27 December 2010

Sarbatori Fericite / Merry Christmas & New Year!

Sarabatori fericite!! Deoarece voi fi la munte fara internet, nu voi posta foarte mult in urmatoarele saptamani, insa voi reveni cu cateva materiale (eu zic) spectaculoase in Anul Nou!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! I will be up in the mountains without Internet for the next few weeks, but will return soon with (I think) some spectacular stuff in the New Year!

17 December 2010

Un blog care merita sprijinit / Blog worth following

Recent am descoperit blogul Cuban Classics. Merita din deplin! Despre masinile din anii 50 care inca circula in Cuba, cu foarte multe informatii despre fiecare model. Ca fapt divers, ARO-ul autohton e destul de comun pe strazile cubane. Situatia auto in Cuba poate fi comparata cu cea din Romania (sau alte tari comuniste) prin 1965, cand modele antebelice din fostul regim, multe din ele rare sau luxoase (si multe modificate din caiza lipsei de piese), circulau cot in cot cu masini mai moderne comuniste si primul val de automobile importate din Vest.

I recently discovered the blog Cuban Classics. Defintiely worth a look! About the Fifties cars which still drive around on the streets in Cuba, with heaps of info about each model. Incidentally, the Romanian ARO is still a relatively common sight in Cuba. The automobile situation there is perhaps comparable to that of Romania (or indeed other Eastern Bloc countries) in around 1965, where prewar models from the old regime, many of them rare and luxurious (and often badly modified due to lack of parts), rubbed flanks with more modern Communist cars and the first wave of vehicles imported from the West.

14 December 2010

Acum 105 ani / 105 years ago

Una din cele mai vechi imagini care arata un automobil in Romania, aceasta fotografie, aratand sediul ziarului Universul pe strada Brezoianu, a fost facuta in 1905 si recent publicata pe un blog specializand in istoria capitalei, Bucurestii Vechi.

In 1905 existau aproximativ o suta de masini pe teritoriul Romaniei, vasta majoritate in capitala. Lista proprietarilor era publicata lunar in revista Automobila. Si asa aflam ca aceasta masina, de marca necunoscuta dar posibil de origine franceza, era 99% masina detinuta de ziarul Universul, cea de-a 71-a inscrisa in tara, circuland sub numarul simplu de "71".

PS Lista ne arata inca cateva chestii interesante. Pe nr 49 e inscrisa prima femeie, Ecaterina Singuroff, rentiera. Iar masina nr 133 apartinea unui petrolist din Campina ... Lewis Hamilton.

One of the oldst pictures to show a car in Romania, this photograph was taken in 1905 and shows the headquarters of the Romanian newspaper Universul (Truth). It was recently published on another blog, the excellent Old Bucharest [Romanian-langugage] but I thought it needed sharing...

In 1905 there were approximately 100 cars in Romania, the vast majority in Bucharest. Lists of owners were published monthly in the Automobilul magazine. Having looked at the archives, it looks to be 99% certain that this particular car, of unknown make though possibly French, was that owned by the Universul newspaper. The 71st car to be registered in Romania, its license plates said, quite simply, "71".

PS The list shows us several interesting things. First of all, at number 49 comes the first woman to own a car, Ecaterina Singuroff, landowner. Second, vehicle number 1933 was owned by a petrol speculator in Campina ... a certain Lewis Hamilton!

9 December 2010

Peugeot 203 Racer...in Romania

Recent am fost extrem de intrigat sa citesc despre descoperira in Romania a unui Peugeot 203 modificat de Eugene Martin, cu multe accesorii extrem de interesante precum celebrul compresor Constantin, identic cu cel folosit de pilotul francez pe aceste masini in cursele din le Means. Am sapat mai mult si pot sa dezvalui un pic de istorie ... Masina, model 154, a fost modificata in cabriolimuzina la garajele lui Martin in Paris, primind, printre altele, un bot nou si compresorul Constantin. Martin era si el pilot de curse, concurand la GP si la Le Mans, printre altele. Jura ca putea dubla cuterea unui 203. Nu se site daca in primii ani acest Peugeot a participat la competitii, insa faptul ca primul proprietar (un medic francez) l-a adus la Martin dovedeste faptul ca era mare entuziasta de asa ceva.

