Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


AT FIRST, it sounded like fake news, or maybe a 21st-century version of Dada art: The New York Times, January 6, 2018, reported, “It was meant to be a collector’s secret, but someone knew the secret, stole the secret and, it seems, drank the secret: what the owner calls ‘the most expensive vodka bottle in the world.’ ”

This bottle of vodka was valued at $1.3 million.

What’s more, and what caught my eye, this caper involved an arcane classic car in the 1912 Monte Carlo Rally. And its modern exotic armored SUV counterpart. And Kanye West and Kim Kardashian.

Geez, the 1912 Monte Carlo Rally and a $1.3 million bottle of vodka?? Full details of the other three proliferate on the internet other than here at SimanaitisSays; I merely provide links for the curious.

The caper came to my attention through two short New York Times items, one titled “Valuable Vodka Bottle Reported Stolen Found in Copenhagen,” January 5, 2018; the other more detailed account appeared a day later, January 6, 2018: “Stolen Vodka Bottle, Said To Be Worth $1.3 Million, Is Found Drained and Dented.”

By the way, this second account even shows surveillance video of the actual theft of the $1.3 million bottle. It had resided on loan in Cafe 33, a Copenhagen pub from which it was filched. Three days later, police announced the bottle had been found—dented and empty.

According to the second Times article, “The bottle was created by Dartz Motorz, a car manufacturer in Riga, Latvia, and fitted with an original 1912 leather ribbon from the company’s first Monte Carlo rally car.”


The prized, stolen vodka bottle is said to be made of 6.6 lbs. of gold, the equivalent amount of silver, with a diamond-encrusted cap fashioned to resemble a vintage car emblem. Image by Brian Ingberg/Ritzau Foto, via Associated Press in The New York Times, January 7, 2018.

The tale begins with Русско-Балтийский вагонный завод, the Russo-Balt Wagon Factory, founded in 1874 in Riga, now Latvia, back then part of the Russian Empire. Between 1909 and 1923, Russo-Balt produced motor cars. And, in fact, the company entered the 1912 Monte Carlo Rally, only the second running of this famous event.

The Russo-Balt C24-55. This, a following image, and details of the car are given at

A Russo-Balt C24-55 was professionally prepared for the rally, commissioned by Andrej Platonovich Nagel, editor and publisher of the St. Petersburg magazine Кар, Car. Nagel also piloted this purpose-built Russo-Balt, which began the rally in St. Petersburg, the most distant of the ten possible starting points. Other entrants started in Amsterdam, Berlin, Boulogne, Brussels, Geneva, Le Havre, Paris, Turin, and Vienna.

1911 Monte Carlo Rally cigarette card. Image from

The first two Montes were more than high-speed regularity runs to Monaco. Once there, a car’s participation in a concours d’elegance figured heavily in its final placing.

Nagel’s Russo-Balt. Image from

Nagel, his navigator Vagyim Alekszandrovics Mihajlov, and their Russo-Balt No. 6 finished ninth overall. Thirty-five cars made it to Monaco out of the 65 (possibly 67) that started. This was all the more impressive, given that the event was run in January 1912.

Nagel, Mihajlov, and their Russo-Balt on the Monte, 1912. Image from

So what of the Dartz Motorz’ exotic armored SUV, Kayne West, and Kim Kardashian? Briefly, West bought a blinged-out $2.4 million Dartz Prombron Iron Diamond armored SUV. Latvian manufacturer Dartz Motorz is a sorta latter-day Russo-Balt, with a sorta recreation of Russo-Balt’s 1912 achievement. Dartz is also part of Dartz Grupa, the website of which has to be seen to be believed.

All these may not be fake news, but they sure border on irrelevant news.

In retrospect, The New York Times got it right in its brief coverage of the $1.3 million vodka botttle caper. I admit its report was light on Monte Carlo Rally history. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2018


  1. Mark W
    January 11, 2018

    Yikes, that Dartz website shows the level of decadence and decay humanity has reached!

  2. Michael Rubin
    January 11, 2018

    The Great Karnak would ask: “How do you prove you have too much money?”

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