in special niches. The car became a record in its dynamics on the water: since 1965, none of the amphibians could beat its maximum speed of 16,4 km / h. At the same time, 22 paratroopers or 5 tons of cargo could fit in the hold of an amphibian.

Tests of amphibian as a lighter on the Northern Sea Route. The last attempt by Vitaly Grachev to find a car at least some use. In the North, the machine was highly appreciated for its operational efficiency: Dolphin greatly simplified the delivery of goods from sea vessels to shore in shallow water and vice versa. We asked for the possibility of supplying units from ZIL to a plant in Kostroma for mass production. The director of the Moscow plant refused. Source:

According to the test results, the naval crew liked the car and, taking into account the modifications, they were ready to take it into service in the modification of the ZIL-135TA. However, a site for serial production was never found: the ZIL leadership was not ready to provide a meter of the area. Not even the motions to the cabinet of ministers helped. The unique car was eventually abandoned without leaving it to posterity even as a museum exhibit.

To be continued ...
Articles from this series:
ZIL-135: visiting card of the Soviet high-tech
Four-axis ZILs: missile-carrying missiles
ZIL-135: engineering refinements of Dr. Grachev
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  1. The leader of the Redskins
    The leader of the Redskins 11 July 2020 06: 08
    Thanks to the author. Like many, I only heard about the plastic ZIL. But even now, when these and other composite materials have firmly entered our lives, I am horrified at the thought of repairing this body!
    1. Serg koma
      Serg koma 13 July 2020 14: 23
      Quote: Leader of the Redskins
      terrified at the thought of repairing this body!

      Upon impact, the body breaks, breaks, but does not deform. The consequences are eliminated quite quickly with glue and cloth, the main thing is to pull nothing out, you do not need to tap, the repair is less time-consuming. American trunk tractors are an example of this.
  2. Free wind
    Free wind 11 July 2020 06: 29
    Worn with this fiberglass at one time as a beggar with a bag. What wonderful material, yes, we will throw the pieces of iron into the dustbin of history .... The cost is incredible with this machine. many parts of the case are glued by hand, otherwise you can’t do them. Fiberglass can work a little on bending, tensile it does not work in any way, in fact, like all materials except rubber. And with such a length of the body during bending, you do not want to, but the structural elements will work in tension. There is also no cross-country ability, with such dimensions, the landing is scanty .. The toy is useless, correctly the ZIL director sent everyone away.
    1. Kote Pan Kokhanka
      Kote Pan Kokhanka 11 July 2020 09: 19
      . The toy is useless, the ZIL director correctly sent everyone away.

      ZIL was so "sent" that now it is gone! The inertia of thinking in the Soviet automobile industry has killed design innovations more than once or twice !!!
      Thanks to the author!
      1. Free wind
        Free wind 11 July 2020 10: 08
        In the 60s, ZIL was so in favor. Just then the GAZ got out, and the Urals pulled up with MAZ, and ZIL-157 was riveted and riveted on the zil. Looking at this design, it is not clear what they thought, at least they made interesting drawings. There is no such suspension, you cross the roughness, the whole machine rises above the surface with one side. Above the middle wheels, it hangs on one side wheel. Than an innovation it would be better to think about something worthwhile.
        1. for
          for 11 July 2020 10: 41
          Quote: Free Wind
          Just then GAZ got out, and the Urals with MAZ pulled up

          It’s just that ZIL was not in the right place, if it could have survived somewhere in another city. Yes, many would be.
          1. Free wind
            Free wind 11 July 2020 10: 46
            Yes, I would not argue. If Gorbachev had been with Yeltsin since the year 75 in Kolyma, in a striped clif, I would not have worried much.
            1. ZAV69
              ZAV69 11 July 2020 15: 26
              Quote: Free Wind
              but I’m not arguing. If Gorbachev had been with Yeltsin since the year 75 in Kolyma, in a striped clif, I would not have worried much.

              Unfortunately, other Gorbachev and Yeltsin would not go. In the collapse of the country, Yakovlev and Shevornadze took an active part.
    2. Serg koma
      Serg koma 13 July 2020 14: 43
      Quote: Free Wind
      What wonderful material, but we will throw the pieces of iron into the dustbin of history ....
      It is not necessary to throw away the "pieces of iron" - we will scatter. And the material is really wonderful.
      minesweepers of project 12700 “Alexandrite” - a series of Russian mine-control ships of the base zone, the project of this minesweeper was created at the Almaz Central Marine Design Bureau for the Russian Navy, and belongs to the new generation of mine-defense ships (PMOs).
      hull of the minesweeper Alexandrite, built of fiberglass.

      Quote: Free Wind
      many parts of the case are glued by hand, otherwise you can’t make them
      You got excited, confusing experimental piece production with serial production. The photo below proves - manually "blurt out" laughing not necessarily good

      News from the manufacturer
      "FILLING OF THE HULL OF THE EIGHTH MINE DEFENSE SHIP OF PROJECT 12700 ALEXANDRIT STARTED AT SNSZ. The groundbreaking ceremony of the next Alexandrite will take place on July 24, 2020.

      Time has given its assessment to the director of ZiL. And by the way, with an even greater length (monolithic, 62 meters long) of the body, everything works despite the body bending hi
  3. tarackanovaleksei
    tarackanovaleksei 11 July 2020 19: 05
    A ship on wheels.
  4. Pavel57
    Pavel57 11 July 2020 19: 20
    It remains to be regretted that there was interest, but the series did not take place.
  5. Tima62
    Tima62 11 July 2020 20: 22
    Interesting article. I just want to clarify
    According to the authors of the book, on July 24 of the same year, a four-wheeled amphibian was tested on a reservoir in Bronnitsy. As you know, with a rocket "Luna" four-wheeled car could not swim normally
    All the same, probably a four-axle, eight-wheeled car. I would not want to see discrepancies in such an interesting article.
    And yet - about fiberglass.
    low long-term heat resistance
    It’s like the cockpits of rocket carriers were made of fiberglass, because the steel cabs were deformed under the influence of the rocket exhaust. Could it be a long, not short-term exposure to temperature (within a few seconds it holds a couple of thousand degrees, and within a year with a hundred of plastic resin evaporates)?
  6. Dzafdet
    Dzafdet 24 August 2020 19: 07
    Quote: Free Wind
    In the 60s, ZIL was so in favor. Just then the GAZ got out, and the Urals pulled up with MAZ, and ZIL-157 was riveted and riveted on the zil. Looking at this design, it is not clear what they thought, at least they made interesting drawings. There is no such suspension, you cross the roughness, the whole machine rises above the surface with one side. Above the middle wheels, it hangs on one side wheel. Than an innovation it would be better to think about something worthwhile.

    It was at the suggestion of the ZIL leadership that the design bureau of engines at URALAZ was defeated ... So they are not saints ...