Se pare ca acest doctor a avut treaba cativa ani in Romania. A adusa masina cu el, ulterior vanzand-o in zona Cluj. Original, masina era semidecapotabila, insa acoperisul a fost sudat. Candva, motorul s-a blocat. Actualul proprietar spune ca a fost in 1975; revista Classic & Sportscar spune '78...

Prin 1994, olandezul Nico Kuiper a gasit masina in star deplorabila la tara in Romania. Masina era pe post de cotet; doua din roti (de magneziu!) erau pe o caruta in satul in care zacea masina... Kuiper a oferit propretarului un TV color si a adus masina in Olanda. Astazi, cu interior modificat, si cu motorul ei reparat, masina participa cu brio la curse de masini istorice. Un sfarsit fericit. Pun pariu ca daca statea in Romania, de mult era tabla pe casa cuiva.

PS Interesant, mai exista cel putin un 203 in Romania... desi nu asa special.

PPS Classic & Sportscar greseste, Alexis Constantin nu era nici roman nici de origine romana, e francez get beget. Pacat - ar fi fost o poveste interesanta: compresorul Constantin se reintoarce in tara natala...

Recently, I was vry intrigued to read of the discovery, in Romania, of a racing-spec Peugeot 203 modified by Eugene Martin, with many extremely interesting accessories including a Constantin compressor identical to the one fitted to which the racing driver raced 203s at Le Mans. I dug a little further and found some more ... The car, a 1954 model, was modified at the Eugene Martin garages in Paris. Martin was himself a noted driver, participating in Grands Prix and at Le Mans, and claiming he could double the power of the Peugeot 203. Modifications included removing the centre section of the roof, turning it into a cabriolimousine, giving it a new front end, magnesium wheels, and of course the compressor. It's not known whether the 203 was ever raced in its youth, but the fact that the first owner (a French doctor) took it to Martin proves he was a significant enthusiast.

At some time, the first owner had to work a few years in Romania. He took the car with him but ended up selling it in the Ardeal region. The car drove around a bit until the engine seized and, spare parts being impossible to get behind the Iron Curtain, it was just abandoned in a yard. The current owner says that this happened in about 1975; Classic and Sportscar suggests 1978.

Fast forward to 1994 and a Dutchman, Nico Kuiper, came cross the car while travelling across Romania. It was not in good condition. In fact, it was being used as a kennel, with two of the magnesium alloys being on a horse and cart in the village. Undeterred, Kuiper swapped it for a colour TV and took it home to Holland. Restored with the original engine and wheels (though with a non-standard interior), the car now takes part in historic rallies. A happy ending! Had it stayed in Romania, it would almost have certainly been scrap.

PS There still is at least another 203 (though not so special) in Romania...

PPS Clasic & Sportscar is wrong in one respect - Alexis Constantin was neither Romanian nor of Romanian origin; he was French through and through. A shame, that - it would have been an excellent story, a Constantin compressor returning to the country of its creator...

2 December 2010

Cutii de chibrituri cu tema auto, anii 60 / 1960s motor-themed matchboxes

Anii 60 a fost deceniul cand romanii au (re-)descpoerit automobilul. Daca in 1961 numai cam 1000 de vehicule au sosit in tara, inclusiv vehicule de marfa, masini "second" si vehicule cumparate de stat, figura a crescut la 2,306 de masini nou noute in 1963 si peste 18,000 in 1969. Daca in 1960, in provincie mai ales, masina particulara era o chestie extrem de rara, la sfarsitul deceniului devenise destul de normal sa ai cel putin o ruda cu masina.

Desigur, cresterea vertiginoasa al automobilsmului a insemnat ca strada nu mai era loc pentru joc: masina devenise un pericol. Iar cine era sofer, nu trebuia numai sa se fereasca de copii si de alte masini: intotdeauna era riscul ca masina sa il lase in drum si sa fie nevoiet sa cheme ACR-ul! Aceste doua poze arata cutii de chibrituri din perioada 1968 - 1970. Amandoua teme ies in evidenta. Asa mod de reclama pur si simpul nu ar fi fost necesar cu zece ani mai devreme...

