ARO 10 Super Rally

There's a whole other world out there.

In this world, a country has so embraced an off-roader that it's become a national treasure, adapted for thousands of different uses. Utility, family wagon, military, you name it. In the U.S., this vehicle is the Jeep Wrangler.

Now imagine that the Wrangler evolved not in the wide open expanse of the U.S., but in Eastern Europe. In Romania, ARO began producing vehicles in the late '50s, adapting GAZ designs. Fast forward to 1972, and the at-arm's-length Communist automaker had not only an all-new design, the 24, but would soon figure out how to export the design into Western Europe.

The 24 is, well, incredibly confusing. One look at its Wikipedia page will prove it was sold in countless variants, most with little to no official history preserved. To make things even more exciting, the most interesting versions of the 24 are often the exported ones. (That said, the one made for Nicolae Ceaușescu was sky blue and loaded with chrome.)

It was eventually even revamped in order to be sold in the U.S. as late as 2006. The Cross Lander 244X would have been a cut-price Land Rover Defender competitor, but even after years of development and investment, it didn't work out. Apparently, the 24 was incredible off-road, though "build" and "quality" were two concepts that hadn't yet reached Romania.

Portugal, Spain, Italy, and Germany did get the off-roader, however, under the names Portaro, Hisparo, ACM and, uh, ARO. France got it, too. The Italian ACMs were notable for being both assembled in Italy and being slightly better-looking, on account of the prettier four square port holes that had been added to the hood and exciting vinyl graphics stuck on the side.

Under the hood in Romania, at least initially, was a Renault-sourced 4-cylinder, but since…let's just say it's been powered by a lot of different engines, from gasoline to diesel, and even a few Cosworth variants thrown in for good measure. I'm not kidding: the 24 across its family of derivatives has seen engines from Volkswagen, Ford, Isuzu, Toyota, Nissan, Volvo, Daewoo, and Daihatsu in addition to the two mentioned above. Plus a few oddball motors from the likes of Perkins, Pegaso, and Ebro.

Following? 

Well, there was also an ARO 10, a vehicle slightly smaller than the 24 but related to it; as this was phased out, smaller versions of the 24 were renamed 10. This 1999-ish ARO 10 Super Rally is one of those. (A 24 but called a 10.) First developed with a 3.0-litre Ford Cosworth V6 (from where I have no idea), the version from the clips below had a 3.4-litre Toyota VZ V6, like you'd find in a 4Runner. Built by privateers, it's apparently still out there, somewhere…

Why bother with this particular off-roader? Thing is, the Super Rally absolutely hauls—at least it looks that way on film. Imagine if the Wrangler had been developed to tackle tarmac and off-road situations like this Super Rally "Raid"-style ARO can. It looks pretty neat, too, doesn't it?