BUDAPEST -- (REUTERS) Their spluttering engines, bone-rattling suspensions and outdated designs once ruled the streets behind the Iron Curtain.
Now Soviet-made Ladas, Czech Skodas, Romanian Dacias, Polish Fiats, or the most famous of them all, East German Trabants, have become rare cars for collectors.
The communist-built cars are few and far between in the former Eastern bloc countries in Europe.
"Production stopped almost immediately once the Wall fell," said Gabor Muczan, president of the Trabant Club in Hungary. "That means the newest of these cars are 20 years old, a venerable age even for a good quality Western model."
Muczan said collectors snap up the few usable vehicles for astonishing amounts of money.
“I just heard of a mint-condition Trabant that was sold for 1.5 million forints ($8,340)," he said
The last new Trabants sold in 1991 for 100,000 forints.
Muczan said even his club's members own few communist-era cars, whose annual maintenance can cost more than the purchase price.
Fiats were popular
Nostalgia has many car professionals and enthusiasts talk fondly of the cars, even though most produced little more than 70 horsepower, broke down frequently and afforded few luxuries.
"They were not bad, those cars," said Jeno Boros, editor of a recently published book on old eastern European cars. "They were adapted to local conditions."