The Sixties was the period when Romania (re-)discovered the car as a means of personal transport. Whereas in 1961, around 1,000 vehicles were imported, including commercial vehicles and those imported by the state, in 1963 2,306 private buyers bought new cars, a figure which was to rise to over 18,000 by 1969. If in 1960, especially in the provinces, a private car was a rarity which would attract the whole town's attendion, by the end of the decade it was quite normal for at least one member of the family to own their own car.

Of course, the vertiginous rise in car ownership bought with it changes in culture. Road safety became a big thing: the street was no longer a playground, and the car became a new and frequent danger. And, if you were the driver, you didn't just have to watch out for children or other cars: breakdowns became a common occurrence for the average Romanian. These two pictures show matchboxes from the era which took the opportunity to address both themes. It would have been incredible for this form of advertising to exist in Romania a decade previously...

1 December 2010

Volga pick-up part 2, Pobeda pick-up

Doua descoperiri...

Prima, taxiurile Volga pick-up existau inca din 1968 si nu incepand cu 1970. In prima imagine, din 1968, se vede clar un exemplar. De fapt, deja prezentasem poza pe blog. Se pare ca si in Uniunea Sovietica, multe modele vechi sau accidentate au fost convertite artizanal in pick-up, de multe ori in regiuni mai sarace, regiuni in care si azi se mai vede cate o Pobeda sau Volga M21 facandu-si treaba.

A doua e chiar fascinanta. Studiand atent o poza din 1959, se vede, in statia de autofurgnete ITB, un pick-up, care nu poate fi decat un GAZ M20 Pobeda. In acel timp, stiam ca ITB folosea numai GAZ-69 sau primele modele de IMS ca autofurgonete. Iata totusi o Pobeda modificata artizanal. Ma intreb daca era singura in flota de taximetrie a capitalei.

Two things I found out recently...

First, when I said that pick-up Volga M21 taxis were introduced in around 1970, I was wrong. The above image, with one clearly visible, is from 1968. In fact, I had already presented this picture earlier. It seems that in the USSR too, may old or crashed Volga M21s were converted into pick-ups, mainly in poorer, outlying areas - where even today you can see the odd Volga M21 or Pobeda in daily use.

The second is more interesting. Looking carefully at a 1959 photo showing the commerical taxi rank in Bucharest, you can clearly see a pick-up, in the dinstinctive shape of the Gaz M20 Pobeda. I know that in those days the Bucharest public transport system used early AROs or GAZ 69 vehicles for carrying goods, but never a Pobeda converted to a pick-up. I wonder if it was the only one.

28 November 2010

Flota oficiala de Opel Admiral - The official fleet of Opel Admirals

In 1965 guvernul a comandat din Germania un lot de autoturisme Opel Admiral. Aceste masini erau aproape varf-de-gama - numai Opel Diplomat, cu o croserie identica, era mai luxos. Motorul era de 6 cilindri, sau 2.6 sau mai tarziu 2.8 litri. Nu multe au fost comandate - probabil sub 20 - si au fost destinate pentru ministere, in mod special la Ministerul de Interne. Prima poza, de pe fototeca coumnismului, e din 1966, intr-o piata din Bucuresti. A doua si a treia reprezinta coloana oficiala pentru vizita lui Charles de Gaulle in 1969.

Cel putin doua din aceste masini au supravietuit. O masina se afla intr-o comuna in zona Targu Neamt si, cand am vazut-o in 2007, inca circula zilnic. A doua masina, si ea in stare precara, se afla in judetul Constanta. Amandoua ar fi de vanzare. Presupun ca au fost masini oficiala pana cand decretul 277 din 1979 a fortat vanzare sau casarea unei mare parte din autoturismele statului.

In 1965 the Romanian government ordered from Germany a batch of Opel Admiral automobiles. These cars, powered by six-cylinder engnes of 2.6 or later 2.8 litres, were almost the range-topping Opel models. Only the Diplomat, esentially a badge-engineered version of the same car, was more luxurious. Not many were ordered - probably no more than 20 - and they were destined for Government departments, mainly the Ministry of the Interior. The first picture - from the online archive of Comunist images - shows a market in Bucharest in 1966. The second and third pictures show these cars in the official motorcade for Charles de Gaulle's visit in 1969.

