Romania and cars, for most current enthusiasts, it’s mainly Dacia, someone might still remember Oltcity and ARO off-road models. At the same time, the country of Count Dracula found itself on its own four wheels shortly after the Second World War. It was just trucks back then. Carpati, Bucegi, Roman, these are all models of a single manufacturer from Brasov.
Some may know them from Czechoslovak travels, or the crime film Death of the Hitchhikers. Romanian Roman trucks were offered in many Eastern European countries under socialism, including Czechoslovakia. And next to the Tatra Mountains or Liazek, they might have looked a little strange. It was a Romanian product, but with a licensed cabin of the Western European giant MAN. He led a relatively active cooperation with the CEEC countries, let’s remember the Hungarian Rába trucks.
The history of Roman trucks begins in 1921, when the company Romloc was founded in Brasov to manufacture locomotives and wagons. Fourteen years later, it merged with another Romanian wagon company, Astra (the latter had experience in pre-war and interwar production of trucks and buses), which started a significant expansion and modernization of the plant, and in 1938 also the expansion of the portfolio to include the production of weapons and ammunition.
However, they did not stand on four wheels in Brasov until after the end of the Second World War. First, the factory, producing not only wagons and locomotives, but also various mechanical equipment for mining and steelmaking, tools and gradually also bearings, was given the name Steagul Rosu in 1948. The fledgling communist government at the time could not have come up with more propagandistic names. In translation, it means red flag or red banner. Yes, it is still the name in the Czech translation of the Chinese brand supplying luxury limousines to the highest state representatives there.
But back to Romania, where in 1954 they produced – apparently also on a political order – the first three-ton SR 101 truck. Except for some details, it corresponded to the Soviet model ZiS 150, which was a copy of the American International Harvester KR-11. Here we can remind you that the Soviets willingly helped the Romanian car industry also with passenger cars, the first ARO cars still under the IMS brand were strikingly similar to the 69 gas cars. And one more interesting thing connected with the Soviets – between 1950 and 1960, Brasov was called Orasul Stalin, in translation Stalin’s city.
Of course, the first truck was properly used by the communist representatives as a tool of propaganda and their own inviolability, even though it was not a significantly modern car. The three-ton model was followed by the four-ton model SR 104, but it soon became clear that the developing industry and economy would need a wider range of different tonnages. In Brasov, in the early 1960s, they developed a new line of hooded trucks – the first model was the SR 131 Carpati, followed a few years later by the SR 113 Bucegi. The first is named after a famous mountain range, the second after a rock massif in the Carpathians.
Their design was significantly more modern than the Soviet models of the time, but the cabin was also designed by the French company Chausson. In addition, under the hood was a rather unconventional petrol eight-cylinder, which was created according to the model of Ford. The Carpati series had a basic load capacity of three tons, the Bucegi five tons, but in both cases several different body variants were created, differing slightly in tonnage and, for example, in wheelbase. Flatbed trucks, tractors, cranes, tanks, cars with garbage or fire engines. The scope of the offer was wide, there were also models with all-wheel drive.
At the turn of the 1960s and 1970s, eight-cylinder gasoline engines were replaced by slightly more economical six-cylinder diesel engines licensed by Saviem-MAN. Incidentally, the Carpati and Bucegi series were also imported in smaller numbers to Czechoslovakia (but also to the DPRK, for example), where there was a lack of road trucks of their tonnage. In one of the older articles on the website Garáž.cz, Tomáš Hyan mentions that the interest was mainly in the five-ton Bucegi models, but as part of the modifications, for example, they received a Jikov carburetor instead of the original Weber produced under a Romanian license.
The license agreement signed in 1969 with the MAN brand clearly marked a step forward. As we already mentioned, it was no stranger to cooperation with Eastern European car companies, in the late 1960s it concluded a similar one with the Hungarian Rába. The agreement included a license for practically the entire truck in various modifications – tractor, flatbed or tipper, superstructures such as truck cranes also appeared – and tonnages, and also with all-wheel drive. In total, there were to be up to 13 chassis and 43 different truck modifications.
The new license required a new name, so in 1971, instead of the “red banner”, the Roman or RoMAN trucks – in translation, the Romanian MAN – began to leave the factory under the newly named abbreviation IAB. However, this designation was used only by cars that were created under a German license, their own truck models, although sometimes on the same basis, bore the new DAC designation. This is an abbreviation for Diesel Auto Camion – in translation, a diesel truck. Among all the models of this brand, he names, for example, the DAC 6.135, which was a modernized version of the SR 113 Bucegi diesel version. Despite some obsolescence, this car eventually lasted in production until the mid-1980s. In addition, the DAC logo also appeared on military cars.
