|Class :||Small car|
|Body versions :||Limousine , station wagon , panel van , pick-up , Kübelwagen|
|Previous model:||EEZ P 70|
The Trabant was a 1958 in the GDR from Sachsenring produced small car - model . The technical features include the two-stroke engine and the body panel made of duroplast . 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. In 1976 the Trabant accounted for 47% of all cars used in the GDR.
Although it was the only small car available in the GDR alongside the temporarily imported Saporoshez , it was not given priority by the GDR government. New models were prevented or stopped politically, so that the Trabant could only be further developed in detail and moved further and further away from international developments in automobile construction. No car with a two-stroke engine , which was increasingly falling into disrepute due to particularly polluting emissions, was built longer than the Trabant (until 1990). Another problem was that the quantities produced were far too low, so that on the one hand demand could not be met and on the other hand the investment costs in production tools slowly amortized, which additionally hampered the further development of the vehicle.
The Trabant was still successful in international rally competitions until the early 1980s. Many vehicles were exported to the ČSSR , Poland and Hungary . In particular, the Trabant 601 , which in 1989/1990 became a symbol of the political change , achieved relatively large numbers . Similar to the VW Beetle , the car, which is often affectionately known as “Trabi / Trabbi” or “racing cardboard”, developed into a cult vehicle with an extensive circle of friends.
When it premiered, the Trabant was one of the first small car models with front-wheel drive that offered space for four adults and luggage. It was considered affordable and robust, but also uncomfortable and noisy. The two-stroke engine produced by the Barkas works was relatively spirited, and was considered out of date in the 1960s due to the exhaust gas pollution, high fuel consumption and uncultivated idling, which was no secret in the GDR either. It was planned to replace the two-stroke engine with a Wankel engine , but the transfer to series production caused difficulties. It was found in 1966 in the prototype P 603 , which also had an ultra-modern compact body. In the series, however, the body with its long overhangs and cramped seating in the rear remained unchanged. The Trabant only got a water-cooled four-stroke engine after several years of standstill in the Trabant 1.1 model .
Duroplast as a body building material
A special feature of the Trabant was the plastic-covered steel frame as a self-supporting body (with subframe ). The new type of plastic casing was developed on the forerunner type P 70 in order to overcome difficulties in sheet metal procurement (deep-drawn sheet metal from the NSW was on its embargo list) and to be able to use its own raw materials for production. It consisted of a phenolic resin reinforced with short cotton fibers ( linters ) , which could be obtained from local brown coal. The cotton material, which could not be dyed and therefore unsuitable for textile production, but could be spun into mats, came as waste from the Soviet Union. These mats were placed on a base made of paper, soaked with phenolic resin and shaped with press pressure (repeated several times to drive out air bubbles) at approx. 188 ° C. The thermoset had a number of other advantages such as stability, freedom from corrosion, low mass, ease of repair and easy / cheap availability. Attempts to test the stability of the thermoset body, in which several Trabants were thrown down a slope and rolled over several times, were satisfactory. It was only later that some significant disadvantages became apparent. This included not only disposal difficulties, but also the fact that these plastics stood in the way of productivity. The minute-long curing times 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 made, presses for metal produced dozens of parts. In the Trabant factory, all duroplastic body parts were cut by hand with a band saw after pressing. Then they were connected to the steel frame by gluing, screwing and folding. The total mass of the duroplastic parts of a Trabant body is 32 kg. Compared to the then common GRP as an alternative body construction material, the Trabant material offered the possibility of cheaper production in larger quantities, as well as a smooth surface that could be painted without any problems. The manufacturing process has been licensed from England, among others.
Other technical features
- The engine had a rotary valve control , which gave it a comparatively remarkable temperament and high torque .
- With direct rack and pinion steering , very smooth crutch shifting and firm suspension, the Trabant was quite sporty to drive, but it was also uncomfortable at the same time.
