Cars, Guns and Vodka - Our Interview With Leo From Dartz Special
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For those who read CarBuzz regularly, Dartz is a familiar name. We've had at least a mild fascination with the Latvian luxury brand for some time, and as you're no doubt aware, we run Dartz stories every chance we get. Dartz is a luxury carmaker like no other. Most luxury vehicles are very sober affairs, built for the country club set, and those who use hereditary titles to address members of their own families.
The thing is, those aren't the only people with money. Quite a few moneyed people like to show off a bit, but this can be more difficult than it seems. A Lamborghini will definitely get you noticed in the Wal-Mart parking lot, but there are some parties where every other guest will pull up in something with a bull or prancing horse on it.
This is where Dartz comes in. No two vehicles from Dartz are the same, and the available customization options are a bit more significant than having your brake calipers painted red. Dartz is involved in several aspects of selling the luxury lifestyle, but there are two major areas which they are involved in, both relating to cars. The first of these is their vinyl films. In their relentless (perhaps maniacal) efforts to offer the most unique vehicle customization options, Dartz has created a whole line of wraps, some of which are outrageous colors, and some which are even given specific textures. Your car can be made to feel like crocodile skin, snake skin or even like a €500 banknote. Some of these films obviously aren't for everyone, but the beauty of it being a film is that if you decide you don't like it, or get bored with it, it can be removed or changed for a different film.
Dartz pushes the customization angle pretty hard, and this is most apparent in the vehicles which they build themselves. Their vehicle is called the Prombron, and it is both one of the most opulent vehicles in the world and fully armored. Dartz takes a good deal of pride in the fact that the only real limits on what is available as options for their Prombron luxury armored vehicle are your imagination and bank account. Dartz has installed Jacuzzis for some customers, and turned the back of one Prombron into a sort of rolling armored bedroom. This is all, of course, terribly expensive and more often than not, a bit questionable in terms of taste.
None of which bothers Leonard Yankelovich, or Leo, as he likes to be called, the man at the Dartz helm. He sets the example for his customers by running his company any damn way he pleases. He throws in bizarre extras with the Prombron, customers get free bottles of vodka, tins of expensive caviar, and gold-plated cell phones or handguns with their purchase of a car. In some instances, what you are actually paying for is one of these extras. As Leo tells it, you get a free Prombron with your purchase of one of his €1 million bottles of vodka.
The Dartz website, and pretty much all of their promotional material, extol the virtues of vodka, firearms and (of course) naked women. Leo frequently gets publicity by methods which would probably be frowned upon at the country club. Of course, Leo is selling a different kind of luxury, and at least his promotional activities are always entertaining. He explains that there is a Russian saying which is something similar to our "go big or go home", and this is the philosophy that he uses to run his business.
He also has a surprisingly fine-tuned sense of history, and his press releases almost always cite some sort of historical precedent or event which he can tie into the vehicle. Some of these premises are a bit flimsy, but he is someone who clearly takes a good deal of pride in Russian history and engineering achievements. The Dartz headquarters is even located in the former Russo-Balt factory in Riga, Latvia. Russo-Balt were coachbuilders to the czars, and later supplied armored cars for the army and various VIP's, something which Leo sees Dartz as being a continuation of.
I wanted to interview Leo for this article, but when I spoke to him on the phone, he said he would prefer to write his answers to my questions.
This is probably for the best, since Leo has a certain way with words which I wouldn't have been able to do justice to. So although English is not Leo's first language, and his grammar is therefore not quite perfect, we're happy to have the chance to publish his answers verbatim. We have also included a Dartz promotional video with Leo talking about the Prombron. It's quite a thing as well.
"Воровать, - так миллион! Ебать, - так королеву!"
You make a lot of different kinds of films, have you always made films for cars or were there other films first?
Hmmmmmmmm... Films we make are like dress - it's pret-a-porter, daily driver films which are grey like coalminer underwear in December, and so called haut couture - films which people are proud to install. As now there are tons of players on pret-a-porter films - we choose haut couture, and yes, now car first - after that we dress it. It's like woman - at first we choose HER, after - HER dress.
