BK Micro Car Collection BK GROUP - Helsinki
Production of the Trabant reached 3.7 million vehicles on 30 April 1991

Trabant P 50 - 1961

The Trabant is a car that was produced by former East

German auto maker VEB Sachsenring Automobilwerke

Zwickau in Zwickau, Saxony. It was the most common

vehicle in East Germany, and was also exported to

countries both inside and outside the Eastern Bloc. It was

advertised as having room for four adults and luggage in a

compact and durable shell; and being relatively fast.

Due   to   its   poor   performance,   outdated   and   inefficient   two-stroke   engine   (which   produced   poor fuel   economy   and   smoky   exhaust),   and   production   shortages,   the   Trabant   was   regarded   with derisive   affection   as   a   symbol   of   the   extinct   former   East   Germany   and   of   the   fall   of   the   Eastern Bloc.   This   is   due   to   the   fact   that   in   former   West   Germany,   many   East   Germans   streamed   into West   Berlin   and   West   Germany   in   their   Trabants   after   the   opening   of   the   Berlin   Wall   in   1989.   It was   produced   for   nearly   30   years   with   almost   no   significant   changes;   3,096,099   Trabants   were produced   in   total.   In   Western   nations,   the   Trabant's   shortcomings   are   written   about   to   great extent    for    comedic    effect.    However,    the    Trabant,    in    some    cases,    has    become    trendy    for collectors   to   import   older   models   to   the   US   due   to   their   low   cost   and   easier   import   restrictions on antique vehicles.

Overview

Meaning   "satellite"   or   "companion"   in   German,   the   name   was   inspired   by   Soviet   Sputnik. The   cars are often referred to as the Trabbi or Trabi. Due   to   the   long   waiting   period   between   ordering   a   Trabant   and   actual   delivery   (in   some   cases, years),   used   Trabants   would   fetch   higher   prices   than   new   ones.   The   people   who   finally   received their   own   Trabant   treated   the   car   gently   and   were   meticulous   in   maintaining   and   repairing   it. The lifespan of an average Trabant was 28 years. There were four principal variants of the Trabant: the P50, also known as the Trabant 500, produced 1957–1962 the Trabant 600, produced 1962–1964 the Trabant 601, produced 1963–1991 the   Trabant   1.1,   produced   1990–1991   with   a   1,043   cc   (63.6   cu   in)   VW   engine   (making   the "1.1" a slight misnomer) The   engine   for   the   500,   600,   and   original   601   was   a   small   two-stroke   engine   with   two   cylinders, giving the vehicle modest performance. Its curb weight was (~600 kg / 1100 pounds). At   the   end   of   production   in   1989,   the   Trabant   delivered   19   kW   (26   horsepower)   from   a   600   cc (37   cu   in)   displacement.   It   took   21   seconds   to   accelerate   from   100   km/h   (60   mph)   and   had   a   top speed of 100 km/h (62 mph). There    were    two    main    problems    with    the    engine:    the    smoky    exhaust    and    the    pollution    it produced   –   nine   times   the   hydrocarbons   and   five   times   the   carbon   monoxide   emissions   of   the average    European    car    of    2007.    The    fuel    consumption    was    7    l/100    km    (40    mpg-imp; 34 mpg-US). Since   the   engine   did   not   have   an   oil   injection   system,   two-stroke   oil   had   to   be   added   to   the   24- litre   (6.3   U.S.   gal;   5.3   imp   gal)   fuel   tank   every   time   the   car   was   filled   up,   at   a   50:1   or   33:1   ratio of   fuel   to   oil.   Gas   stations   of   the   time,   in   countries   where   two-stroke   engines   were   common, served   premixed   gas-oil   mixture   from   the   pump.   Today,   owners   carry   a   container   of   two-stroke oil   in   the   car   for   this   purpose.   Because   the   car   lacked   a   fuel   pump,   the   fuel   tank   had   to   be placed   above   the   motor   in   the   engine   compartment   so   that   fuel   could   be   fed   to   the   carburetor by   gravity;   a   trade-off   of   this   design   was   an   increased   fire   risk   in   front-end   accidents.   Earlier models   had   no   fuel   gauge;   a   dipstick   was   inserted   into   the   tank   to   determine   how   much   fuel remained. The   Trabant   was   a   steel   monocoque   design   with   the   roof,   trunk   lid,   hood,   fenders,   and   doors made    of    Duroplast.    Duroplast    was    a    hard    plastic    (similar    to    Bakelite)    made    of    recycled materials:   cotton   waste   from   the   Soviet   Union   and   phenol   resins   from   the   East   German   dye industry.   This   made   the   Trabant   the   first   car   with   a   body   made   of   recycled   material   and   was partially   responsible   for   the   misconception   that   it   was   made   of   cardboard.   The   Trabant   was   the second car to use Duroplast, after the "pre-Trabant" P70 (Zwickau) model (1954–1959).

