The marque: The symbol of the power and prestige of the old Soviet Union and, for a time, the Russian Federation. Leaders from Stalin onwards loved them, but the traditional limousines are no longer made, and Zil confines itself to lorries these days.

The history: With roots going back to 1936, and originally known as ZIS, or the Zavod Imieni Stalina, the concern changed its name when Stalin suddenly went out of fashion after Khuschev's "secret speech" to the Communist Party congress denounced his excesses. So Stalin's favourite car maker was renamed in 1956 as Zavod Imieni Likhatchev, or ZIL. The limousines were originally inspired by Buicks and, after 1945 were more or less unashamed copies of big American Packard saloons, which Uncle Joe particularly liked the look of, having been presented with one by President Roosevelt. Various more modern looking models followed in the 1960s and 1970s, all rather upright and boxy and, strange to say, always rather American-looking. Just as American presidents would cart their Lincolns or Cadillacs to summits so Brezhnev and Gorbachev carried theirs with them too. All were hand-made at the plant in Moscow, the last models more than six metres (20ft) long, with a seven-litre engine capacity, a 3.5-tonne weight problem and seven seats covered in beige velvet. There was little competition, but the Chaika and Czech Tatra were rivals. Defining model: The Zil-117 of the 1970s, when the USSR was at the peak of its power.

They say: Very little. We say: Great cars, pity about the monstrous guys who owned these monsters.