Trabant (VEB Sachsenring Automobilwerke) History
Automotive manufacturer Aachen; Germany From 1957 to 1991.
The Trabant is an automobile which was produced from 1957 to 1991 by former East German car manufacturer VEB Sachsenring Automobilwerke Zwickau. Although it is often seen as symbolic of the defunct East Germany and the collapse of the Eastern Bloc in general, it was a sought-after car in East Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall. The Trabant had a hard plastic body mounted on a one-piece steel chassis (a so-called unibody or monocoque), front-wheel drive, a transverse engine, and independent suspension – unusual features at that time.
Trabant is the 1958 in the GDR in VEB automobile factory Zwickau , later VEB Sachsenring Zwickau car plants serially produced cars - series . At the time of introduction, he was with front wheel drive and transverse engine as a modern small car and allowed next to the Wartburg , the mass motorization in the GDR. During his long construction period, he was only further developed in detail and remained in his class no alternative, so that in later years, he ultimately reflected the ossification of the GDR economy. No car was longer than the Trabant withTwo-stroke engine built (until 1990). Relatively large quantities reached from 1964 to 1991 in particular the Trabant P 601, which became 1989/1990 a symbol of the reunification of Germany . Similar to the VW Beetle , the car, often affectionately known as "Trabi" or "Trabbi", developed into a cult vehicle with an extensive circle of friends. Until the early 1980s, the Trabant was also successful in international rally competitions. Many vehicles were exported to the CSSR , Poland and Hungary .
The name "Trabant" was found in a survey; he means "companion" or "companion", as well as the Russian word Sputnik . At about the same time, the Soviet Union ushered in the era of spaceflight with the launch of the Sputnik 1 satellite . In the GDR , the Trabant was mostly called Trabi (pronounced 'Trabbi'). He got some nicknames over time, such as "walker", "covered spark plug", "plastic bomber" or "cardboard". The term "racing cardboard" was used at that time exclusively for Trabant used in motorsport.
The Trabant counted at its premiere to the first small car models with front-wheel drive , which offered space for four adults and luggage. He was considered affordable and sturdy, but also uncomfortable and noisy. Although the two-stroke engine produced by the Barkas plants was relatively spirited, was due to the exhaust pollution, high fuel consumption and uncultivated idling in the 1960s as outdated, which was no secret in the GDR. Provided was a separation of the two-stroke engine with a rotary engine , however, presented difficulties, the serial transfer. He found himself in 1966 in the prototype P 603again, which also had a state-of-the-art compact body. In the series, however, the body remained unchanged with their long overhangs and the tight seating conditions in the rear. A water-cooled four-stroke engine received the Trabant only after several years of developmental standstill in the model 1.1 .
The novel plastic shell of the Trabant initially had a number of advantages such as stability, corrosion-free, easy to repair and easy availability. Only later did their disadvantages become apparent. Not only did this involve waste disposal issues, but also that these plastics significantly hindered productivity. The minutes of curing of the plastics in the expensive presses blocked them and thus prevented an increase in productivity. During the period in which a plastic part was created, presses for metal produced dozens of parts.
Not only the car problem as such tormented the GDR in the 1950s, there was a general lack of transport capacity. Therefore, a combination version was developed by the Trabant. One year after the series production of the P 50 sedan began, in 1959 the new estate car was introduced and put into series production. The combination bodies were produced in the VEB bodywork Meerane, about 20 km from the Zwickau parent company VEB Sachsenring Automobilwerke. Technically corresponded the station wagons mostly the sedans, in the further development was not distinguished. Thus, the Trabant station wagon was produced from 1962 in the version P 60 - the 500 cc engine replaced by the 600 cc engine. In this "model change" the innovations were limited to the technical side. The body shape remained the old one. Of both - the Trabant P 50 as well as the Trabant P 60 - there was also the version "Camping", a station wagon with reclining seats and folding sunroof. Furthermore, there was a van - a vehicle with only two front seats and designed as a cargo space interior, the rear side windows were left.
