Romania auctions dictator Ceausescu's hunting car for $44,000

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BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Romania sold an off-road vehicle made especially for Nicolae Ceausescu in 1977 for almost double its starting price, the country’s tax authority ANAF said on Friday, drawing on the late dictator’s notoriety 30 years after the collapse of communism.

For a quarter of a century Ceausescu held Romania in a vice-like grip, before a bloody 1989 revolt in which he and his wife were tried and shot dead by a hastily assembled firing squad on Dec. 25 as the regime crumbled.

Featuring plush leather seats and an electric roof opening, the sky-blue ARO 304 used by the dictator for hunting trips and official visits, failed to attract a single buyer at a previous auction in January.

ANAF lowered the starting price by 25% to 103,125 ($24,000) for this week’s tender, where “five participants bid in 16 steps until the car was sold to one for 189,180 lei ($44,000)”. It did not give any details on the buyer.

One of a fleet of up to six produced for the dictator by defunct local carmaker ARO Campulung, the car has been kept in a hangar on the outskirts of the capital Bucharest, and viewings have been by appointment only.

Romania joined the European Union in 2007, but remains its second-poorest state, with entrenched bureaucracy and corruption a legacy problem from earlier times.

Many communist-era officials remain in public positions, wielding political and business influence even now.

Reporting by Radu Marinas; Editing by Hugh Lawson