Nicolae Cosmescu, a Romanian engineer and race team leader realised his childhood dream in 1986 by building a mid-engined sportscar
Nicolae Cosmescu, who died last year was a graduate of the Faculty of Road Vehicles and began his career as an engineer at CCSITA, the Research and Design Center of the Dacia plant, as a designer at the Bodywork Workshop. “There I found out what it really meant to design body parts, which had preoccupied me during my studies. It has nothing to do with the classic design of mechanical parts. It’s difficult, but seductive, if you like it “, recalled Mr. Cosmescu. The first project in which he was involved involved adapting the mechanics of the Renault Estafette van on a body of the Romanian TV12 van. “It was a difficult challenge, but it was solved successfully. Unfortunately, like most projects, it was not transposed into manufacturing. “
Another project he coordinated in his early days at CCSITA was the construction of a Dacia car with six doors and three rows of seats. “And for everything to be captivating, the body was roofless! That brought me a higher premium than the salary, but not very high ” he remembers amused.
After a period of 6-7 years spent at CCSITA, the young engineer from Pitesti was transferred to IATSA (Întreprinderi de Asistenţă Tehnică şi Service pentru Autoturisme aka Workshop For Technical Assistance and Repair of Automobile), the central Dacia workshop. His task there he was to translate the ideas of Simion Săpunaru, the “the patriarch of the Romanian car industry” to metal. In this capacity Cosmescu also worked on the Dacia Sport and the Dacia Maxibreak, the latter an eight-seater estate.
But all these projects were just steps towards his greatest achievement. The dream had sprouted since childhood, as Nicolae Cosmescu remembered: “The idea to make a car with a central rear engine came to me when I was 14 years old. A utopian idea for those times and for my age since then. But itfollowed me all the time. I came across an interview with Henry Ford II in L’Humanité Dimanche in which he talked about the GT 40 in the Ford-Ferrari duel. The photo of the car simply conquered me, and an eternal flame started to burn in me”
A dream that takes shape
In 1986, when he was entrusted with the management of the IATSA rally team, the engineer from Pitesti dared to dream again of a truly sporty Romanian car, with the engine arranged centrally. “The basic idea was to use the same structure to be able to use as many parts as possible, as they were in series production. An easily achievable car. ”So the project was created on the basis of of the Dacia 1410 Sport, its body cut in half, and a new section was attached after the door pillar, with the front-axle becoming the rear-axle in the new configuration and so the engine was placed before it. “I started, as was the level of technology at the time, with the realization of a body plan at a scale of 1: 5, with the placement of a two-dimensional maquette, which allowed me to determine the size of the crossbar behind the seat and the position of the rear panel. Based on them, I rigorously drew the body, respectively a section of it exactly in the middle, also at a scale of 1: 5. Thus, I was able to place the former front, which helped me determine the wheelbase. The track was the same at the front and at the rear”. In order to achieve perfect weight distribution by installing the spare wheel in place of the engine and the fuel tank in the gearbox area. “If I had the opportunity to make the fiberglass rear hood, it would have been even better.”
The name of the car was also chosen by Nicolae Cosmescu and indicates the personal note he gave to the project. The name “MD87” refers to his wife, Monica and his son, Dragoş and the year for which he had scheduled the launch of the series production, 1987.
The project materialized “in an improvised room within the Reconditioning Workshop … I had two very talented tinsmiths, the late Vasile Negut and Ion “Sorin” Popescu. Plus a mechanic and an electrician of the same caliber, Ion Cojocare and Dumitru Bănceu. It’s natural to name them. They all worked under my direct guidance, because I had designed the entire car. It should be noted that the model, 3 months after starting the developement, left the workshop under its own power”
At the wheel of his own creation
When he remembers the first outing behind the wheel of the Dacia Sport MD87, the engineer from Pitesti is still full of emotions today. “It was a dream come true. I left the workshop accompanied by the mechanic who had taken care of it. We passed the gate of the enterprise and stretched out on the road. Everything was OK, including the gearbox control, which had created a lot of insomnia for me until I found the solution. Because I had nothing to be inspired by then, not even the transparencies of other models found in French car magazines. ”After the first tests, no other interventions were necessary on the car, except the replacement of the connecting rods (former steering) with some from Oltcit, which were adjustable. “
The creator of the Dacia MD87 is also the one who chose the red hue color: “At that time, there were two red paints: Dacia and Oltcit – which was what I wanted, a little closer to Ferrari. The head of the workshop took her to Dacia Sport’s paint shop. It’s just that when he came back… he was a Dacia red. I asked her to repaint it, to make it Oltcit red”.
Dacia Sport MD87 made its first appearances in rallies in the autumn of 1987, when it was a forlighter in the hands of the pilot Ionel Mălăuţ, as Mr. Cosmescu remembers: In such conditions, such a model slides spectacularly. However, Mălăuţ brought him intact on arrival “. However, the drivers of the time did not rush to drive the spectacular prototype from Argeş, worried about the unique configuration and the fear of not crashing a unique car.
The apogee and the end
Nicolae Cosmescu continued to perfect the car, in 1988 adding “a new fiberglass rear hood with a large aileron. That’s how Evo 2 came about. “But the most spectacular change was in 1991, when the car was substantially restyled, including the installation of retractable headlights, operated by a pair of wiper motors. “This was the Evo 3. The latest version of the Dacia Sport MD87.”
However, the troubled story of Dacia Sport MD87 was to end with the departure of Nicolae Cosmescu from IATSA. The car, owned by the company, was initially abandoned in the yard for a while, after which it disappeared with the decentralization of the institution.
Unfortunately, Nicolae Cosmescu passed away this summer. In addition to his contribution to the Romanian car industry, he was a member of the League of Romanian Writers and a car journalist. One of his books – “That’s how I became a legend” – is a story about the world of rallies and about a team that became legendary at the confluence of the ’80s and’ 90s, IATSA Piteşti, which Nicolae Cosmescu led in its heyday.
The IATSA Piteşti rally team was the national team champion in 1988 and 1991, and in 1988 it also won the “Dacia Sport” Trophy. Nicolae Cosmescu led the team between 1986 and 1993, when it disbanded.