Already in 1961, a functional model of the planned successor model Trabant 601 Kombi was built in the bodywork Meerane. Only four years later - in September 1965 - this vehicle was adopted under the official name "Trabant 601 Universal" in the series and thus replaced the predecessor model finally. At this time, the Trabant 601 sedan was already in production for more than a year. New in the model 601 Universal was that in Meerane already prefabricated floor groups from the Zwickau Sachsenring car factory were delivered. In the previous model, the entire body was made exclusively in Meerane. Only the side and rear end and the windscreen frame were welded to the bottom groups of the 601 and formed the sheet steel frame of the estate version. The production process was logistically extremely complex. Soil groups and stems were produced and primed in Zwickau, then transported to Meerane on special trucks. There, a part of the primer was removed again to allow the welding work. Skeleton construction, renewed pretreatment of the steel sheet skeleton, assembly of the thermoset Body shell, painting and assembly of interior, lighting, wiring harness, glazing took place in Meerane. The finished estate bodies were then loaded onto special trucks again and finally transported back to Zwickau for final assembly (engine, chassis, etc.). It is not for nothing that the "longest bar line in the world" was talked about internally, because even within the plants in Meerane and Zwickau frequent transport by truck between the individual parts of the plant was necessary. The used transport vehicles were special superstructures on a trailer basis. These vehicles could be loaded with a total of eight bodies (spread over two floors). The trailers were pulled by truck IFA W50, on the back of which another body could be found. So nine bodies were transported per train.Multicar and various special bodies.
Technically, the Universal always corresponded to the current state of the sedan. Also he was to have in the versions that were offered for the sedan: Trabant 601 (standard), Trabant 601S (special request), Trabant 601 de luxe or S de luxe (luxury version) and (but in very small quantities) from the Predecessor known vans. The originally planned camping version was not reissued for rationalization and cost reasons. The production of the Trabant 601 Universal ended with the production setting of the 601 two-stroke model in 1990.
Parallel to the sedan was under the engine program and the transition to four-stroke - gasoline engines developed a combination of the model Trabant 1.1. In 1988, 30 of these vehicles were produced as part of the pilot series, production start was in May 1990. Under the model name "Trabant 1.1 Universal" the four-stroke engine was manufactured until the end of Trabant production. On trim levels was waived in 1.1 contrary to original plans. In the bodywork Meerane the last body was on April 23, 1991 from the band, the Zwickau factory closed on April 30, 1991.
Between November 1957 ( pilot series) and April 1991, a total of 3,096,099 vehicles of the Trabant series were produced in Zwickau . Unlike the Wartburg , most vehicles were intended for the internal market. The annual mileage of a Trabant was comparatively low. For example, a statistical survey carried out by the VEB Sachsenring in 1961 reveals that privately used Trabant travel only about 3,000-7,000 km a year. Commercial / operational Trabant averaged 10,000-15,000 km per year.
According to the final report of the Federal Office of Economics and Export Control , 1,819 Trabant were scrapped in favor of the environmental bonus between 27 January 2009 and 31 July 2010.
The Trabant was successful in motorsport in his class until the 1980s. As early as 1957, two of the first zero-series cars participated in the Wartburg Rally , but did not place themselves. In 1960, the factory sports department was officially founded, clear class victories were achieved immediately in the rally of the 1000 lakes in Finland, and the European Championship in 1960. In 1961 even managed an overall victory at the Rally Hanseat with finale at the Nurburgring in Germany when 300 launched vehicles only six all limits managed, including the three started Trabant in positions 1 to 3. Another highlight was the 39thRally Monte Carlo 1970, when two teams on Trabant won the 1st and 2nd place in the class up to 850 cc. By 1980 alone, 161 gold medals, 118 class victories and 7 overall victories were achieved.  This comes as remarkable, was summarized as the satellite in its class with vehicles to 850 and later even 1300 cc. In addition to the series touring car , the sports department with special touring car with increased power on 46 hp at the start. Also in the 1980s, among other things with the Trabant P 800 RS achieved international success in rallying. In addition to the Sachsenring Sports Department, there were a number of private club riders who raced at various rally events. So participated in the 1980sRally Wartburg 46 private participant couples from the GDR, CSSR and Hungary. The experiences of the rally sport flowed into the further development of the series vehicles. Thus, the assembly of the V-belt and the engine was facilitated, strengthened the breaker housing, changed the suspension of the exhaust and more.
