“Russo-Balt”: Russia had its own Rolls-Royce 115 years ago The history of the legendary car brand “Russo-Balt”: From Riga to St. 10:18 to St. Petersburg

The automobile department of the Russian-Baltic Transport Works (RBVZ) in Riga was founded in 1908. The enterprise, whose main profile was the production of railway wagons, during this period, as it is said now, tried to diversify its business. In addition to phaetons, the facility also produced automobiles and aircraft during the different periods of its operation.

Ivan Aleksandrovich Fryazinovsky became the director of the newly formed automobile department. 26-year-old Julien Potter, who previously served as chief designer of the Belgian automobile brand Fondu, was invited to the department for a five-year contract. This company supplied railway equipment to the Russian-Baltic Plant, but also produced cars in small quantities.

In Riga, an engineer, originally from Switzerland, reproduced the designs of two Fondu cars with factory indices C and K, and in 1909 they began to be produced under the brand name “Russian-Baltic”, Wrote famous Soviet and Russian automobile historian Lev Shugurov on the brand’s centennial anniversary.

Russo-Balt cars were introduced in 1910 in St. It aroused great interest among the public at the international auto show in St. Petersburg,

But they were distinguished by a relatively high price, and there were very few actual orders – much fewer cars were sold during this event than expected – only 10 units.

Since 1910, the automotive department of the Russian-Baltic Plant was headed by Russian engineer Dmitry Bondarev, who came to this post after successfully completing the first task – designing an engine for a car. Later, the engines of the first Russian aircraft were assembled in the automotive division of RBVZ. Years later, thanks to this experience, Bondarev would become the first director of the Likhachev Plant, better known as ZIL.

state order

The production of Russian-Balts was helped by the expansion of government orders – St. Captain Peter Sekretev, who commanded a training automobile company in St. Petersburg, arrived at the enterprise in Riga. Largely thanks to his efforts, the Russian-Baltic Plant began to receive orders, and its cars were widely used for headquarters needs in the army of the Russian Empire. The army purchased almost two-thirds of the vehicles produced (more than 400 vehicles).

In 1910, two Russo-Balts were purchased for the needs of His Imperial Majesty’s garage.

however, these machines were not used directly to serve the royal family.

But they were widely used as personnel vehicles in army units in different parts of the vast empire, up to Vladivostok.

Wide model range

The number of modifications of the first Russian industrial car offered to customers gradually increased. The first car had a 4.5-liter engine with 30 hp. Production of modifications began in 1912 and 1913 with engines of 30 horsepower and 40 horsepower, respectively.

A wide range of body options were also available: double phaeton, enclosed limousine, open-back caravan and two-seater sports options.

The limousine was particularly striking with its sloping roof, the graceful curve of the A-pillar behind the driver’s seat, and the glass rear doors.

Only 17 of these cars were produced. The most common was the Russo-Balt with an open torpedo body – for 9 years the plant produced 285 of these cars.

Trucks in the Russo-Balta model series appeared in 1912 and were produced for three years. During this time, more than 60 copies of types D, M and T were produced. The maximum load capacity of the Type T model was 5 tons and the rear wheels were driven by chains.

The first of the “D Type” trucks with a carrying capacity of 1 ton was produced in fire department, postal and cash register versions.

In 1913, a copy of the Russo-Balt appeared, designed by the French engineer Adolphe Kegresse and equipped with a half-track propulsion unit operating in Russia at that time. A half-track Rolls-Royce with a similar Kegress drive can still be seen in the Gorky Leninskie museum reserve in the Moscow region.

sports success

One of the main ways to popularize the car in those years was participation in competitions, and the Russo-Balts crews actively participated in the races. Just a few months after the release of the first car, designer Julien Potter took it from Riga to St. He took it to the start of the St. Petersburg – Riga rally and finished in fourth place without penalty.

In 1912, the crew of Andrei Nagel and Vadim Mikhailov participated in the Monte Carlo Rally. The vehicle was fitted with a lightweight two-seater body, a large gas tank was fitted and a four-speed transmission was fitted. The crew finished 9th in the overall standings and received a special award for the longest distance traveled – Russian racers in St. He went from St. Petersburg to Monaco alone.

forced relocation

After the outbreak of World War I, the front was rapidly approaching Riga and the Russian-Baltic Transport Works were evacuated inland. Car production settled in Tver, and automobile production was transferred to Moscow. Part of the equipment was sent to Petrograd. Armored vehicles on the Russo-Baltov chassis were produced at the Izhora plant during and after the First World War.

The part of the factory evacuated to Moscow was restarted in the Fili region on July 1, 1917, retaining the name “Russian-Baltic Transport Plant Moscow Automobile Plant”. After the final nationalization in 1919, the plant was redesigned as an armored tank factory and in 1922 it was transferred under concession to the German company Junkers, which had established aircraft production in the USSR. However, five cars of the older design were renamed “Prombron” in Moscow in 1922 made. Later, the plant’s workshops became part of the Khrunichev Center.

what’s left

The only copy of Russo-Balt preserved in Russia is exhibited in the collection of the Polytechnic Museum in Moscow. Originally ordered by the Aviation School in Tver, the machine was purchased for personal use in 1929 by Alexander Orlov, a resident of the city of Kimry. He drove until the beginning of the Great Patriotic War and went to the front in 1941.

The neglected car’s engine froze in the winter, but it survived.

In 1966 Orlov sold the vintage car to Moscow’s Gorky Film Studio and from there it hit To the collection of the Polytechnic Museum.

Another Russo-Balt recreated from the remains of the original cars is preserved in the Riga Motor Museum. A fire truck is on display there.

Many people born in the last Soviet years have known Russo-Balt since childhood, without even realizing it. A model of this car was one of the most frequently received gifts for a child’s birthday in the 1980s.

What are you thinking?

June 2024 marks 115 years since the start of production of Russo-Balt cars. Their production began at the Russian-Baltic factory in Riga and continued in St. continued in St. Petersburg. Industrial production of Russian cars was interrupted by the events of the First World War and the revolution. About the history of the legendary brand – in the material of socialbites.ca.

Source: Gazeta


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