manufacturer: VEB Sachsenring Automobilwerke Zwickau (German Democratic Republic (East Germany))
Trabant 601 (1964 – 1991)
There is hardly a more notorious symbol of the socialistic era than the East-German Trabant 601. The unusual conception of “make the best of the worst” reminds us the bad situation at the end of the WW II. and the desperate attempts of the Germans to create so called “miracle (budget) weapons” like wooden jets with rockets, V1, V2, suicide planes, Mistels* …
The history of the vehicle (car:-) started in 1964, when the 601’s predecessor P50 was given a stronger engine and a new chassis. Even thought it was a small, slow and unreliable car, many people desired it a lot and moreover, due to the lack of cars in the former East Germany, everyone had to enroll to the waiting lists for trabants for several months until the end of the communist era in 1989.
Trabant was designed to be a popular car. This lead to many unusual “budget” solutions – the chassis was made of duroplast, a special glass fibre material. The electric system used 6 Volts and the only meter there was the speedometer. For its whole era the car used only drum brakes and its smelly 600ccm two stroke, two cylinder engine gave laughable power of 23 PS and the top speed of 120kmph. The saving politics included two doors only, even thought trabant was considered a family car.
The car suffered numerous problems – low resistance to corrosion (just the metal parts, of course), weak engine and breaks, problems with electric installation, bad driving properties, weird gearing, lack of space…
When the Berlin Wall fell, hundreds of trabants were abandoned within days. Nobody wanted anything to do with a trabant anymore. The company was bought by VW and even thought there were some attempts to rework the car (in fact for the first time in its history!) – more than 50% of parts were replaced and the car started to use 1.1l VW engine, it was the end..
Despite its poor quality, trabant retains something of the VW Beatle. You need to have a heart to have a trabant. You can still find many trabant fans all around Europe with cars in perfect shape or precisely tuned. A traditional hobby is to modify a trabant into a limo, a jeep, a firefighters car… However, for the rest of people, trabant isn’t a car. Having a trabant as a regular car is simply weird…
The price of trabant is very low – it’s the cheapest car at all. Lots of guys get trabants for free and organize wild races. Most tranbants don’t finish one race…
Engines and chassis versions:
Trabant 601 – 600ccm /
Trabant 601 Combi – 600ccm / 17kW
note: the engine consumed special fuel - a mixture of oil and petrol
More than 3 mil. Trabants were made
*a bi plane – two planes (a fighter and a bomber) together