Posts Tagged ‘Romanian racing technology’

The Bruce and I were driving our vintage 1983 Pignasaurus back from the Concours d’Elegance. We were somewhat disappointed that our much beloved yet widely maligned “Pig” once again won no honors for its design and lineage. The Pignasaurus was an unlicensed, therefore illegitimate (read bastard of a car) version of the illustrious Italian classic Pignatelli.

                                                                                                                                                                                         The real Pignatelli. (autoweek.com)

We believe the Pignasaurus to be one of the finest examples of Romanian racing technology. Most people are unaware of that as it was kept secret under the paranoid Ceaucescu administration. It had its debut and subsequently final race (bursting into flames as the starter button was pushed) at the Bucharest Grand Prix one year after Ceaucescu’s involuntary decision to leave this mortal coil.

Ceaucescu in an early Pignasaurus sedan. (sv.wikipedia.org)

The “Pig” on the few occasions it was viewed by the western press, astounded all who fell under its thrall. Its porcine heritage was obvious by the fuel it consumed: pork fat. That being the primary food source in Romania at the time, there were often fuel shortages that the government played up to it’s own benefit. But when there was fuel, the “Pig” was in its glory, a true hog heaven. There isn’t a middle-aged Romanian who when they smell bacon, isn’t reminded of the fragrant exhaust of a vintage “Pig”.

Powered by the inestimable WildBoar V-3, (a uniquely Romanian design, characterized by the grunting sound upon starting), the “Pig” while not fast on level or inclined roads, more than held its own on most descents. With a unique 75%/18% weight distribution (the missing 7% being claimed as an intentional design feature), the snout-heavy “Pig” once rolling was nearly impossible to stop. This was exacerbated by the questionable design feature of being brakeless. Pignasaurus engineers claim it was to save weight which is also questionable since the frame was made of a state-of-the-art bonded composite consisting of two-ply Charmin and balsa wood. Corporate greed insisted they pursue this questionable design. But, that was not important to us as much as the sheer in-your-face presence it displayed.

An early “Pig” Prototype, not in Romanian racing colors. (clayzmama.com)

Available in only two colors, Romanian Racing Beige and Ceaucescu Fawn, and providing only few options allowed delivery on these wonders quickly. Most automobile archivists have extreme difficulty in discerning between these two colors. Seen in the proper light though, one can detect the early photo-chromic qualities of the Fawn version. Or it could just be the mildew coming through. As examples of these automobiles are increasingly scarce, no one is willing to examine them any closer than necessary for fear of damaging them. Mere exposure to air has been know to incapacitate them for weeks.

While there were few offered options, (door handles, gas and radiator caps, passenger seats to name a few), the after-market was enormous. If a part had a hole for a screw, clever owners found ingenious ways to work it into/onto (they were not very discriminating) the vehicle. One favorite add-on was the fin from a D-Type Jaguar racing car. Since the D-Types themselves were rare, yet another aftermarket arose for counterfeit Jaguar fins. The “Pig’s” design allowed for the curious placement of this only on the front of the already nose heavy car. Claiming it enhanced the aero-dynamics, owners couldn’t buy these fast enough. “Pig” owners are eccentric. Their pride exists as the owners of a rare and broadly perceived undesirable and undistinguished automobile. They are so wrong.

In 1973, during the height of the gas crisis, Tazio Schmitt won the Pike’s Peak Downhill Grand Prix race owing to the “Pig’s” malevolently placed center of gravity. Not for the faint of heart, Schmitt crossed the finish line at an unbelievable speed only to die tragically because of the aforementioned brakeless design of the car. Shortly afterwards, Pignasaurus’s were forever banned from downhill racing.

The Pignasaurus final downhill race. (nextgn.com)

That said, one can occasionally spot a “Pig” driving in a VFW Memorial Day parade followed by a bunch of Shriners on little go-carts – an ignominious declaration on an otherwise overlooked classic.

Even with this history, Bruce and I will never give up our “Pig.” We love it way too much. All our children beg us to get rid of it, but we know they would then fight each other tooth and nail to get their grubby little hands on it. It deserves so much better than that.

Any offers?