Infobox Automobile
name = Trabant

manufacturer = VEB Sachsenring
production = 1957–1991
body_style = 2-door sedan (Limousine, Saloon)
2-door station wagon (Universal)
similar = Wartburg

The Trabant is an automobile formerly produced by 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 communist bloc. The main selling points were that it had room for four adults and luggage, and was compact, fast, light and durable. Despite its poor performance and smoky two-stroke engine, the car has come to be regarded with affection as a symbol of the more positive sides of former East Germany and of the fall of communism (in former West Germany, as many East Germans streamed into West Berlin and West Germany in their Trabants after the opening of the Berlin Wall in 1989). For advocates of the free market it has become a handy symbol for everything wrong with government planned economies. It was in production without any significant change for nearly 30 years.


The name Trabant means "fellow traveler" (Satellite) in Latin; the name was inspired by Soviet Sputnik. The cars are often referred to as the Trabbi or Trabi, pronounced with a short a.

Since it could take years for a Trabant to be delivered from the time it was ordered, people who finally got one were very careful with it and usually became skillful in maintaining and repairing it. The lifespan of an average Trabant was 28 years. [ PBS - Scientific American Frontiers:Previous Shows:Transcripts:Special From Germany ] ] Used Trabants would often fetch a higher price than new ones, as the former were available immediately, while the latter had the aforementioned waiting period of several years.

There were two principal variants of the Trabant, the Trabant 500, also known as the Trabant P 50, produced 1957-1963; and the Trabant 601 (or Trabant P 60 series), produced from 1963 to 1989. (The Trabant 601 ended its production in 1991, after the introduction of a 1.1L VW engine in 1990 (see below)). The engine for both the "Trabant 500" and "601" was a small two-stroke engine with two cylinders, giving the vehicle modest performance. At the end of production in 1989 it delivered 19 kW (25 horsepower) from a 600 cc displacement. The car took 21 seconds from 0 to 100 km/h (62 mph) and the top speed was 112 km/h (70 mph). There were two main problems with the engine: the smoky exhaust and the pollution it produced — nine times the amount of hydrocarbons and five times the carbon monoxides of the average European car of 2007. The fuel consumption was a modest 7 liters/100 km. [ [ Trans National Trabant Tour 2007 ] ] (34 mpg (US), 40 mpg (Imperial)).

The Trabant was a steel monocoque design with roof, bootlid, bonnet, fenders and doors in Duroplast, a form of plastic containing resin strengthened by wool or cotton. This helped the GDR to avoid expensive steel imports, but in theory did not provide much crash protection, although in crash tests it has actually proven to be superior to some modern small hatchbacks. [ [ Sachsenring Trabant] ] [ [ TrabiRent] ] The Trabant was the second car to use Duroplast, after the "pre-Trabant" P70 (Zwickau) model (1954-1959). The duroplast was made of recycled material, cotton waste from Russia and phenol resins from the East German dye industry making the Trabant the first car with a body made of recycled material.

More than three million Trabants were made. [ [ "Trabant Canada"] ]


Originally planned as a three-wheeled motorcycle, the decision to build a four-wheeled car came late in the planning process. [ [,2144,2542584,00.html DW: Go, Trabi, Go! East Germany's Darling Car Turns 50] ] The name "Trabant", Latin for "traveler" or "companion", was chosen in an internal contest in 1957, the year of Sputnik, the first artificial satellite. Previous motorcycle production at Sachsenring had been under the aegis of "AWZ" (Auto-Werke Zwickau).

The Trabant was not a particularly advanced car when it was launched; by the late 1950s small cars in western countries mainly used cleaner and more efficient four-stroke engines, as employed in the Volkswagen.

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 Trabi; several of these can be seen at the Dresden Transport Museum. However, each proposal for a new model was rejected by the GDR leadership for reasons of cost. As a result, the obsolete Trabant remained in production unchanged; in contrast, the Czechoslovak Škoda automobiles were continually updated and exported successfully. The Trabant's production method, which was extremely labor-intensive, remained unchanged, and much of the work was carried out by Vietnamese guest workers.In 1989, a smaller version of the Volkswagen Polo engine replaced the elderly 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 replaced the coach spring-suspended chassis with one using MacPherson and Chapman struts. However, by the time it entered production in May 1990, German reunification had already been agreed to. The inefficient, labor-intensive production line was kept open only because of government subsidies. Demand plummeted, as residents of the east preferred second-hand western cars. The production line closed in 1991.

Although Trabants had been exported from East Germany, they became well-known in the West after the fall of the Berlin Wall when many were abandoned by their Eastern owners after migrating westward. News reports inaccurately described them as having cardboard bodies. This is likely due to the fact that the body of the Trabant was Duroplast, a material that, in East German production, often made use of varying quantities of different fibers, such as cotton, or occasionally paper.

