Iranian collectors are queuing to bid on an Iranian-built luxury car given to the late communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in 1974 by the Shah of Iran to mark his election as president of the now-defunct Socialist Republic of Romania.
The Paykan Hillman Hunter, built from 1967 onwards, was the first car built by the Iranian National Company, and became not only a landmark of Iranian industry but also a national icon.
“Interest is huge. We’ve received more than 100 offers,” said Alina Panico, of the Artmark auction house in Bucharest.
“Romanian collectors of four-wheeled gems are present, but most of the bids come from Iranians who want to bring a national symbol from the 1970s back home.”
The limousine version being auctioned on Thursday after 1530 GMT is completely roadworthy, with a top speed of 145 km/h (91 mph) and a 1.5 litre, four-cylinder in-line engine delivering 54 horsepower.
The starting price is 4,000 euros ($4,900), but Panico said it was likely to fetch at least 10,000 euros ($12,200).
Hillman, originally based near the English Midlands city of Coventry, was one of the oldest and most prolific British car brands, and the marque continued to be used until 1976 by its then-owner, Chrysler.
After failed attempts to build Fiat models, the Iranian National Company produced its first Paykan under licence from Hillman in 1967.
Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi had visited Romania in 1966, beginning an era of commercial and diplomatic ties, and a friendship with Ceausescu.
The Romanian leader had come to power the previous year, and set about creating one of the most repressive regimes in Cold War-era Eastern Europe.
In 1989, as communism crumbled, he and his wife Elena fled mass protests in the capital but were quickly captured and shot by a hastily assembled firing squad.
An airliner used by Ceausescu in official trips between 1986 and 1989 is also up for auction, at a starting price of 25,000 euros, but Panico said it had generated less interest so far.
The Rombac Super One-Eleven rear-engined jet is one of just nine built in Romania under licence from the British Aircraft Corporation (BAC), and cannot be taken out of Romania as it is considered part of national heritage.
Source: Daily Star