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

10 November 2010

Dacia 1300 LS, 1978, 252km...

Pe forumul Dacia Club un user, Dan, mare pasionat si colectinar de Dacii vechi, a reusit sa gaseasca un model Dacia 1300 LS 1978, cu numai 252 km la bord.

Modelul LS era mai putin exclusivist decat vechiul 1301 dar cu dotari sumplimetnare fata de 1300 si 1300L, instalație radio din fabrică, scaune față supraînălțate, circuit de frână dublu, oglinzi retrovizoare exterioare, oglindă interioară cu poziție zi/noapte, parasolar pasager cu oglindă, torpedou iluminat, brichetă electrică, instalație spălare parbriz electrică.

In 1978, se pare ca un prahovean a achizitionat aceasta masina, a condus-o pana acasa, si a inchis-o intr-un garaj timp de 32 ani. Motivele probabil vor ramane un mister, insa inclin sa cred ca nu era "politic" sa aiba aceasta masina noua si cu dotari de lux. Peste trei decenii mai tarziu, a fost pusa de vanzare pe autovit.ro pentru cateva zile. Nu a fost inmatriculata, inca purtand numerele de rodaj care a sosise acasa in 1978.

Pe forumul Dacia au fost multe spuse despre cat ar valora asa ceva. Din puncul meu de vedere este impresionant faptul ca e modelul LS, rar de tot astazi, si absolut inedit kilometrajul. In Anglia masini similare se duc pentru mii si mii de lire, chiar pentru modele banale precum Ford Cortina. Asta chiar daca au probleme pentru ca au stat atat de mult. Desigur, Anglia are complet alta cultura pentru masini vechi: sunt inregistrate peste 550,000 vehicule istorice din care peste jumatate sunt in stare de functionare. Romania are vreo mie inscrise.

Nu este singura Dacie veche cu kilometri foarte putini... Exista modele 1300 sub 20,000 km; 1100 e la fabrica Dacia are rodaj de fabrica; in Ungaria, se vinde 1310 cu 390km, iar in muzeul Renault existe exemplare din anii 80 nerulate. In plus, nu o e masina cu care se poate circula. Daca circula, isi pierde valoarea si unicatul. E strict bibelou de muzeu. O Dacie din primele serii, restaurata perfect cum le face Dan, e in multe privinte o alegere superioara.

Totusi, mi se pare o descoperire de-a drept spectaculouasa. Oricine poate restaura o rabla de Dacie pre 1972 si, cu destul efort, o face frumoasa din nou. Asa ceva, din pacate, cu toate bubele ei si in ciuda ca nu e "frantuzoaica" (un snobism mai catolic decat Papa si din pacate romanesc in parerea mea), nu va mai exista niciodata. Sper din toata inima sa fie prezervata cum i se cuvine.

On the Dacia Club forum, a user, Dan, big fan and collector of old Dacias, has managed to find a 1978 LS model with just 252km on the clock.

The 1300 LS was less exclusive than the top-of-the-range 1301 but had more extras than the 1300 and 1300L models, including: factory radio, bigger front seats, double bake circuit, two wing mirrors, night-day rear-view mirror, mirror on the passenger sun visor, illuminated glovebox, electric cigarette lighter, and electric windscreen washer.

It seems as if in 1978, a resident of Prahova county bought it new and drove it home, then left it parked in a sealed garage where it would be discovered over three decades later and put up for sale. Difficult to fathom why it was kept so hidden: my hunch is that dodgy money bought it and it needed to be kept a secret... At any rate, it would see the light of day 32 years on, never yet having been registered and still on its cardboard 1978 trade plates.

On the Dacia forum, much has been talked about how much something like this should be worth. My humble opinion is that not only is it a very rare LS, it has incredibly low mileage and is probably unique from this point of view. In the UK, similar timewarp cars go for thousands of pounds - even bog-standard Cortinas. Of course, Romania isn't the UK in terms of classic cars: 550000 historic vehicles are registered with over half being on the road. Romania has about a thousand on its books.

It's not as if such a low-mileage Dacia is unique, either. There are a handful of 1300s with less than 20k on the clock; the factory 1100 has delivery mileage; in Hungary you can buy a 1310 which has done 390km; and the Renault museum has stored a handful of unused Eighties models. You can't drive it otherwise it will lose all its uniqueness: this is strictly a museum piece. And in terms of desirability, a very early 1300 with French parts, perfectly restored, will probably always be nicer.

Still, I think this is a wonderful discovery. Any old fool can restore an early Seventies Dacia and make it gleam again. Something like this, however, despite the obvious faults of having been standing for so long, and despte not being the earliest of models (an OTT piece of more-Catholic-than-the-Pope snobbery, in my opinion), you won't find again. I sincerely hope someone preserves this example as it is.

9 November 2010

ZIS-110 in Romania

Acum cateva luni am aratat poze cu ZIS-110 in 1949. Cate ceva mai recent...

ZIS-110, in varianta deschisa si inchisa, usor inspirat dupa Packard 1942, a reprezentat elita aboluta a masinilor in perioada 1948-1960 in Romania. Foarte putine au existat, toate fiind masini oficiale. Dupa circa 1964 au inceput sa dispara din coloanele oficiale, masina principala fiind inlocuita de Cadillac.

1) In 1962
2) In 1961
3) Cu ocazia funeraliilor Mariei Tanase, 1963
4) Cu ocazia unei visite din Cehoslovakia, 1961
5) In fata Ateneului, 1953
6) Ce pare a fi singurul supravietuitor in Romania
7) Pentru amatori feroviari ... drezina lui Dej in 1960. (Adica, nu drezina din Sinaia / Fetesti, care o zi a fost lui Dej, alta a fost lui Pauker, alta e drept Volga....) in 1960
8) O drezina similara la Borsec in 1997 - nu stiu daca mai e sau nu.

In 1966 un ZIS-110 decapotabil era folosit ca masina de filmare la Televiziune ... Promit imagini.

Several months ago I wrote about ZIS-110 limousines in Romania. So now, some more...

Between 1948 and about 1960, the ZIS-110, in open or closed variants, its lines somewhat inspired by the 1942 Packard, was the absolute height of luxury in Romania. All of the few existing were official, and all strictly for VIPs only. From about 1964 they began to disappear from official motorcades and were relegated to secondary uses, the lead car being replaced by a Cadillac.

1) In 1962
2) In 1961
3) At Maria Tanase's funeral, 1963
4) At an official Czechoslovakian visit, 1961
5) In front of the Athenaeum, 1953
6) Probably the only survivor in Romania
7) Converted into a draizine for the use of Gheorghe Gheorghiu Dej, in 1960
8) A similar draisine in Borsec in 1997 - no idea whether this still exists.

In 1966, one convertible was being used as a film car by Romanian television ... Pictures exist, and I will post them.