Romanian Roman models had not only licensed cabs, but also chassis, axles and, of course, diesel engines. The basis was the eight-ton 8.135 series with a cabin and a Savie diesel engine (with which MAN cooperated in the 1970s) with a volume of 5.5 liters and an output of 99 kilowatts. You could even find it in Mototechna’s price lists from 1977. Without further specifications, the Roman tipper cost 143,900 crowns and the Roman flatbed 151,500 crowns. But these were so-called wholesale prices, in other words, only state or cooperative enterprises could buy these cars. At the same time, Romanian-made trucks were used relatively regularly by Czechoslovak companies, among them ČSAD.
For comparison, let’s add that, for example, the Avia A30 was sold as a flatbed for 107,000 crowns, the Praga V3S as a tipper cost 105,200 crowns, the Tatra 148 with a 6×6 drive came as a flatbed for 192,000 crowns, a one-sided tipper cost 201,000 crowns and a three-sided one 193 thousand crowns. Among foreign trucks, we can mention the East German IFA W50 L/K three-sided tipper for 112,900 crowns or the same model as a flatbed with a tarpaulin for 98,300 crowns.
The Roman 8.135 as a flatbed truck also became famous in Czechoslovakia in other ways. He played one of the central roles in the 1979 film Death of the Hitchhiker, where he was driven by the main character Charvát played by Marek Perepecz. The film is based on the motives of a real case, even the real killer was driving a Romanian-made truck.
As part of the licensing arrangement, other models appeared in the 1970s and the first half of the 1980s. The ten-ton series bore the designation 10.215 from the Romanian production, the twelve-ton series 12.135 and 12.215, and finally the heaviest nineteen-ton series 19.215 and 19.256. They were mostly powered by the D2156 engine with a volume of 10.35 liters and an output of 158 kilowatts, which was already manufactured by Rába under license.
For the heaviest nineteen-tonne, there was also a variant with turbocharging with a power of 188 kilowatts. If you wanted to decipher the individual designations, the number before the dot means the tonnage of the car, followed by the engine power in horses. Production also reached its peak in 1977, with about 33,000 trucks produced in a year.
Roman trucks were also produced under license in China under the Chuang-che brand from the end of the 1970s. Yes, it’s the same one that Škoda 706 RT made years before. But the Chinese were so skilled at copying that in a few years they didn’t even need the original anymore and allegedly produced similar trucks with local components under their own brand until the beginning of the 21st century. It was the same with the Czechoslovak model.
Fifteen years after the signing, the license agreement expired, but the appearance of Roman trucks has not changed much. It was like with the Dacia 1300 and Renault 12, when even the end of the license could not separate their kinship, but the Romanians began to modify the original car in their own way. And this also happened in the case of trucks, under the hoods of which non-licensed engines began to appear, mostly domestically produced.
At the same time, the production of trucks under the DAC brand continued. At the same time, however, the manufacturer from Brasov was increasingly falling into financial problems – exports were almost non-existent and the Romanian economy was anything but strong and healthy.
During the 1990s, engines meeting the Euro 1 standard appeared gradually, at the turn of the millennium Euro 2 and, for the first time, Euro 3 in 2002. The cabs of Romanian trucks also received significant modifications, although the basis of the original MAN license cabs remained for a long time. During the 1990s, the number of manufactured trucks also declined rapidly, but the company was financially helped by the development and production of military specials under the DAC and Roman brands.
The manufacturer from Brašov was finally privatized in 2004, although it had already become a joint-stock company with the name Roman eleven years earlier. Most of the shares of the heavily indebted company were bought by the Malaysian company Pesaka Astana, and a significant part of the initial investment was then swallowed up by the repayment of debts.
In any case, Roman continued to produce trucks for the civil and, now, the military sector. On the contrary, no other truck was created under the DAC brand, the new owner decided to focus fully on the Roman brand. By the way, it still works today, but according to the latest reports from the Moldovan media, it is not doing very well. Last year, for example, it did not produce a single new car, and the only contract was with the Ministry of Defense for the repair of DAC and Roman army cars.
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