Ruth and I are back from Latvia and Lithuania, both far richer destinations than we anticipated.
Riga, Latvia’s capital, has a number of offbeat, worthwhile attractions, my second favorite being the Rigas Morotmuzejs, or Riga Motor Museum.
Aija (pronounced Eye’ uh) gave us a comprehensive tour of the Museum’s fascinating Soviet car collection, the stars of which are pictured above. In 1980 Leonid Brezhnev ran into a truck in his Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow in Moscow. Presiding over the Soviet Union as General Secretary at the time, he was still in office two years later when he died. The car was towed to the Kremlin and remained there until the Museum acquired it in the 1980s. Aija told us that Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, now a division of BMW, is not too happy about this damaged vehicle being on display here.
Also on display is the Lincoln Continental Town Car, a hulking 53A ASV, given to Brezhnev in 1973 by President Nixon during a state visit to Washington DC.
Brezhnev really doted on luxury cars and amassed a collection of more than 20, including a Jaguar. So much for Communism’s claims of equality, which writer George Orwell apparently nailed in Animal Farm. This museum has 3 of Brezhnev’s collection favorites.
Communist party leaders all drove luxury cars. Many of their ZiLs, modeled on the USA’s Packard, are on display. Only 10 to 12 were made each year.
Josef Stalin is seen in the Museum and in the photo above in the back seat of his ZiS-115S limo, an understandably heavily armored model. About 40 were made.
Nearby, a life-sized model of author Maxim Gorky stands proudly next to his Lincoln KB model 277B, a present to him from the Soviet Government in 1934.
In addition to the Kremlin Collection, many interesting vehicles are in the Riga Motor Museum, which is outside of the city but easy to get to, including a sleek Auto Union V16 type C/D German racing car made for mountain climbing competitions in 1938. The all-white vehicle on display is described as an authentic copy, a wonderful oxymoron. The sale of the original paid for the entire museum.
I’ll tell you about another museum, my favorite, tomorrow.