The legendary Trabant was terribly lousy and cleverly innovative


Hitler's revenge, a bakelite, an angry vacuum cleaner, a bluff, or a frightened pick - Trabant earned a lot of nicknames, and none of them were flattering. Probably because it wasn't exactly a successful car - noisy, slow, unreliable, shaved to the bone in its simplicity and a little more. But he also had his smart side. That is why it has remained in production for over 40 years, during which time 3 million pieces were created. The last piece was created 30 years ago!

Trabant joined the wave of simple and cheap cars that were supposed to put Europe on wheels. He was born in 1957 in Zwickau, East Germany, which was still recovering from the horrors of war while plagued by the Western embargo and the communist centrally planned economy. The shortcoming was practically everything, so the designers had to save and experiment. The previous P70 model still had a wooden body frame, but of course, it didn't last long. For the classic Trabant, therefore, they tried modern plastic - a mixture of phenolic resin filtered during the distillation of brown coal tar and waste cotton from the Soviet Union, all pressed in twelve layers and hung on the steel skeleton of a self-supporting body.

The light, strong and stainless steel body (albeit on a very willingly cutting steel chassis) was really innovative at the time, the concept with the engine across the front, front-wheel drive, and a four-speed synchronized transmission with an under-steering wheel also preceded its time. Thanks to the fact that the Trabant weighed only 600 kilos (plastic body even only 30 kg!), A modest half-liter two-stroke two-cylinder with an output of around 20 horsepower was enough to drive it (the improved version 601 got a six-hundred with a dizzying output of 26 horsepower!). So, it was enough - the maximum speed of 90 km / h could be reached only when driving downhill and with the wind in the back, and acceleration was measured not on the stopwatch, but on the calendar.

However, speed was not the only thing Trabant lacked. In its simplicity, it did not have a rear pair of doors (limousine and station wagon were only two doors, next to them there was also an open military/utility version Kübel), the cabin lacked practically everything except the steering wheel, seats, and quite an unnecessary speedometer. Instead of a box in front of the passenger, there is an open bookshelf across the entire width of the floorboard, you had to pump the windscreen washer yourself, the interior rearview mirror was dimmed by simply turning the mirror and petrol was measured by inserting a plastic dipstick directly into the tank (usually not while driving) under the hood and especially directly above the carburetor, eliminating the need to install a fuel pump. And then there was the famous (un) quality of production, which is perfectly described by this video from the golden fund of the Internet.

All these cost-effective solutions made it possible to hang a truly popular price tag on Trabant - in the 1960s, there were some 27,000 in communist Czechoslovakia, and the Škoda 1000 MB started at 45,000. But the average salary at the time was a ridiculous CZK 1,500, so even the most affordable car was available only to the happiest ones. Even so, there was a waiting list for him, which had been waiting for more than ten years. Thanks to the unceasing interest (there was not much to buy) and the lack of funds for the development of the successor, Trabant lasted in production not only until 1971, as originally planned but incredibly until 1991! At that time, the fall of the Iron Curtain definitely revealed how miserable and desperately obsolete the car was.

Today, only real fans ride with Trabant and the others remember with a nostalgic tear. This means that prices are rising fast into nonsense - for a worse piece to renovate, you'll put in some 30,000 or more, and the maintained Trabans at 100,000 are just beginning. However, this does not change the fact that the Trabant is automotive suffering. And yet, in its perverted way, it's fun to drive, because it's completely unlike anything else on today's roads. When you ever meet him, show him your thumbs up. A little out of nostalgia and a little like a reward for his brave driver, because he really deserves it. Nothing captures the nature of Trabant better than this joke:

This is how an American argues with a Czech, whether a Trabant is a car or not. Čech gets annoyed, sits down in the trunk, slams the door, drives forward, drives backward, makes a few wheels, and then starts off. Amík says:

"Okay, I trust you, it's a car, it's driving, but what were the maneuvers to mean in the beginning?"

"But I slammed the dandelion into the door, it didn't go off, so I had to twist it."

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