History & Origins

The   Trabant   was   the   result   of   a   planning   process   that   had   originally   intended   to   design   a   three- wheeled   motorcycle.   In   German,   a   Trabant   is   an   astronomical   term   to   denote   a   moon   or   other natural   satellite   of   a   celestial   body.   In   its   Slavic   origin,   Trabant   has   the   same   meaning   as   the Russian word sputnik, namely 'companion'.

Full production

The   first   of   the   Trabants   left   the   factory   of   the   VEB   Sachsenring   Automobilwerke   Zwickau   in Saxony   on   7   November   1957.   The   Trabant   was   a   relatively   advanced   car   when   it   was   launched   in 1958,   with   front   wheel   drive,   a   unitary   construction,   composite   bodywork,   and   independent suspension.   Its   greatest   downfall   was   its   engine:   by   the   late   1950s   many   small   cars   in   western countries   already   used   cleaner   and   more   efficient   four-stroke   engines   like   that   in   the   Renault. Budgetary    constraints    and    raw    materials    shortages    forced    the    use    of    an    outdated    but inexpensive   two-stroke   engine   in   the   Trabant.   When   released,   the   Trabant   was   technically equivalent   to   the   West   German   Lloyd   automobile,   which   had   an   air   cooled   two-cylinder   four- stroke engine in a similarly sized vehicle. The Trabant's   air-cooled   two   cylinder   500   cc   (31   cu   in)   (which   was   eventually   upgraded   to   600cc) two-stroke   engine   was   derived   from   a   pre-war   DKW   design,   with   minor   alterations   being   made throughout   the   car's   production   run.   The   first   Saab   car   had   a   larger   (764   cc),   water   cooled,   two cylinder   engine.   Wartburg,   a   GDR   manufacturer   of   larger   saloons,   also   used   a   DKW   engine:   a water-cooled three cylinder 1,000 cc (61 cu in) two-stroke unit. 1958   marked   the   production   of   the   original Trabant,   the   P50. This   car   was   the   base   model   of   the Trabant   series,   and   even   the   latest   1.1s   shared   a   large   number   of   interchangeable   parts.   The 500   cc   18   hp   (13   kW)   P50   evolved   into   a   20   hp   (15   kW)   version   in   1960,   gaining   a   fully synchronized   gearbox   amongst   other   things,   and   finally   got   a   23   hp   600   cc   engine   in   1962, becoming the P60. The   updated   P601   was   introduced   in   1964.   This   car   was   essentially   a   facelift   of   the   P60,   with   a different   front   fascia,   bonnet,   roof,   and   rear,   whilst   retaining   the   original   P50   underpinnings. This   model   stayed   practically   unchanged   up   to   its   production   end,   with   the   most   major   changes being 12v electronics, coil springs for the rear, and a different dash for the latest models. The   Trabant's   designers   expected   production   to   extend   to   1967   at   the   latest,   and   East   German designers   and   engineers   created   a   series   of   more   sophisticated   prototypes   through   the   years that   were   intended   to   replace   the   Trabant   P601;   several   of   these   can   be   seen   at   the   Dresden Transport   Museum.   However,   each   proposal   for   a   new   model   was   rejected   by   the   GDR   leadership due   to   constant   shortages   of   critical   raw   materials,   which   were   required   in   larger   quantities   for the more advanced designs. As a result, the Trabant remained in production largely unchanged.

Late production (1989–1991)

