The Bilenkin Vintage is a two-toned, Russian domestic market rebody of a previous BMW 3 Series. It’s made to look like a Volga. It has BBS-style wire rims straight from the Eighties, chrome headlight surrounds and “jewelry items of pure gold and diamonds.” We really, really like it.
Russia has a checkered history of tinkering with foreign cars. Remember the first Moskvitch, a cloned Opel Kadett made on the original German assembly line "acquired" from Brandenburg after the war? Easy to work on, yet hardly as advanced as what the auto industry came up with outside the Soviet Union. Still, with a high demand for locally produced cars, the Soviets carried one, eventually creating the world's first unibody SUV, the Lada Niva.
And this cartoonish luxury coupe with a paisley interior? This we love, because despite the Vintage’s German bones, the car’s spirit is joyously, fiendishly Russian.
Two models of the car debuted at the recent Dubai Auto Show, each wearing a shapely, chrome-heavy shell that totally camouflaged the BMW’s shape. One, shall we say, goes full Moscow. The paint is two-tone teal and gold, bisected by a thick chrome strake. The wheels are also gold, and wear white-walled tires. Inside, things get even more indulgent, past even the Kremlin’s most lavish stateroom. Frosted shift knob? Of course. Walnut inlays with jeweled ornaments of silver, gold and diamonds? De rigueur. Wildly careening paisley and green leather upholstery? Splash a shot of Stoli across my face and call me Uncle Vanya.
A second model shows a bit more of the insidious Western Influence. It wears BMW-esque alloys, a serious gunmetal grey paintjob and toned-down, if lavish, interior of brown, quilted leather, burgundy carpets and black leather touchpoints. Pricing remains up in the air, and as with any bespoke car, such numbers should be high and climb quickly as you enact your personal taste. Figure on a minimum ownership of two Siberian oil-field contracts to climb behind this retro-chic sled.