Pa­parazzi-proof ar­moured car

The Advertiser - Motoring - - NEWS - RICHARD BLACK­BURN

THIS could be the ul­ti­mate rap­per’s ac­ces­sory.

A Lat­vian ar­moured car builder has built two lux­ury lim­ou­sines it claims are pa­parazzi proof.

The Dartz Prom­bon Black Al­li­ga­tor and Black Shark have sen­sors that look for in­fra red sig­nals sent by cam­eras when they fo­cus.

Com­pany owner Leonard Yankelovich says if the sen­sors de­tect the cam­era sig­nals they ac­ti­vate a bank of strobe lights on the car, mak­ing it im­pos­si­ble for the cam­era or pho­tog­ra­pher to fo­cus. “All stars who or­der our car love it,” he says.

Dartz, which has built a rep­u­ta­tion for build­ing the most op­u­lent — and taste­less — ve­hi­cles on the road, traces its roots back to a coach builder and ar­moured ve­hi­cle maker in Riga. The com­pany built rail­way coaches for Tsar Ni­cholas and ar­moured cars for Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotksy. One of its first cre­ations was the Dik­ta­tor.

It cre­ated con­tro­versy in 2011 when it boasted that its new Prom­bon ar­moured car had seats lined with leather made from whale fore­skins. Af­ter an out­cry it later with­drew the ma­te­rial from sale.

Yankelovich made the news re­cently when he of­fered to build an ar­moured ve­hi­cle for US Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump. He posted a ren­der­ing of the “Trump­mo­bile” on In­sta­gram.

The com­pany’s lat­est cre­ations, named af­ter Rus­sian mil­i­tary he­li­copters, are based on the Mercedes-Benz GLS63 SUV, which is pow­ered by a 5.5litre bi-turbo V8.

Yankelovich says non­ar­moured ve­hi­cles are coated in kevlar and car­bon fi­bre, while the ar­moured va­ri­ety have a kevlar-coated ti­ta­nium body.

One cus­tomer or­dered what Yankelovich claims is the world’s most ex­pen­sive steer­ing wheel. It has an al­li­ga­tor/ st­ingray skin steer­ing wheel with 292 black di­a­monds and two ru­bies on a white gold steer­ing wheel badge.

Other po­lit­i­cally in­cor­rect seat and steer­ing wheel cov­er­ings in­clude os­trich, shark and python.

Dartz has shown some of its cre­ations at mo­tor shows — its whale pe­nis-clad Prom­bon was shown at the Top Mar­ques show in Monaco in 2011. It was priced at a ru­moured $1.6 mil­lion, although Dartz never con­firmed the cost.

“We don’t de­clare prices pub­lic for many rea­sons. Just de­clare Al­li­ga­tor five ze­ros, Shark six,” he says. “It’s like an ex­pen­sive restau­rant — if you can af­ford, you don’t ask.”

One man who can af­ford the car is Rus­sian cos­mo­naut GianMarco Cab­bibe. He is one of the first five buy­ers of the cars, which will have an ini­tial run of 50 units. Other buy­ers have asked to re­main anony­mous but Yankelovich says some US rap­pers and celebrities are among the buy­ers. Kanye West is ru­moured to own two and Sacha Baron Co­hen used one in his film None have been sold to Aus­tralians, although one has been made in right-hand drive.

The keys for the cars are shipped to cus­tomers in a replica of the black box flight recorder from a Rus­sian Soyuz space­craft.

For those who can’t af­ford the real thing, Dartz is re­leas­ing a mo­bile phone game that it says will “make you feel like an im­mor­tal dic­ta­tor driv­ing these un­stop­pable ma­chines”.

In an­other side­line Yankelovich also makes gar­lic vodka.

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