Trabant: The Iconic Car of Communism

By | December 20, 2010


Our pages are usually full of new and exciting cars pumping out ungodly amounts of power draped in luxury and opulence (I has it). This, however, is a tribute to the communistic anti-exotic that few here in the U.S. know of: The Trabant.

I was given the opportunity to drive one of these beauties while living in the beautiful border town of Szombathely (directly translated “Saturday Place”) Hungary. It was love at first site.

The Trabant was a car built by the people for the people. It was one of only a handful of cars one could choose from during the communist occupation in Europe.  If I had to choose between a Wartburg, Lada, Dacia or Trabant, I’d take the little Trabi any day.

This little sedan-o-joy began life in the “Fazzer Land” of Eastern Germany in 1957 when the Soviet Union realized they had a large amount of cotton and plastic waste that they didn’t know what to do with. I can just imagine someone jokingly suggesting, “Why not build a car out of it?” So they did, combining the cotton/wool waste with recycled plastic and resin. They called their new solid-ish (and extremely flammable) material “Duroplast”. Some say it was the first ever eco-friendly car, being the first to use recycled materials in its construction.

In 1963 the Trabi evolved into the “updated” model coined the “601” that ran until its manufacturing death in 1991. This was the particular iteration I had the pleasure of flogging around the Hungarian countryside. Although small by any measure, the Trabi was actually quite roomy inside (as demonstrated in the video below).  The Trabi was powered by a lawn mower besting 26 horsepower 2 stroke, 2 cylinder motor, that meandered to 60mph in about 21 seconds and had a top speed of 70mph. While my grandma’s Rascal would beat the Trabi off the line, it couldn’t touch the Trabi’s top speed if it tried. Obviously, performance wasn’t at the top of the list when it came to socialized car manufacturing.

It wasn’t the performance (or the complete lack thereof) that won me over. It was the simple pleasure of rowing the “3 on the tree” and listening to (and smelling) the 2 stroke clatter produced by the leaf blower motor. This was motoring at its simplest, and to be honest, one of its most enjoyable. I think the vintage advertisement below says it all (in German):


Derek on December 21, 2010 at 3:26 pm.

The Trabant’s off-road cousin. The Lada Niva. I filmed this gem on the way to Tiblisi, Georgia.nn

Brandon on December 21, 2010 at 3:44 pm.

You have to love the Lada Niva! If it’s good enough for Vladimir Putin, it’s good enough for the rest of us! Great video. I miss those “fast” Eastern Europe’s trains!

Brandon on December 21, 2010 at 3:46 pm.

Meant to say “Eastern European trains”. It’s a bit too early for me!

D-ROLF on December 21, 2010 at 3:06 pm.

It is funny written, but not reality.
If You like to see a real Trabi look to Rubys Inn at Bryce Canyon, there is our “Olympics-Trabi” or look

D-ROLF on December 21, 2010 at 11:31 pm.

Nooo!nTrabi is a German car,nLada Niva a Russian!nnlook

Leave Your Comment

Your email will not be published or shared. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>