- The manually regulated choke was accidentally or deliberately not closed by some drivers after the warm-up phase, which increased the engine output somewhat, but led to an exceptional level of exhaust emissions
- For "winter operation", the air intake pipe could be rotated 180 ° in order not to draw in cold fresh air, but rather warm air through the exhaust system.
- The warm air supply to the passenger cell, which is often insufficient in winter, was carried out depending on the speed by the axial fan driven by the V-belt. From 1976, an exhaust manifold heater was also installed, making the heater much more powerful.
- An air deflector on the front side windows enabled ventilation with the window open, even at higher speeds. In addition, thanks to the protruding gutter, the Trabant can be driven with the window open even when it rains, without moisture penetrating the interior.
- The Trabant has a glare-free night vision interior mirror by simply rotating the mirror by 180 °
- The ignition system works without an ignition distributor and instead with two ignition coils and two breaker contacts (until 1984, then electronic ignition). As a result, faults in the ignition system often only affected 1 cylinder, so that a defective Trabant could be driven home or to the nearest workshop with the remaining power of the other cylinder.
- The downdraft carburetor managed without a fuel pump , as the tank was installed in the engine compartment in front of the bulkhead and above the engine ( fall gasoline system ). The fuel tap had three positions: open, closed, reserve (4 to 5 liters). Only the “de Luxe” version had a reserve light, with all other models the need to refuel or switch to reserve could only be read from the trip meter or the dipstick in the fuel tank.
- The smooth gearshift is designed as a stick gearshift . For first gear, the lever is pushed in and the curved handle is turned downwards. To engage second gear, turn the handle upwards. The higher gears can be reached by pulling the lever out a little. Reverse gear is engaged by pushing the lever in as far as it will go and turning the handle downwards - as for first and third gear, but noticeably further. The shift pattern corresponds to the arrangement of gears that is common in other cars, but is rotated 90 degrees to the right.
- What was feared was the crack in the V-belt , which was difficult to predict and forced an immediate interruption in the Trabant's drive, as not only the alternator but also the engine cooling depended on it. Replacing the V-belt required a number of work steps, especially with older Trabant versions, which made repairs on the move cumbersome. Some Trabant drivers therefore always carried a tie or two nylon stockings with them, which were simply clamped in when the V-belt ruptured , so that, according to the official guide, How do I help myself, a makeshift cooling of the engine was guaranteed and it was possible to continue driving at a "moderate engine speed".
- Typical were defects in the doors, which often could only be closed correctly with a swing or opened by themselves.
- Especially when idling (at the correct idling speed of around 700 rpm), strong vibrations occur in the entire passenger cell, which is why it can sometimes be very difficult to make a Trabant rattle-free inside.
- One of the biggest criticisms of the Trabant was the high noise level. Compared to other small cars from the 1950s / 60s, it is often perceived as annoying because the engine is not only loud, but, as a two-stroke with fan cooling, also makes very high-frequency noises. In addition, there is a tendency for the body to drone at higher speeds. Above 90 km / h, a conversation with the passenger is hardly possible due to the noise level.
- In the last few years of production, the thicknesses of both the sheet metal and the thermoset parts were reduced as part of cost-saving measures, and the overall quality of the car declined.
- The trunk is exceptionally large for a small car (Type 601: 420 liters in the sedan, 1400 liters in the station wagon with the rear seat folded down).
- The Trabant mostly drove in the GDR, where travel options were limited. His color range, on the other hand, suggested international flair with names such as monsoon yellow, Panama green, Capri green, Bali yellow, coral red, papyrus white or Persian orange.
P 50 "Trabant"
|Trabant P 50 / Trabant 500|
|Body versions :||Limousine , station wagon , panel van|
Otto engines :
|Wheelbase :||2019 mm|
|Empty weight :||620 kg|
In 1957, a pilot series of 50 vehicles was built at AWZ . The series began in the summer of 1958. The 500 cm³ two-stroke rotary valve engine initially developed 13 kW (18 hp), which was quite common for a small car in the 1950s. The car, also known as the “Trabant 500” from 1959, was initially continuously developed and received a synchronized gearbox and a revised engine that required less lubricant (mixture 1:33 instead of 1:25). In addition, a variant appeared as a Trabant station wagon and the two- or three-color model “Sonderwunsch” with a curved, straight trim strip from 1961 onwards.