Road racing on Trabant was operated exclusively by club riders. This was the first time in 1970 during the Schleizer Triangle Race . The races were very popular and partly followed by hundreds of thousands and more spectators. The original Trabant engines were trimmed to maximum performance and the touring cars achieved with 65 hp a top speed of about 165 km / h. The Trabant was also represented in the Auto-Cross , which was practiced in the GDR from 1976, as well as in the racing class from B8 to 600 cc, which was conceptually tailored to the Trabant.
Trabant means "satellite" or "companion" in German, derived from the Middle High German drabant (“Hussite foot soldier”).The car's name was inspired by the Soviet Sputniksatellite. The cars are often referred to as "Trabbi" or "Trabi". Produced without major changes for nearly 30 years, the Trabant became the most common automobile in East Germany. It came to symbolize the country during the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, as images of East Germans crossing the border into West Germany were broadcast around the globe. To acquire a Trabant, East German buyers were placed on a list; their waiting time depended on their proximity to Berlin, the capital.
The Trabant had a steel unibody frame, with the roof, trunk lid, hood, fenders and doors made of Duroplast, a hard plastic made from recycled cotton waste from the Soviet Union and phenol resins from the East German dye industry. It was the second car with a body made of recycled material; the first was the AWZ P70 Zwickau, produced from 1955 to 1959. The material was durable, and the average lifespan of a Trabant was 28 years.
The car had four principal variants:
- The P50, also known as the Trabant 500 (produced 1957–1962)
- The Trabant 600 (1962–1964)
- The Trabant 601 (1963–1991)
- The Trabant 1.1, produced in 1990–1991 with a 1,043 cc (63.6 cu in) VW engine
The engine for the 500, 600 and the original 601 was a small two-stroke engine with two cylinders, accounting for the vehicle's modest performance. Its curb weight was about 600 kg (1,100 pounds). When it ceased production in 1989, the Trabant delivered 19 kW (26 horsepower) from a 600 cc (37 cu in) displacement. It took 21 seconds to accelerate from zero to its top speed of 100 km/h(62 mph).
The engine produced a very smoky exhaust and was a significant source of air pollution: nine times the hydrocarbons and five times the carbon-monoxide emissions of the average 2007 European car..Since the engine did not have an oil pump, two-stroke oil had to be added to the 24-liter (6.3 U.S. gal; 5.3 imp gal) fuel tank at a 50:1 (or 33:1) ratio of fuel to oil at each fill-up. Contemporary gas stations in countries where two-stroke engines were common sold a premixed gas-oil mixture at the pump. Today, owners carry a container of two-stroke oil in the car for this purpose. Because the Trabant had no fuel pump, its fuel tank was above the motor so fuel could reach the carburetor by gravity; this increased the risk of fire in front-end accidents. Earlier models had no fuel gauge, and a dipstick was inserted into the tank to determine how much fuel remained.
Best known for its dull color scheme and cramped, uncomfortable ride, the Trabant is an object of playful ridicule for many Germans and is regarded as symbolic of the fall of the Eastern Bloc. Known as a "spark plug with a roof" because of its small size, the car gained public affection and something of a cult following. Its design remained essentially unchanged since its introduction in the late 1950s, and the last model was introduced in 1964. In contrast, the West German Volkswagen Beetle received a number of updates (including improvements in efficiency) over a similar period.
The first of the Trabants left the VEB Sachsenring Automobilwerke Zwickau factory in Saxony on 7 November 1957. It was a relatively advanced car when it was formally introduced the following year, with front wheel drive, unitary construction and independent suspension. The Trabant's greatest shortcoming was its engine. By the late 1950s many small Western cars (such as the Renault) had cleaner, more-efficient four-stroke engines, but budgetary constraints and raw-materials shortages mandated an outdated (but inexpensive) two-stroke engine in the Trabant. It was technically equivalent to the West German Lloyd automobile, a similarly sized car with an air-cooled, two-cylinder four-stroke engine. The Trabant had a front, transversely-mounted engine and front-wheel drive in an era when many European cars were using rear-mounted engines or front-mounted engines with rear-wheel drive. Its greatest drawback was its largely unchanged production; the car's two-stroke engine made it obsolete by the 1970s, limiting exports to Western Europe.
