Top 5 Best Communist-Era Romanian Cars
Communism will always be seen as a "Dark age" in Romania's history, but in the midst of it all, some relatively cool cars were produced.
(In no particular order)
1. Dacia 2000
To the untrained eye (or in fact any non-Romanian car enthusiast eye), this car is just another Renault 20, which is technically the truth. But for those who know what they're looking at, this car represents much, much more...
That is because this was one of Nicolae Ceaușescu's very own cars, his daily in fact. How did the Communist dictator of Romania come to drive a Renault hatchback you ask? As you can imagine, Ceaușescu had quite the collection of limousines and sports cars, among which was a Mercedes 600 Grosser, a Buick Electra and a Mercedes 350SL. But none of these cars quite fit the Communist lifestyle that he was represented, so to gain a better public image, and to promote the Romanian automotive business, he requested for a small number of 'Executive' Dacias to be built for him and other high ranking members of the party. The resulting car was a rebadged Renault 20 TS. The car, mind you, was still light years ahead of the standard Dacia 1300 that the average working person was stuck with, being equipped with luxuries unheard of at the time such as electric windows, cruise control, air conditioning, power steering and an audio system. After the fall of Communism, the cars were auctioned off, but there was very little interest in buying a car that once symbolised a tyrannical regime and only 2 examples survive to this day, including the original blue one once driven by the dictator himself.
2. ARO 244 Cosworth
A what? Cosworth!? How? Why!?
Worry not dear reader, I plan on answering these questions very soon. First off, what is Aro? Aro was one of the earliest Romanian auto makers, they also built the first ever mass produced Romanian vehicle, the Aro M461. Later they were known for churning out SUVs and Pick-up trucks. The cars were surprisingly robust and were exported all over the world including the USA and UK. Why does this one have a Cosworth engine? Well, in a bid to make the car more desirable to foreign markets, Aro teamed up with Ford to be supplied with 2000 Cosworth developed 2.9 V6 24v Ford engines putting out 204hp. Along with the engine, the interior and the running gear of the Aro was upgraded, being fitted out with power steering, power brakes, air-conditioning, and a Borgwarner rear lockable differential. There were also a bunch of other parts that were borrowed from different cars such as a Mazda transmission, a dashboard from Ford and Land Rover Discovery seats. Unfortunately, the deal with Ford fell through and only 15 cars were finished. Only a couple of them are still surviving to this day.
3. Dacia Sport
The Dacia Sport, in my opinion, is one of the best communist cars of all time. To other people, just another obscure Eastern European sh*tbox. On the surface, I suppose it is just that, but why is it that I love this car so much? Partly because of the car itself, I really like how the designers chopped up the standard sedan 4-door and made it into a coupe. But a bigger reason is what this car represents (And also the fact that I'm biased because I am Romanian myself). You see, in Communist Romania, if you were a car guy and you wanted a fun/sporty car, your choices were pretty limited. You could choose between a regular 1.3L 54hp Dacia 1300, or you could opt for a 60hp flat-four engined Oltcit Club (Rebadged Citroen Axel). Unless you were stupidly rich, or a high ranking member of the Communist party, foreign cars were unattainable. That is where the Dacia Sport comes in, it gave those car enthusiasts something to be proud of. It didn't matter that it was an utter garbage sports car and that it only had 11hp more over the 1300. All that mattered was that it was a Romanian sports car. Something we could call our own.
4. Dacia MD87
Let me guess, a Toyota MR2 Ripoff?
Kinda, I suppose. At first glance it sure does look like someone was just describing a MK1 MR2 over the phone to the designer. I can't really defend it regarding that point of view, but despite that, I still think it's pretty cool. What it basically is, is a Dacia Sport that has been cut in half, and the engine moved from the front to the rear and then some bodywork slapped on the back to make it a tad bit more presentable. What results is a car that has been built using a chopped up piece of car that has also been chopped up itself. Only two of these things were ever built, one with standard headlights, and the other (The MD87 Evo) with Pop-ups. Despite it being an utter mess, it is widely regarded as the rarest Romanian car of all time. The MD87 Evo has sadly since been scrapped in Focșani, Vrancea. But if anyone is lucky enough to stumble upon the other one, it could be worth a lot of money to the right person.
5. Dacia Liberta
Okay technically the 'Liberta' name was only adopted after the 1989 Romanian Revolution and the fall of Communism, but the Liberta was virtually identical to the 1320 that came before it. The Dacia Liberta was a flop from the second it left the drawing board, there was nothing wrong with the car itself, sure it had rust problems but what cars didn't in the 80's? The problem was the price, the car cost more than a Dacia 1310 Estate, and for the average Romanian it didn't seem necessary to spend more for a car that is in fact even smaller than the estate. The only places that this car found relative success was in foreign markets, and in motorsport. The car was popular in the Romanian rallying scene due to its 1.6L 72hp engine that could easily be modified to make over 100hp. Dacia themselves also released a sporty version called the Dacia Liberta GTL, it came with some cool alloy wheels, a spoiler and a 83hp OHC engine. In total, 7,800 were produced but very few survive in Romania as many were exported.
Hopefully you have enjoyed my list and maybe now you know a little more about what the auto industry in Romania was like at the time!