Russo-Balt (sometimes Russobalt or Russo-Baltique) was one of the first Russian companies that produced cars between 1909 and 1923.
The Russo-Baltic Wagon Factory (German: Russisch-Baltische Waggonfabrik; Russian: Русско-Балтийский вагонный завод, RBVZ) was founded in 1874 in Riga, then a major industrial centre of Russian Empire. Originally the new company was a subsidiary of the Van der Zypen & Charlier company in Cologne-Deutz, Germany. In 1894 the majority of its shares were sold to investors in Riga and St. Petersburg, among them local Baltic German merchants F. Meyer, K. Amelung, and Chr. Schroeder, as well as Schaje Berlin, a relative of Isaiah Berlin. The company eventually grew to 3,800 employees. In 1915 the factory was evacuated to Russia.
Between 1909 and 1915 the cars were built at the railway car factory RBVZ. After the 1917 revolution a second factory was opened in St. Petersburg, where they built armoured cars on chassis produced in Riga. In 1922, the production was moved from St. Petersburg to BTAZ in Moscow. Russo-Balt produced trucks, buses and cars, often more or less copies of cars from the German Rex-Simplex or Belgian Fondu Trucks.
Only two original cars have survived to the present day. One is a Russo-Balt fire engine built on truck chassis Type D in year 1912. Car is on display at the Riga Motor Museum in Latvia. Another one is Russo-Balt K12/20 from 1911, is shown at the Polytechnical Museum in Moscow, Russia.
Today in Riga, Latvia, there is a company named Russo-Balt that manufactures trailers.
In early 1912 company director M. V. Shidlovsky hired 22-year-old Igor Sikorsky as the chief engineer for RBVZ's new aircraft division in St. Petersburg. Sikorsky's airplane had recently won a military aircraft competition in Moscow. He brought several engineers with him to RBVZ, and agreed that the company would own his designs for the next five years.
This group quickly produced a series of airplanes. Among these were the S-5, S-7, S-9, S-10 (1913), S-11, S-12, S-16 (1915), S-20 (1916), Russky Vityaz (The Grand) (1913), a series named Il'ya Muromets starting in 1913, and the Alexander Nevsky (1916).
Relatedly, in 1914, Shidlovsky was appointed commander of the newly formed EVK (Eskadra vozdushnykh korablei, Squadron of Flying Ships). This squadron flew Il'ya Muromets bombers during World War I.
The Bolshevik Revolution brought an end to the aircraft business. Sikorsky left for France in 1918. Shidlovsky and his son were arrested in 1919, while attempting to go to Finland, and were murdered.
The brand "Руссо-Балт" was resurrected in 2006 by a group of German and Russian investors to propose a luxury concept car, the Russo-Baltique Impression, billed as a coupé with strong hints of European styling of the early 1930s. The car uses mechanical parts of Mercedes origin (Mercedes CL63 AMG), was first introduced at the 2006 Concours d'Elegance.
The car will be produced by the German company Gerg GmbH (or perhaps Russo-Baltique Engineering GmbH). Total production of 10 to 15 cars maximum is expected, with a production rate of 2 to 3 cars a year. The selling price would be around 50,000,000 rubles or 870,000 US dollars.
The current owner of the international trademark "Russo-Balt" is Russo-Balt, LLC (OOO), Moscow, Russia.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Russo-Balt vehicles.|