The approaching year of the snake on the Chinese calendar will ring in a new era of opulence for DARTZ Motorz Company, the Latvia-based luxury tank manufacturer. The Black Snake, the company’s first non-armored vehicle, is based on the Mercedes GL 63 AMG and is geared only at the Chinese market with an even more sybaritic model, the Black Falcon, to arrive in the Middle East later this year.
The Black Snake is now the centerpiece of the brand with high performance, all-wheel drive offerings and the usual garnishings of diamond-encrusted hood ornaments. No price has been named, but it’s expected to cost well over $1,000,000.
The Black Snake tries to mimic the first-rate comfort of the S-Class with the performance of an AMG vehicle.The AMG 5.5-litre V8 bi-turbo engine has 557 hp and a maximum torque of 560 lb-ft of torque. The AMG RIDE CONTROL sports suspension provides high-level driving dynamics. It goes 0 to 60 in 4.9 seconds–enough to get your garden variety oligarch out of trouble in a hurry.
Run by Leonard F. Yankelovich, DARTZ goes by the tagline “Bullet Proof Trend Setters” and operates out of the old Russo-Balt factory in Riga. The company makes armored tanks like the T-98 Kombat (which goes for a measly $225,000) and the $1-million Prombron, which has the famous accoutrements like whale foreskin leather, the same as used on Aristotle Onassis’s yacht.
The company, which also builds the $1.6 million Dartz Prombron Monaco Red Diamond Edition, outfitted armored vehicles for Czar Nicholas II, Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky. Fittingly, admiral General Aladeen, Sacha Baron Cohen’s character in his film The Dictator, drives one such DARTZ vehicle, the auto distributor for princes, titans of industry, and (historically) Soviet leaders.
The body of the Black Snake is made from space aluminum using the Soviet “kapsula” technology first employed for Joseph Stalin’s armored car. The vehicle has a radiator grille with golden flourishes, and the hood of this Chinese edition vehicle will be covered with leaf gold formed like snakeskin. There’s even an optional diamond hood ornament from Smolensk Kristall.
The lap of luxury is yours with seats made out of the exotic leather of your choice–snake, crocodile belly, ostrich, and whale penis. The seats feature double topstitching in contrasting colors and DARTZ badges to commemorate the year of the snake. The dashboard, armrests and door paneling come in snake wood. The floor mats made from white shark skin.
Yankelovich despises the term SUV when used about his vehicles.
“For DARTZ customers who don’t use their big cars for off-loading, don’t deliver a mess from the farms nor weekly food from the supermarket, why do they still have to drive SUVs?” he asks.
Instead, he calls them BNOs (Bespoke, Noble, Opulent).
The ostentation of the Black Snake will cater to the tastes Chinese market, but the price tag, with six zeroes safely slapped on the end, is a far cry from the average price for a new vehicle in the U.S.–just a hair under $30,000, according to the National Automobile Dealers Association.
So why do people need such a bespoke car?
“A lady will never go to party in the same dress as another,” Yankelovich said. “But still she will easily come to a party in the same black S500, or the same white Bentley GT, or the same gray Porsche Cayenne? It will be a serial car in serial style.”
That’s the wrong approach and plain complacency, according to Yankelovich. The hunger for distinctive elements in a vehicle, he feels, is necessary and symptomatic of a country like China with vastly expanding wealth and consumers who increasingly yearn to be unique.
For sports car lovers there are tons of labels who make bespoke cars like Pagani, Koeniggsegg, Zenvo, Panoz and so on. But DARTZ is the only company that dubs up your big car.
“It will be your bulletproof investment–and not because it will protect you from bullets,” Yankelovich said. “But because it will save your money, as the car is a 21-century masterpiece.” In other words, paying a premium for a car is in vain if it’s just like another Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupé pulling up to the Ritz.
If that’s not convincing enough, there’s something to sweeten the deal: Every owner gets 56 g of premium Mottra caviar delivered monthly for the two-year warranty time. There’s also the chance to purchase three types of RussoBaltique Vodka with your choice of a diamond filter.