OLTCIT

The Oltcit was a Rumanian brand born in 1977 from a collaboration with the Citroen (the name derives exactly from "Olt", that is the region where the factory is located, and "Cit", abbreviation of "Citroen"; notice also the brand, with "O" that wraps the symbol of the French carmaker). This car was quite rare in Western Europe already when it was produced; now, it's a real relic of the past time! Do you remember it? Ok, if you don't remember it, this page contains all about this strange car, that had a modern coachwork, but also an old air-cooled engine with opposite pistons.    

 

The beginnings  

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In that year, with the blessing of the Ceausescu's dictatorship, a modern plant for the construction of small cars was built in the city of Craiova. In 1981, the definitive model cames into production, and it was called Oltcit "Club", best known as Citroen " Axel "; this last denomination was reserved to the export (two pics above, in the second pic it's possible to see the "Oltcit" denomination near the plate of the car).

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The Oltcit "Club" derives from the Citroen "Y-2" project of the 1972 (first pic above), initially realized for the "Visa": the engine was the 4-cylinders "flat" of the Citroen GS, air-cooled. But, for the definitive version of the "Visa", it was decided to use the 4-in line SOHC water-cooled engine of the Peugeot "104" (more modern), after the fusion of Peugeot and Citroen in the PSA group. But the " Y-2 " project  was not abandoned, and it was decided to utilize it for a new car for the Eastern markets: the Oltcit. The Oltcit "Club"/Citroen "Axel" maintained, of the plan "Y-2", also the suspensions with torsion bars (the Visa used instead a newer McPherson system); the engines were a flat-twin 650 cc. (36 hp) of the basic version of the "Visa", air-cooled, derived from the  "2 CV" engine), and the flat-four 1100/1300 cc. (57 and 63 hp) of the Citroen "GSA". Therefore, although the resemblance with the "Visa", the Oltcit had totally different floorpan and engines. Anyway, there were other components in common with the "Visa": windshield, dashboard, etc.  In the second pic above, a drawing of the "Axel" (read also this site about the Oltcit).  

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The design, inspired to the "Visa" (but with only three doors), was modern for that period, with a Cx=0.36. Although the engine was outdated (and noisy, because of the fan of the air-cooling system), the car had good performances (over 160 km/h for 1.3) thanks to the low weight and the good aerodynamic. The dashboard has the "satellite" system typical of the Citroen of the '70-80s, with groups of buttons at the sides of the steering wheel. The fuel consumption was high, because of the outdated conception of the engine (the fan of the air cooling system absorbs an high level of power). The "Axel" (in the first and second pics above, the 650 and the 1.3) was sold with medium success in France; in Italy, in the last period of import, was sold only in a dozen of exemplars per month...In the third and fourth pics, two rally versions of the Axel, destined to the Romanians rallies: it not goes like a Delta Integrale, but this was the best available at the period! 

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However, it was an enough rugged car (or, at least, it seems so): the Italian review "Quattroruote" realized a test of 100.000 km with the cowl sealed, without problems. It's strange: why the AX 1100 of my sister, more modern and produced in France, had, since the purchasing, problems to the carburation and ignition ("eating" an alternator and a sea of fuel)? Above, the commercial pick-up and truck versions, obtained... sawing the roof, without lengthening the car!).

 

Some prototype (and the end of the Citroen production)

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Above, some prototype realized independently from the Oltcit (without the Citroen's help): from left, in the order, a graceful cabrio version, a less graceful five doors  (the romanian people, with wisdom, used this prototype only to steal the rear wiper, as visible in the photo...), and an interesting concept car realized, in the late '80s, by the Italian-Swiss designer Franco Sbarro. This last one, in spite of the futuristic look (but very squared!), has always the air-cooled engine of the Citroen "GSA" (at least, i have read so): wasted hard work! In any case, these prototypes, although their extreme simplicity, never went in production.

And this (above) is the last version of the Oltcit "Club", produced till the half of years '90 (but without the Citroen brand), with insignificant modifications to the bumpers. Since 1994, the Oltcit changed name in "Rodae", and produces models Daewoo under licence ("Matiz", "Nexia", "Espero" and others). However, the recent crisis of the Korean brand, places a shadow on the destiny of the Romanian factory (like the Polish brand FSO). The time of the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, and of the factory as mirror of the national pride, is passed since several years.

Some pic taken from  Romanian Cars Site , Citroenet

  

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