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Hagerty Employee

Maligned and misunderstood, East Germany's tiny Trabant left an outsized legacy

For a heart-stopping moment in 1990, Martin Peters nearly became the headline of a grisly story in which the Eastern and Western German automotive worlds collided-quite literally-on the Autobahn. Peters, then head writer for MotorWeek, was in Germany filming a Porsche segment during the week of reunification.

The Trabant has not been miss understood as they are an excellent example of socialism.

These are movement promoted cars for the masses of government provided citizens.

This is what you get when everyone is given equal measures of their needs vs open opportunity to better their life on their own.

The Lada is an another example of what you get in this case. This level of quality applied to nearly every thing in these peoples lives in these countries be it housing, health care or food. That is unless you are a high ranking party member or you were in organized crime.

I find it I find it interesting that the one car here is being restored only 30 min from my home. Also the U2 cars they used in concert are hanging 60 min north of here next to Cleveland Browns Stadium in the Rock Hall of Fame.

They are not the favorite cars there as the ZZ Top coupe is still the favorite there and an much better example of what you get with an open market with free opportunity.

Sounds like Biden's build back better BS.
Pit Crew

Predictably, you misunderstand socialism. DDR had communism. Socialism itself is much closer to capitalism but you'd have to read up a little.
Intermediate Driver

Lenin said the goal of socialism is communism. So yeah, state control and then state ownership. The point is central planning puts some of the most corrupt and incompetent people in power. In fact the higher up you go the more that’s true. Case in point, the potato and hee hee Harris. Let’s go Brandon

Only one of the three "ism's" work...
Advanced Driver

Great piece. The Trabant is exactly what you might expect a command economy to produce, and maybe even a bit better. I rode many hundreds of km in one in 1991 with a new East German friend. It was sobering to merge onto the Autobahn in a car that could barely muster 100 km/h, but on the 2-lane roads it was ok. My pal and his wife had ordered the car in 1976 and paid 14,000 East German Marks for it (quite a lot at the time). They took delivery in 1990. By 1991, it was worth around 50 Marks — so they just kept it and drove it for years and years. When they visited us in Canada in 1995, they took my 1983 RX-7 on a 2000-km road trip of the west coast — it was only the third car he had ever driven: the driving school car, their Trabant, and my little rotary wedge. Thanks for triggering those memories!
Advanced Driver

And what did he have to say about the RX7? I would imagine it was quite a shock for him! 🙂
Advanced Driver

One of the problems of centrally planned economies is that they leave little room for innovation, other than the innovations needed to deal with scarce resources. Need materials or equipment to make your invention? Sorry, they've been already been allocated. It's hard to invent when speculative ventures are prohibited.

Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. W. Churchill
This car is indeed, a rolling history lesson.

and the rest of us are doomed to watch them repeat it.

I always thought the use of the Trabant by U2 was comical. It was a crap car that was as good as it could be given the restrictions placed upon them. It's one of many cautionary tales that I feel people ignore because that could never happen today. These people also do not study history and fail to see the patterns that repeat themselves.
Advanced Driver

Communism's greatest hits:
Food shortages
Energy shortages
I guess if you didn't live through history, it didn't really happen.

It's a prime example of what Germans could accomplish with the remnants of production the Soviet Union left them after WWII. I think it is superior to France's CVII.
Pit Crew

Kind of reminds me of the Lloyd Alexander. Two cylinders, air cooled, front drive, fuel tank above the engine but I believe four stroke not two. Remember Borgward? You might say west vs. east in Germany.
Intermediate Driver

Looks like every last can of surplus light blue paint in the DDR was offloaded to the factory.

I remember reading that before unification, the East Germans referred to Trabis as "plastic Jaguars."

Strangely enough, there's a Trabi in the Museum of the US Air Force, at Wright-Patterson AFB (Dayton, OH). It's part of a life-size diorama that contains a piece of the actual Berlin Wall, a Trabi and an East German couple escaping to the West, using the Trabi's roof to climb over the wall. Apparently they're willing to give up their hard-won car to make a new life in West Germany. The car is properly used-looking, not a pristine restoration as are the aircraft in the museum.
Intermediate Driver

Great museum. I love that they use the planes to tell human stories not just showcase technology. One that moved me was a piece of a German ME 262 jet built by slave labor that had a picture of a heart scratched in it and said in French “my heart is free”. Many of the German manufacturer’s weapons were sabotaged by slaves risking their lives to do so. Fascism and communism are just two sides of the same coin. 


I read once that ten times as many people died building V2 rockets as the rockets killed when they landed.

Intermediate Driver

The nazis were not interested in how many people they killed, working them to death. The slaves were fed, if I remember correctly, 2,000 calories per day for hard labor, not enough to keep them alive, but enough to get work from them. The objective was to kill them all, whilst obtaining war materiel products for their goal of conquering the world.
Advanced Driver

A swell read, thank you, heralding the triumph of inventiveness against all obstacles.

Kudos for creating the nicest Trabant every and showing it. Good article.