The Prombron is a unique vehicle, what made you decide to make an armored luxury SUV instead of just a regular luxury SUV?
If You want to reply me in one sentence - I will try to translate Russian prowerb "Воровать, - так миллион! Ебать, - так королеву!". "If stole - MILLION, if FUCK - queen". May be my translation is wrong, but I hope You catch an idea.
There are full market of luxury SUV, there are full market of armored luxury SUV. And we don't call our masterpiece SUV - I don't like that abbreviation. We call it LAV - Luxury Armored Vehicle, sound like LOVE :. We want to be different. As brand which traditions we keep - is really unique. Just imagine RBVZ - start make luxury trains for tzars family at 1874. That was start of luxury coachbuilding. At 1907 was opened automotive department, and at 1909 was made first car - RussoBalt. At 1912 RBVZ became Russian Tzar supplier, Russian Army supplier and at 1914 made first armored car. At 1913 world first 4 engine bomber - Ilay Murometc. I can write you lot of historical facts - but shortly, there are ONLY three car brands in the world which are more than hundred years old, make armored cars more than hundred years, supplied royal families and still make super cars. Two first everybody know - Rolls&Royce and Mercedes&Benz. Third one was forgotten for some 90-years - Russo-Balt or PROMBRON'. The history of this brand is interesting and complicated - like history of our contry. And we are really proud that our factories located in two historical places - RBVZ - Russko-Baltiykiy Vagonniy Zavod - where located DARTZ , and Putilovsky Zavod - where located designers team , and where at 1917 was made armored car which shocked and shooked the world - Famous Lenin's "bronevichok". And also lot of teams - BMW, SAAB e.t.c are proud of their airplane relatives. But - famous and uncopied helicopter grandfather - Sikorsky was RBVZ engeneer, and now at BTAZ N2 (after revolution RBVZ was renamed to BTAZ) Russian engeneers are making spaceship.
How we, have such history and such grandgrandparents can make "just SUV", or "just luxury SUV".
NO AND NEVER.
Only best, only first. Every DARTZ car is individual and unique. It's haut couture car.
You offer a lot of different options for the Prombron, which are your favorites?
My favorite is RussoBaltique Vodka - we have two kinds, which copy Vodka's which was with brave Russian drivers Nagel and Mikhailoff who win at Monte Carlo 1912. Secons one, yes, I am afraid to tell - unloved interior. And also we are proud that first in the world installed TELEFUNKEN 8-camera's parking system.
Do your customers usually buy a Prombron because they need an armored car, or because they just like having it?
At first - when we start sales in Russian armor was first.
Now - outlook, brand, uniqueness, luxury and of - course - safety. But not bullet safety. Safety on road. All cars now are made from 2-3 milimeter steel. DARTZ - 6 mm armored KRUPP steel double sandwich. So called "KAPSULA" system which was created for Stalin's car, but now also used for Obama's Caddy allow You to feel safe on the road, even road is full of drunken truck drivers.
Your cars come with some interesting extras, vodka, caviar, guns. Can people buy these things from Dartz separately?
Yes, of course - they can buy everything and anything from our apparel. But anycase they will get car with any item.
Next year we are planning to launch "DARTZ. Spirit of Heroes - Spirit For Heroes " Shop - CarZ & Vodka, Caviar & GunZ and so on. Like also launch RussoBaltique VODKA&ZAKUSKA slow.drink franchisee network.
We have no now so many customers like RR or MB - but after 90-years brake we want to conquer luxury car LAVers hearts.
The way you promote your company is very different from most luxury brands, what made you decide to advertise like this?
Nothing. We don't make any decisions. We don't have board member meetings. We don't have shareholders. We don't have Publicity and Marketing department.
We sell like we live. We live funny. I was really surprised when I noticed "Funky business" book - as we were in that many years before two hairless managers wrote such book.
I can't imagine myself selling car in white shirt, tie and suite. May be because when I sold first spare from armored car I was in dirty uniform of soviet soldier, and I was just 18 years old.
Can you tell us a bit about what we can expect from Dartz next?
Good question. From one side - really don't know, as ideas in my head born every minute. From other side - afraid to tell - as some of our ideas was stolen before we finish them.