In 1965, Nicolae Ceausescu came to power in Romania. He wanted to demonstrate the economic capabilities of the socialist republic that he had just established. With this objective in mind he launched the construction of a car for the people, called DACIA (etymologically the name comes from Dacie, a territory in antiquity corresponding to present day Romania).
The design brief was for a mid-range automobile fitted with a 1,000 cm3 to 1,300 cm3 engine to be produced in 50,000 units a year. Starting up production from scratch was too tall an order given Romania’s automotive culture at the time, so the decision was taken to manufacture under license. Several car manufacturers were approached, including Renault, which, with the backing of the French government, won the call for bids with a vehicle that at the time was still in the prototype stage. That prototype was the Renault 12
In France the Renault 12 was not scheduled to go into production until the second quarter of 1969. In the meantime Renault gave the go ahead for another model, the R8. The new car would be assembled in the Pitesti factory that had been built and made ready for production in the record time of just 18 months. The first produced car was inspected on August 3, 1968 and the factory was officially inaugurated a little over two weeks later on August 20. Production of the "Romanian R8", baptized the Dacia 1100, had begun.
According to the license contract, production of the 1,100 cm3 car consisted in assembling and painting the bodywork, initially manufactured in France. All the components were imported. The Dacia 1100 fully resembled the French R8, apart from a chrome strip on the front grille, displaying the Dacia brand and vehicle type, and a band on the rear engine hood again displaying the Dacia brand. A total of 37,546 examples of this model were produced through late 1971, when production ended.
It may be noted that a further 642 examples of another model, the Estafette, were produced a few years later (between 1975 and 1978), with all the parts again imported from France.
Assembly of the Dacia 1300 (Romanian Renault 12) started in August 1969 and continued for an exceptionally long time, until July 2004. Over the years it was re-styled seven times and manufactured in numerous LCV versions. In all, early two million Dacia 1300s were built at the Pitesti factory. Initial technical characteristics of the Dacia 1300: four doors, five seats, longitudinal front-mounted engine,1298 cm3, 54 hp, maximum speed 144 km/h.
By 1970 the 1300 was available in several versions, including the standard 1300, the super 1300 and a model developed specially for the apparatchiks of the Romanian Communist Party, the 1301 (in reality a French R12 TS). The estate version went into production in 1973.
The last facelift of Dacia 1300
Two new engines were launched – a 1,185 cm3 developing 48 hp. and a 1,397 cm3 developing 63 hp – as was a 5-speed gearbox. The car got a fresh restyle in 1999.
Dacia 1300 pick up
The Dacia 1300 in all its guises. The Dacia 1300 received various guises: the Dacia 1320 was a 5-door hatchback version produced between 1987 and 1990 (the majority of these cars were used as taxis) while LCV versions met the needs of professionals (it ranged from the pick-up, launched in 1975, to the double cabin pick-up available in 4x2 and 4x4 versions).
Other models appear in the meantime. The Dacia 2000, reserved for members of the Romanian nomenklatura, was in fact the Renault 20 that was sold in France between 1976 and 1984. The Dacia 500 or "Lastun", a city car with fibreglass bodywork turned out in limited quantities during the 1980s. With quality failing to reach a suitable level, production was brought to a definitive end in 1989.
The Dacia Nova, launched in 1996, was the first car to be designed by Pitesti engineers. It bore a close resemblance to the Renault 9. The Dacia Supernova appeared in 2000. It inherited the engine and gearbox systems of the Renault Clio 1.4.
The Solenza is a transition vehicle. Launched in 2003, it was a re-styled Supernova. The new model was vastly better equipped, with electric windows, central locking, ABS and air-conditioning. In fact the Solenza served as a study project in order to prepare the entire industrial system for Logan. In March 2005, after the production of more than 79 209 cars in less than two years, production was terminated in order to make way for Logan...