This V8 sedan was the rarest car in the “Casino Royale”

James Bond films and interesting cars often go hand in hand, whether it’s the latest Aston Martin model given to Bond by Q for… not be rendered in one piece, or a cameo of a rare classic that might leave some fans scratching their heads for years.

Before the theatrical debut of the latest installment in the franchise in a few days, no time to die, we’ll take a look at some rare cars from the Daniel Craig era, with the latest film serving up 2 hours of 43 minutes of mayhem, most of it vehicular in nature.

We’ll start with the first movie in the series, Casino Royale (2006). The film has actually aged quite well, all things considered, hitting all of the franchise’s high points without veering into comedy or becoming embarrassing to watch after a decade.

Note that the license plate is not visibly attached by screws and sits on the bumper rather than in the license plate recess.

United Artists

The 2006 Bond movie that kicked off the era of Daniel Craig served up a very unusual cameo by a car, and chances are some car enthusiasts missed it entirely as it’s a bit brief but very clearly visible in a few scenes. Halfway through the film, outside the casino in Montenegro, the audience watches from a window as the trunk of a classic black sedan opens, revealing a body inside.

To most observers, this black car might appear to be American, perhaps from the 1960s, but in reality it is something else, being one of the few Soviet ZiL 117s ever produced.

The ZiL 117 was the shorter sedan version of the ZiL 114 limousine which was produced from 1967 to 1978, serving as the main limousine for top Soviet officials, including the General Secretary and members of the Politburo. Like its predecessors and successors, the ZiL 114 was handcrafted, with the Zavod Imeni Likhacheva producing (all by hand) only a few dozen examples a year, including the body panels which were hammered into shape on wooden bucks. The 114 was powered by a V8 engine paired with two- or three-speed automatic transmissions, making it very rare for that factor alone.

zil 117
The 117 was frequently used as an escort car in government motorcades, intended to transport bodyguards.

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The shorter 117 was even rarer, developed later in production to serve as a car for bodyguards escorting other officials who were usually in a ZiL 114 limousine. Only about fifty were built, including a small number of convertibles, which remained in service from the early 1970s to the late 1990s. The 117 itself debuted in 1971, sharing the 7.0-litre V8 engine, good for around 300 bhp, with the 114 longer, and fitted with the latest three-speed automatic transmission that has been introduced in the ZiL range.

The last year of production for the 117 and 114 was 1978 when the ZiL factory switched to its successor, known as the 115, or 4104 using the later model index.

The last generation of 115 cars saw the debut of a similar shortened version dubbed the 41041, of which only a few dozen were produced from the late 1980s to the late 1990s. But the 41041s never really served as cars. escort, as the security services largely switched to using cheaper, mass-produced GAZ sedans in their place.

It’s safe to say that the 117 was rare at the time and was rarely seen even in government motorcades. Two-door convertible versions of the 117, nicknamed 117V, served as parade cars for military parades, first in Moscow and then in Leningrad, and the 115 range spawned its own two-door convertibles in the early 1980s which replaced the 117V. Only four or five convertibles based on the 117 were built.

zil 117
A small number of two-door convertibles were built on the 117 chassis for military parades, along with a number of five-door station wagons which served as ambulances.

ZIL

The surviving copies of the 117 almost all settled in private collections in Russia and the former USSR, but a couple went to other parts of Europe. Even though a few of the latest generation 115 limos have found their way to the States, we wouldn’t bet on seeing the 117 or 114 at concours in the States anytime soon.

How did something as rare or random as a ZiL 117 end up in a Bond movie?

The reasons for these cameos tend to be quite prosaic: film shoots on location usually source their cars from local film production agencies who keep a list of classic car owners in the area whose cars can be borrowed for filming or television, for a fee. This means that in many cases, especially in period films, background cars tend to be locally sourced, as they say. So the appearance of the ZiL in the movie is probably just one factor of a classic collector having an interesting vintage car that could be used by the studio for a few days.

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