Trabant 600 (P 60)
|Body versions :||Limousine , station wagon , panel van|
Otto engine :
0.6 liters (17 kW)
|Wheelbase :||2020 mm|
|Empty weight :||620-660 kg|
With the 1963 model year, the engine was fundamentally revised. With a larger cylinder bore, the displacement was increased from 494 to 599 cm³ and thus an increase in output to 17 kW (23 hp) was achieved. Externally, however, the car no longer corresponded to the taste of the time. The decorative strips of the "special request" have now been shaped straight. Otherwise, the new Trabant could only be recognized by the added lettering "600" on the rear.
Trabant 601 (P 601)
|Body versions :||Limousine , station wagon , Kübelwagen|
Petrol engines :
|Wheelbase :||2020 mm|
|Empty weight :||620-660 kg|
The Trabant 601 was produced in series from 1964. Compared to its predecessor, the vehicle has become a total of 18 cm longer and 5 kg lighter. On closer inspection, however, it was just a facelift of the Trabant 600 , and hardly anything changed technically. Even numerous body parts and the interior design remained almost unchanged. A year later, the "Trabant 601 Universal" station wagon appeared with folding rear seats and a load capacity of 1400 liters. Also in 1965 a Hycomat variant with automatic clutch appeared. All these models were offered in three different equipment variants: standard , special request and de luxe . In addition, a bucket version 601 A was produced for the NVA and 601 F for forestry operations from 1967 onwards . For export markets such as Greece, this was also available as a leisure variant “ Tramp ” from 1978 onwards .
|Body versions :||Limousine , station wagon , pick-up , Kübelwagen|
Otto engine :
1.1 liters (31 kW)
|Wheelbase :||2020 mm|
|Empty weight :||700-740 kg|
The Trabant 1.1 was the successor to the 601. He had a water-cooled four-stroke engine , which in the GDR after Volkswagen - License was built, as well as a much improved suspension. As a result of a cost explosion in the provision of the new engine, there was little money left to renew the Trabant model. The initially favored body of a prototype was rejected. Instead, the modernized technology was hidden in an exterior that was only changed in detail. It did not go into series production until April 1990 and could do little to counter the image and technology of Western European car manufacturers whose products were now accessible. Like the 601, the 1.1 was offered as a sedan and universal (previously station wagon ), but it was also available as a tramp , an open version with a folding roof, and as a pickup with a loading area. The last 1.1 left the factory after only twelve months . On April 30, 1991, after 33 years, production of the Trabant ended, and with it, vehicle construction at Sachsenring .
The research and development center in Karl-Marx-Stadt (Chemnitz) presented the first prototype of the “P 50” model in 1954. The body was partly made of a plastic consisting of phenolic resin and cotton .
However, the model was not a success: Since there was no experience with the plastic used, a lot of sheet metal was still needed to clad the car. In addition, the back seat offered far too little space to sell the car as a family car. The Zwickau Automobile Plant (AWZ) then took over the further development. In order to revise the plans for the P 50, a transitional model was created under the designation P 70 , with which new knowledge about plastics processing was to be gained. The body parts of the P-50 prototype are more similar to those of the P 70 than the parts of the later production P-50.
Shortly after the Wankel engine was introduced in 1960, VVM Automobilbau built the first rotary piston engines. From 1962 this engine was also tested at Sachsenring. After IFA had bought the license rights for the rotary piston engine from NSU in early 1965, the KKM 51 / KKM 52 engine was produced - a smaller one for the Trabant and a larger one for the Wartburg. With a chamber volume of only 500 cm³, the KKM 51 had an output of 50 hp, was installed in several Trabant 601s and tested over a distance of 50,000 km. There was also development work on the successor type 602 V with a rotary piston engine, but this had to be stopped in the summer of 1966 for economic reasons. In 1965, the KFT stated that many readers wanted a type between Trabant and Wartburg for the future, with a full-tail body and Wartburg engine.