At least two such cars have survived. One I found as a daily driver in 2007, in a village near Targu Neamt in the north of Romania. The other, in a similar condition, is for sale in the Constanta region. Presumbly they were used as official cars until
Decree 277 of 1979 necessitated the state auctioning off or scrapping such cars.

25 November 2010

Dacia 1310 in Corea de Nord / Dacia 1310 in North Korea

Da, exista si acolo...

Acum cateva luni, cand vorbeam despre autocamioneta TV-41 in Corea de Nord, am mentionat ca modelul Dacia 1310 se poate gasi acolo ca taximetru, dar si ca masina particulara. Au fost importate in anii 80, si, dupa detaliile vizibile pe taxmetrele albastre, e vorba de cel putin doua serii diferite. Deci poate cand toate sunt la REMAT in Romania, pasionatii de Dacia se vor duce la Pyongyang sa pescuiasca cate o piesa. (Sau poate nu!)

Incidental, cel mai rapandit taxiu in Pyongyang e (sau cel putin era) Volvo 144. Statul suedez a vrit sa fie amic cu coreenii si i-au lasat sa comandeze cam o mide de modele 144. Masinile au sost, coreenii n-au platit. Dar taxiurile tot le au. Erau, de fapt, si o prezenta in Bucurestii anilor 70... Iar echivalentul DDR-ist a cartierului Primaverii era poreclit Volvograd, pentru ca toti sefii comunisti erau pasionati de marca suedeza...

Yes, they have them over there...
Several months ago, when writing about the TV-41 minivan in North Korea, I mentioned that the Dacia 1310 was a popular taxi and private car in Pyongyang. Here's the proof! From the details on the two blue taxis, it seems that at least two lots were imported in the 1980s. Perhaps, when they've all been scrapped in Romania, enthusiasts will flock over there for spare parts. (Then again, perhaps not!)

Incidentally the most popular taxi in Pyongyang is (or at least was) the Volvo 144 from the early 1970s. It seems that Sweden, keen to become friendly with Socialist contries from a trade perspective, allowed an order of about a thousand vehicles to Pyongyang. The cars arrived, but the North Koreans refused to pay. Volvos were also by no means a rare sight in 1970s Bucharest, while, in East Germany, the smartest suburb where all the leaders had villas was nicknamed Volvograd, as they had one on every drive...

23 November 2010

Fiat 125

Din seria "Masinile Comunismului", doua poze color din 1977 aratand Fiaturi 125. Masina, foarte populara pentru elita sociala anilor 70, a fost importata in 250 exemplare pentru vanzare pe piata libera, numar care nu include exemplare destinate institutiilor sau importate neoficial. Paralel, au sosit in tara 250 Fiaturi 124, un celebru proprietar fiind soferul de curse Alexe de Vassal, masina fiind si astazi in stare excelenta.

Two colour photos from 1977 showing Fiat 125 cars. 250 of these cars, very popular among the Romanian social elite in the 70s, were imported and put up for sale: in addition to this, many cars were imported direct to institutions, while some maide their way to Romania on a less official level. In parallel, 250 124s were also imported, one prominent owner being the racing driver Alexe de Vassal, whose car is still in excellent condition today.

21 November 2010

Alfa-Romeo 8C 2900 Touring, 1942, #412039

Una din cele mai interesante masini care a existat in Romania...

Se pare ca masina a fost comandata in 1942 de Casa Regala; conform cartea "The Immortal 2.9", scrisa de Simon Moore, a apartinut regelui Mihai. Caroseria coupe a fost facuta de carosierul italian Touring. Prima poza e in fabrica, inainte de livrare.

