efe-epaMoscow

The ZIL-111V cabriolet in which Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin rode after the first manned space flight in 1961 will be auctioned on Saturday.

The convertible is one of 12 cars of that model manufactured in the Soviet Union and will go under the hammer at the Museum Dyatkovo Crystal in Moscow with a starting price of $2.9 million.

It is still in perfect condition almost 40 years after the Russian cosmonaut was welcomed as a hero in the Russian capital.

The turquoise ZIL-111V was adorned with garlands of flowers and two Soviet flags for Gagarin’s star-studded reception.

It covered a distance of 30 kilometres between Vnukovo Airport and the Kremlin.

Gagarin made the entire journey standing in the car along with his wife, Valentina, and then Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev.

Manufactured between 1960 and 1962, the Soviet convertible is equipped with an automatic 5,980 cc V-cylinder engine weighing 2.6 tons and has a maximum speed of 170 kilometres per hour.

It was inspired by the classic American Packard Caribbean but has four doors instead of two and capacity for up to seven passengers.

Khrushchev, who had at least one ZIL-111V, gave one of the convertibles to then Cuban leader Fidel Castro and another to the General Secretary of the German Democratic Republic Erich Honecker, according to Litfund auction house.

Gagarin’s convertible was manufactured in 1960 and, four years later, was sent to Yerevan, the capital at the time of the Socialist Republic of Armenia, for the official visit of Iran's Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

It was in Armenia where Andrei Kovalyov, the current owner of the ZIL-111V, bought it in 2005.

"It had been stored in a garage for more than 40 years," Kovalyov told Efe.

“All its parts are original, including the tires. It is in perfect condition."

Kovalyov did not want to reveal how much he paid for the vehicle.

"When I go for a ride, everyone turns to look at the car. They take their phones and start taking photos," he added.

Kovalyov keeps his convertible in a garage along with several other luxury vehicles.

Twenty other cars will be auctioned along with the ZIL-111V, including a Hispano-Suiza HS 26 Junior Ballot, from 1931 used by monarchs and personalities such as Albert Einstein, Pablo Picasso and André Citroën.

The starting price for the Hispano-Suiza, found in Belgium and later acquired by a Russian citizen, was set at $499,000. EFE-EPA

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