In the early 1990s it was possible to buy a Trabant for as little as a few marks, and many were given away. Later, as they became collectors' items, prices recovered, but they remain very cheap cars. Green Trabants are especially popular as they are said to bring good luck.

In the late 1990s, there were plans to put the Trabant back into production in Uzbekistan as the Olimp. [ [ Trabant Clunks Back to Life ] ] However, only a single model was produced. []

In 1997, the Trabant was celebrated for passing the "Elchtest" ("moose test"), a convert|60|km/h|mi/h|0|abbr=on swerve manoeuvre slalom, without toppling over like the Mercedes-Benz A-Class infamously did. A newspaper from Thuringia had a headline saying "Come and get us, moose! Trabi passes A-Class killer test". [ [ Petite feat - ] ]

In 2007 Herpa, a miniature vehicles manufacturer in Bavaria, showed a scale model of the "New Trabi" and revealed that they planned to introduce it they bought the rights to the name and plan to produce a series of 5000 cars. It would likely have a BMW engine and be sold for around €50,000. [ [ International Herald Tribune: The 'Trabi' automobile, once a symbol of East Germany, to be revived] ] [ [,2144,2773343,00.html Deutsche Welle: German Firm Plans to Launch Revamped Trabant] ]


* Trabant P50 - later called Trabant 500 (Limousine and Universal [Combi] )
* Trabant 600 (Limousine and Universal)
* Trabant 601 (Limousine, Universal and Tramp (Cabrio))
* Trabant 601 S & Trabant 601 De Luxe (With optional equipment including rear and front fog lamps, rear white light and an additional odometer)
* Trabant 601 Hycomat (Made for users with missing or dysunctional left leg. It had included an automatic clutching system)
* Trabant 1,1 (Limousine, Universal and Tramp (Cabrio))

Trabants in popular culture

The Trabant appears in several films, sometimes in feature roles. Shortly after the German reunification, a comedy feature film named "Go Trabi Go" was released in Germany, chronicling the journey of an East German family across Europe in a Trabant. Although the film highlights the performance gap between the Trabant and newer models, it was a film laced with admiration of the car. [ [ DVD Forum - Das ultimative DVD - Forum - DVD - News, DVD - Reviews, DVD - Starttermine und mehr ] ] A bright blue Trabi features in "Good Bye Lenin!", the award-winning German film made in 2003 about the fall of the wall. The 1991 film "Driving Me Crazy" centers around the invention and subsequent theft of a Trabant modified to run on turnips rather than gasoline. The American movie "Spy Game" (2001) features a car chase involving a Trabant being driven by the spy Tom Bishop (Brad Pitt), who is trying to smuggle an East German from East Berlin over to West Berlin. In the 1996 Czech film "Kolja", the protagonist is ecstatic at finally getting a Trabant.

In their song "Wartburg limuzina", the Serbian rock group Atheist Rap refers to a scene in the movie "Black Cat, White Cat", which shows a Trabant being eaten slowly by pigs. The band also have a separate song called "Blue Trabant". The rock group U2 used Trabants as props on their Zoo TV Tour, including several vehicles suspended from the ceilings of concert halls. These cars can now be seen suspended from the ceiling at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. A Trabant also appears on the cover of their album "Achtung Baby", and in the music video for "One." The name of the Czech band Traband is an obvious pun, also name of Icelandic electro-rock band Trabant, just like the Polish rock band Los Trabantos.

The Trabant appears in several video games such as "Half-Life 2" (where it is made out of metal instead of Duroplast), "Interstate '82" (as a secret car called the Stein PappKarton), "", and in the "All Ghillied Up" mission near the first watch tower.



See also

* Barkas
* Dacia
* FSO Polonez
* Lada
* Microcar
* Ostalgie
* Škoda
* Yugo
* Wartburg
* Examples of jokes about the Trabant

External links

* [ United States Trabant Club]
* [ - 601 PASSIONS website - interactive presentation of Red Pearl Trabant 601z]
* [ picture of Trabant P50]
* [ Technical details and pictures]
* [ Trabant Driver, blog of a Scottish Trabant Owner]
* [ Possessing a car in Eastern Europe]
* A sort of [ official site] (in German, but with many pictures)
* [ Another site (with the noise of - presumably - its engine!)]
* [ History of the Trabant]
* [ Sachsenring Trabant site]
* [ Trabant history and prospects]
* [ Legendary Crazy Guides Trabant Communism Tours Krakow]
* []
* [ BBC news Your pictures: Trabants around the world]
* [ Trabi-UK UK based parts specialist]
* [ UK based Trabant Blog]
* []

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