Starting   in   the   summer   of   1989,   thousands   of   East   Germans   loaded   their   Trabants   with   as   much as   they   could   carry   and   drove   to   either   Hungary   or   Czechoslovakia   en   route   to   West   Germany. Many   of   them   had   to   get   special   dispensation   to   drive   their   Trabants   into   West   Germany,   as many   of   them   failed   to   meet   West   German   emissions   standards   (their   pollution   was   four   times the European average). In   1989,   a   licensed   version   of   the   Volkswagen   Polo   engine   replaced   the   ancient   two-stroke engine,   the   result   of   a   trade   agreement   between   the   two   German   states.   The   model,   known   as the   Trabant   1.1,   also   had   minor   improvements   to   the   brake   and   signal   lights,   a   revised   grille, and   MacPherson   struts   instead   of   the   leaf   spring-suspended   chassis.   However,   by   the   time   it entered production in May 1990, the two states had already agreed to reunification. It   soon   became   apparent   that   there   was   no   place   for   the   Trabant   in   the   reunified   German economy.   The    inefficient,    labour-intensive    production    line    was    kept    open    only    because    of government     subsidies.     Demand     plummeted     as     residents     of     East     Germany     preferred second-hand western cars which were more efficient and produced less pollution. The   Trabant   production   line   closed   in   1991   and   the   factory   in   Mosel   (Zwickau),   where   the Trabant   1.1   was   produced,   was   sold   to   Volkswagen   AG   -   a   move   that   was   seen   as   ironic   given that   Volkswagen   owns   Audi   (formerly   Auto   Union)   -   which   was   the   original   owner   of   the   factory before   it   was   forcibly   wound   up   by   the   Soviet   regime   and   its   directors   forced   to   flee   to   the West,   where   the   company   was   re-founded   in   its   current   home   in   Ingolstadt,   Bavaria.   The   rest   of the    Trabant    company    became    HQM    Sachsenring    GmbH.    Volkswagen    has    now    substantially redeveloped   the   Zwickau   site,   which   now   is   a   centre   for   engine   production,   as   well   as   small scale production of the Golf and Passat.

1990s and beyond

Trabants   became   well   known   in   the   West   after   the   fall   of   the   Berlin   Wall   when   many   were abandoned   by   their   Eastern   owners   after   migrating   westward.   However,   unlike   many   other Eastern   European   cars   of   the   eastern   bloc   era   –   notably   the   Lada   Niva,   Škoda   Estelle,   Polski   Fiat, and Yugo – the Trabant was not a strong seller in Western Europe. In   the   early   1990s   it   was   possible   to   buy   a   Trabant   for   as   little   as   a   few   Deutsche   Marks,   and many   were   given   away.   Later,   as   they   became   collectors'   items,   prices   recovered,   but   remain very   cheap   cars   to   this   day.   The   popular   culture   surrounding   the   Trabant   was   referenced   by   the performance   artist   Liz   Cohen   in   her   Bodywork   project,   which   transformed   an   East   German   1987 Trabant into a 1973 Chevrolet El Camino. In   the   late   1990s,   there   were   plans   to   put   the   Trabant   back   into   production   in   Uzbekistan   as   the Olimp.; only a single model was produced. Former   Bulgarian   Foreign   Minister   and   Atlantic   Club   of   Bulgaria   founding   president   Solomon Passy   owned   a   famous Trabant,   which   he   used   to   take   NATO   Secretaries   General   Manfred   Wörner, George   Robertson,   and   Jaap   de   Hoop   Scheffer   for   a   ride.   Passy's   Trabant   was   also   blessed   by Pope   John   Paul   II   in   2002.   In   2005,   Passy   donated   the   vehicle,   which   had   become   a   symbol   of Bulgaria's NATO accession, to the National Historical Museum of Bulgaria. In   1997,   the   Trabant   was   celebrated   for   passing   the   "Elchtest"   ("moose   test"),   a   60   km/h   (37 mph)    swerve    maneuver    slalom,    without    toppling    over    as    the    Mercedes-Benz    W168    (1997 A-class)   infamously   did.   A   newspaper   from   Thuringia   had   a   headline   saying   "Come   and   get   us, moose! Trabi passes A-Class killer test". In   2007   the   Trabant   was   brought   into   the   world   of   diplomacy.   Steven   Fisher,   the   Deputy   Head   of Mission   in   the   British   Embassy   in   Budapest   uses   a   P50   –   painted   as   close   to   British   Racing   Green as possible – as his diplomatic car. American   Trabant   owners   celebrate   the   fall   of   the   Berlin   Wall   with   an   annual   rally   in   the   U.S. capital   city   of   Washington,   D.C.   called   the   "Parade   of   Trabants."   The   free   event,   which   is sponsored   by   the   International   Spy   Museum,   includes   street-side   tours   in   Trabants,   rides,   live German music, and displays about East Germany is held in early November. In   recent   years   more Trabants   are   being   imported   into   Canada   and   the   US. A   recent   auction   from the    Bruce    Weiner    Microcar    Museum    in    Madison,    Georgia    saw    a   Trabant    P50    and    matching Wohnwagen (camper trailer) fetch ~US$25,000. An   online   forum,   TrabantForums.com    was   launched   in   2011   that   allows   the   English   speaking Trabant owners to share information, knowledge, parts and experience.

1961

Engine 600 cc 2 cylinders 2 stroke Lenght/width 3,36 m/1,5 m
Photos mainly by Matti Kreivilä. Historical facts and technical details of the vehicles provided by Wikipedia. Movies YouTube.