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1958 Trabant

If the Beetle was an important symbol of German post-war diligence, the Trabant was probably even more: a symbol of stamina and determination to finally go through the Berlin Wall – without being stopped by border guards.

This Duroplast-bodied car with a steel frame was made at the Mosel plant in Zwickau. Its predecessor, the Type P 70, first left the production line in 1955, manufactured by a pre-war DKW plant. In 1957, a coupe was added- for a market where people were pleased enough when they got any cars at all, after ten years on a waiting list. The next car, the P 50 of 1957 was the actual Trabant. An estate model followed in 1960, called Trabant 601, it was far more attractive, although its body made of Duroplast, a mixture of cotton and ground wood pulp, soaked in artificial resin – attracted a good deal of scorn.

As VW was eventually to take over the Zwickau plant, it was no coincidence that the last Trabis were built with Polo engines, finally eliminating the smell of two-stroke mix. Although the Trabi did not survive the tear down of the Berlin Wall in 1989, it still does live on in East German jokes – or as a means of inverted one-upmanship among Westerners who enjoy attracting attention with tinny engine noises and blue smoke. The production facilities were sold to poorer countries abroad.

Nowdays the Trabi is a rather rare feature on German roads, even in the East.

Manufacturer: VEB Sachsenring, Zwickau, East Germany

Model: P 50 Motor: AWZ, 2-stroke Body: Duroplast
Years Built: May 1958 – Sep. 1962 No. Cylinders: 2 Chassis: Steel
No. Produced: 106,117 (all models) Displacement: 492 cc Suspension Front: Leaf
No. Surviving: Horsepower: 18 Suspension Rear: Leaf
Length: 3 370 mm Gearbox: 3 + rev Steering: Rack & Pinion
Width: 1 500 mm Starter: Electric Brakes: Hydraulic
Weight: 560 kg Electrics: 12 v 4 Wheels: 5.20 x 13"
Interior: 4 seats Ignition: Coil Top Speed: 90 kph

© 2002