A trecut razboiul si au venit comunistii la putere, dar masina a ramas in tara. In 1966 un mecanic bucurestean, Ion Croitoru, a cumparat masina si impreuna cu fiul lui a restaurat-o (destul de rudimentar). Cativa ani buni, masina, inatriculata cu numarul 1-B-9176, a circulat pe strazile capitalei. Din pacate motorul original s-a pierdut, dar in loc sa puna ceva de ARO, Volga sau tractor, cum se obisnuia atunci, s-a gasit un motor Alfa de 2300 de pe un 6C - un fapt pentru care dl. Croitoru trebuie felicitat. Poza 2 il arata in 1968 la iarba verde.

In 1987, un jurnalist suedez, Peter Haventon, a sosit in Bucuresti cautand doua masini: Duesenbergul de la Muzeul Tehnic si Alfa regelui. Cu ajutorul unui taximetrist, eventual l-a gasit pe Ion Croitoru cu tot cu masina. Masina nu era in stare foarte buna, totusi inca era cat de cat solida si cel putin tinuse cateva repere originale. Se vedea ca dusese o viata grea. Nu mai era folosita ... devenise loc d dormit pentru pisicile din cartier. Totusi, liniile superbe inca se pot vedea.
Pozele 3,4,5 si 6 arata masina "dans son jus".

Aici povestea ddevine complicata. La sfarsitul anilor 80, regretatul colectionar Terry Cohn a sosit in Romania. Si el cauta doua masini: Alfa, si un rarisim Mercedes-Benz W154 de curse (din care au existat doua in tara, primul exemplar fiind exportat in anii 70). Din ce se stie a reusit sa le scoata din tara, dar a fost o problema: securistii intermediari au vandut masinile altcuiva simultan, asa ca in Elvetia Cohn a trebuit sa se judece pentru drepturile la masini (e posibil ca celalalt cumparator sa fie Gavin Ruotolo). MB-ul nu l-a primit, iar tot ce se stie de Alfa e ca a sosit in Germania si a fost recarosata cu caroserie spider. Pacat! Din pacate nu am poze cu masina in prezent, banuiesc ca sunt in cartea lui Moore dar la cei 300 USD cat costa nu cred ca o sa aflu foarte curand...

One of the most interesting motor cars to have existed in Romania...

It seems that in 1942, the Royal Family ordered it, complete with a coupe body by Italian coachbuilders Touring. According to Simon Moore's book "The Immortal 2.9", the first owner was none other than King Mihai. Photo 1 shows it at Touring coachworks before ebing shipped to Romania,

War came and went, and Romania found itself a socialist republic. The car, however, stayed in the country and used as a daily driver. In 1966, Ion Croitoru, a Bucharest mechanic, bought the car and did a (fairly rudimentary) restoration job. Registered 1-B-9176, the car drove for many years around Bucharest. The original motor had unfortunately been lost, but instead of replacing it with a Aro, Volga or tractor engine, as was often the case in those days, a 6C Alfa Romeo engine was sourced - a deed for which Croitoru deserves sincere congratulations. Photo 2 shows him in 1968 alongside the Alfa.

Fast forward to 1987 and a Swedish motor journalist, Peter Haventon, arrived in Bucharest to source two cars, the Duesenberg racer at the Technical Museum and this Alfa. With the aid of a helpful taxi driver, he found Mr Croitoru realtively easily, and with him the car. It had not been used for a while and had become the sleeping place of the local cats. Clearly, it had led a hard life, but underneat the Touring carrozeria lines were a thing of beauty. An exquisite barnfind. Furthermore, it had several of the original details still in place. Photos 3,4,5 and 6 show the car in as-found condition.

This is where the story becomes complicated. Immediately after Haventon, the late collector Terry Cohn arrived in Romania. He, too, was looking for two cars: a Mercedes-Benz W154 racer (of hich two existed in Romania, the first being exported in the eary 70s). He found them and managed to get them out of the country, but hit a snag: the Securitate members who were intermediating the deal had also sold them to another person, possibly the Gavin Ruotolo). A lawsuit ensued in Switzerland. Details of such things are notoriously ecretive but it seems that Cohn lost the Merc, while the Afa ended up in Germany and was rebodied as a spider. A shame! Unfortunately I have no photos of the car in its current state: I am sure they are in Moore's book but at 300 dollars RRP I'm not going to find out soon!

