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Thursday, February 18, 2016

Berlin - Meet the Trabant

Harry in a Trabant at the Technical Museum
Trabants remind me of the Dwarf Cars in Maricopa AZ

Meet the little Commie Trabant - a car made in East Germany in the town of Zwickau for 35 years. During the 30 years that the Wall was up - this was the most popular car in communist controlled East Germany. It was designed in 1957. It was named for the word for Satellite - after the first Communist satellite Sputnik. 

When it was first introduced - it was ahead of its time with many interesting features. It was powered by a 2 cylinder - 2 stroke engine with front wheel drive. It had a body with a framework of steel covered by plastic bakelite panels - it was smaller than a VW beetle and weighed only about 1000 pounds. Owners would claim they were made of cardboard - they were so light.

The engine sounded like a chainsaw or leaf blower - and spewed out the equivalent  of 10 times the pollution of the average car. But since they were the only show in town - people ordered them - and waited in line for years before the car arrived. On the black market - you paid a premium to buy another customers place in line to get your car sooner. 

They built 4 million of them over 30 years - and the last ones were essentially the same as the first ones. They has a 26 horsepower engine. It took them 21 seconds to get to their top speed of 62 MPH. You can compare that to a Corvette that takes 4 seconds to get to 60 MPH. 

I got a chance to sit in the orange Trabant above at the Technical Museum. It can hold 4 adults - but the seats are very tiny and it takes a bit of contortion to get into the back seats. It does have a trunk that could hold two suitcases. 

Because it s a stroke - 2 cycle engine - you have to mix oil with the gasoline - 1 to 50. The gas stations did have pumps that made the mixture - today if you have one you must carry around a can of oil to mix in your 6 gallon gas tank.

There are Trabant clubs in Germany and throughout the world. Ironically - when people were fleeing from East Germany to West Germany after the wall came down - they had to have the cars altered to pass inspection in their new homeland. People were happy to get rid of them for new modern cars. So far - I have only seen 2 on the streets of Berlin. 

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