The Trabant's air-cooled, 500 cc (31 cu in) engine—upgraded to 600cc in 1962–63—was derived from a pre-war DKW design with minor alterations during its production run. The first Saab car had a larger (764cc), water-cooled, two-cylinder two-stroke engine. Wartburg, an East German manufacturer of larger sedans, also used a water-cooled, three-cylinder, 1,000 cc (61 cu in), two-stroke DKW engine.
The original Trabant, introduced in 1958, was the P50. Trabant's base model, it shared a large number of interchangeable parts with the latest 1.1s. The 500 cc, 18 hp (13 kW) P50 evolved into a 20 hp (15 kW) version with a fully synchronized gearbox in 1960, and received a 23 hp, 600 cc engine in 1962 as the P60.
The updated P601 was introduced in 1964. It was essentially a facelift of the P60, with a different front fascia, bonnet, roof and rear and the original P50 underpinnings. The model remained nearly unchanged until the end of its production except for the addition of 12V electricity, rear coil springs and an updated dashboard for later models.
The Trabant's designers expected production to extend until 1967 at the latest, and East German designers and engineers created a series of more-sophisticated prototypes intended to replace the P601; several are on display at the Dresden Transport Museum. Each proposal for a new model was rejected by the East German government due to shortages of the raw materials required in larger quantities for the more-advanced designs. As a result, the Trabant remained largely unchanged for more than a quarter-century. Also unchanged was its production method, which was extremely labour-intensive.
The Trabant 1100 (also known as the P1100) was a 601 with a better-performing 1.05-liter, 45HP VW Polo engine. With a more-modern look (including a floor-mounted gearshift), it was quieter and cleaner than its predecessor. The 1100 had front disc brakes, and its wheel assembly was borrowed from Volkswagen. It was produced between from 1989 to 1991, in parallel with the two-stroke P601. Except for the engine and transmission, many parts from older P50s, P60s and 601s were compatible with the 1100.
In mid-1989, thousands of East Germans began loading their Trabants with as much as they could carry and drove to Hungary or Czechoslovakia en route to West Germany on the "Trabi Trail". Many had to get special permission to drive their Trabants into West Germany, since the cars did not meet West German emissions standards and polluted the air at four times the European average.
A licensed version of the Volkswagen Poloengine replaced the Trabant's two-stroke engine in 1989, the result of a trade agreement between East and West Germany. The model, the Trabant 1.1, also had minor improvements to its brake and signal lights, a renovated grille, and MacPherson struts instead of a leaf-spring-suspended chassis. When the 1.1 began production in May 1990, the two German states had already agreed to reunification.
By April 1991 3.7 million vehicles had been produced. However, it soon became apparent that there was no place for the Trabant in a reunified German economy; its inefficient, labour-intensive production line survived on government subsidies.
The Trabant ceased production in 1991, and the Zwickau factory in Mosel (where the Trabant 1.1 was manufactured) was sold to Volkswagen AG; the rest of the company became HQM Sachsenring GmbH. Volkswagen redeveloped the Zwickau factory, which is a centre for engine production and produces some Volkswagen Golfs and Passats.
1990s and later
According to Richard Leiby, the Trabant had become "a symbol of the technological and social backwardness of the East German state." Trabants became well known in the West after the fall of the Berlin Wall, when many were abandoned by their Eastern owners who migrated west. Unlike the Lada Niva, Škoda Estelle, Polski Fiat and Yugo, the Trabant did not sell well in Western Europe.
A Trabant could be bought for as little as a few Deutsche Marks during the early 1990s, and many were given away. Although prices recovered as they became collectors' items, they remain inexpensive cars. In her Bodywork project, performance artist Liz Cohentransformed a 1987 Trabant into a 1973 Chevrolet El Camino. The Trabant was planned to return to production in Uzbekistan as the Olimp during the late 1990s, but only one model was produced.
Former Bulgarian Foreign Minister and Atlantic Club of Bulgaria founding president Solomon Passy owned a Trabant which was blessed by Pope John Paul II in 2002 and which he took NATO Secretaries General Manfred Wörner, George Robertson, and Jaap de Hoop Schefferfor rides. In 2005, Passy donated the vehicle (which had become symbolic of Bulgaria's NATO accession) to the National Historical Museum of Bulgaria. In 1997 the Trabant was celebrated for passing the moose test without rolling over, as the Mercedes-Benz W168 had; a Thuringian newspaper's headline read, "Come and get us, moose! Trabi passes A-Class killer test".