18 November 2010

Bucuresti 1975 x 12

Din colectia Pragher, 12 poze vechi cu Bucurestiul in 1975. Orasul avuse un deceniu prosper, dar usor usor lucrurile se schimba. Deja are o infatisare mai gri si mai mohorata decat pozele care arata orasul in perioada 1964-1972. Dar inca, viata pare cat de cat frumoasa - mai ales daca esti norocosul care se plummba cu Fiat 124 Coupe sau Ford Capri...

From the Pragher collection, twelve old photos showing Bucharest in 1975. The city had had a happy decade, but already things were beginning to change, and it looks greyer and drabber than photographs from the period 1964 to 1972. Still, life was fairly good - especially if you were one of the lucky ones in a Fiat 124 Coupe or a Ford Capri...

16 November 2010

Masini de fite in epoca comunismului - Flash cars under communism

"Masinile de fite" nu sunt deloc un fenomen modern in Romania. Obsesia de a rupe gura targlui, poate normala in primele zile ale automobilsmului sau intr-o societate care a facut prea repede tranzitia intre comunism si capitalism, nu a pierit nici in capitala comunista. Daca ne uptam la cam toate filmele din perioada 1970 - 1989, banditii conduc masini occidentale, fie ele decapotabile americane sau model nou-noute germane. Oamenii decenti, put si simplu, sunt mai modesti. Dar cat ne impresioneaza o masina tare pe strada...!

Povesti sunt destule. Tatal meu avea masini vestice si facea furori, mai ales cu un Audi 100 GL. Dar era un nimica pe langa ce aveau altii. In fiecare an sosea un italian pe litoral cu un Ferrari pe platforma, gropile fiind prea mai pentru a conduce masina distanta lunga. In Bucuresti, langa Ateneu, ceva timp a fost parcat un Rolls. Jaguar E-Type existau cel putin doua inscrise in Romania, precum un Maserati 3500GT care a mai supravietuit in stare teribila. Alfe sau Lancii sportive nu erau necesar o raritate. Iar cand veneau in bucuresti sau pe litoral turisti straini, soseau si amatori din provincie sa vada si sa fotografieze aceste ciudatenii pe patru roti. Treaba s-a schuimbat in anii 80, cand chiar un Renault 9 sau un Ford Taunus nou erau ceva miraculos. Dar fitele n-au disparut niciodata...

foto 1 - Bucuresti, 1972, Mustang
foto 2,3 - Constanta, 1971, din filmul "Brigada Diverse"
foto 4 - Bucuresti, 1974, Universitate - de pe muzeul de fotografie lui Alex Galmeanu
foto 5 - Sibiu, 1967
foto 6 - E-type american in Bucuresti, 1964, de pe muzeul de fotografie lui Alex Galmeanu
foto 7 - Constanta, circa 1970, cu un Jaguar E-type, de pe muzeul de fotografie lui Alex Galmeanu

There's nothing new about flash cars in Romania. The obsession with having something better than everyone else, perhaps understandable in the early days of motoring or in the transition period from capitalism to Communism, died down hard even under Communism. In pretty much all Seventies and Eighties Romanian films, all the baddies drive Western cars, either German or American tin. The implication was that decent people are more modest. But how people stared at them.

Anecdotes are endless. My own father was mobbed whenever he turned up with a new Western car, and most of all in a Audi 100 GL. But his car was nothing. Every year the same Italian would turn up on the Black Sea Cost towing a Ferrari, the local roads being too bad to drive the thing. In Bucharest there was for some time a Rolls Royce. At least two E-types plied the Romanian streets on Romanian plates, as did a Maserati 3500GT which still survives now. Next to them, sporting Alfas or Lancias were relatively banal. Of course, things changed in the 1980s, when even a Reanult 9 or a new Ford Taunus would create riots. But the Romanian has never lost his taste for flashy cars!

1. Mustang, Bucharest, 1972
2, 3. Constanta, 1971, from the Brigada Diverse films
4. Italian cars, Bucharest, 1974 - from Alex Galmeanu's photo museum
5. Sibiu 1967
6. American E-type, Bucharest, 1964 - from Alex Galmeanu's photo museum
7. E-type, circa 1970, Constanta, from Alex Galmeanu's photo museum