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.