The designers in Zwickau and the GDR government initially agreed that the Trabant 601 would be sold on the market for about five years, but then, as is customary internationally, a successor model would be necessary. That is why the development of a new small car with a thermoset body was started again, now the Trabant 603. A picture can be found here: In the third quarter of 1966, the developers were still building prototypes with angular lines and hatchbacks to utilize space , long before the VW Golf I was launched on the market . However, it cannot be regarded as the origin of this development . The Trabant 603 was nevertheless a very progressive design of the modern full-tail small car as a three-door model with a tailgate hinged at the top. Basic design Lothar Sachse (SZ), formal modification outside Karl Clauss Dietel , interior design also KC Dietel with Lutz Rudolph .
On December 30, 1966, VEB Sachsenring Automobilwerke Zwickau officially received an order from the VVB General Director to develop a successor to the Trabant 601. This happened under the direction of Werner Lang . The aim was to start series production at the end of 1969 / beginning of 1970. The P 603 had a tubular space frame and, like the Trabant 601, a plastic body. Various engines were tested in the 9 prototypes built; In addition to the favored Wankel engine, the engine from the Wartburg 353 and Škoda 1000 MB . In 1968, production preparation was in full swing.
After 5.45 million marks in development costs had already been invested, Günter Mittag stopped all projects in connection with the realization of the Trabant 603 at the end of 1968. According to a state requirement, improvements to the existing model range that could only be amortized at short notice were allowed to be made, and as a new type of vehicle in the future The party leadership sought a larger vehicle to replace both the Trabant and the Wartburg. In 1971 the Zwickau automobile plant, in coordination with the SED district management in Zwickau, tried again and wanted Erich Honecker to demonstrate the Trabant 603 and get it to approve. The demonstration was prevented by the intervention of Günter Mittag personally.
Rumors later arose about an alleged sale of the construction plans to the VW Group, as the Trabant 603 can be interpreted as an anticipation of the Golf I, both in terms of concept and design. However, there is no evidence whatsoever for this representation; ultimately it does not appear plausible either.
The Wankel project also failed in 1968, but this time not because of political, but rather technical hurdles. The GDR engineers soon recognized the very high specific fuel consumption due to the inherently unfavorable shape of the combustion chamber (see Wankel engine ).
After a failed joint project of the Comecon car , a new project was started in 1973. Like the RGW car, the P610 was to be made in cooperation between the Eisenach automobile plant (AWE) and Sachsenring - as well as in loose cooperation with Škoda . Despite the development of several promising prototypes, the project was stopped in 1979 with no result.
The Trabant, initially designated as the P610 and later as the P 1100/1300, was designed as a two-door hatchback. The vehicle was powered by a four-cylinder, four-stroke engine which , with an output of 45 hp and a displacement of 1100 cm³, enabled a top speed of 125 km / h.
By 1979 35 million marks had been incurred in development costs. On November 6, 1979, the SED Politburo decided, with the exception of improvements to the Trabant 601, to stop all development work in car construction in the GDR. Thus, the development of the P610, which was to go into series production in 1984, came to an end due to the investment that could no longer be financed. With the confirmation by the Presidium of the Council of Ministers on November 15, 1979, the project was finally over. The fact that this was a politically motivated decision is evident from the later introduction of the VW engines, which was continued and completed despite the cost explosion .
Notes on non-built prototypes
Between 1963 and 1984 the designer Karl Clauss Dietel worked on the design of a total of seven successor models to the former Trabant. From the mid-1960s together with Lutz Rudolph . Four of these vehicles were completely developed (1: 1 models, wind tunnel, test drives with sample vehicles, etc.) and were practically about to go into series production. The aim (“an internal mission”) was to build good vehicles for the country. But it shouldn't come to that. The decision-makers / political cadres of the GDR let all developments die. “It was a bitter journey,” says Karl Clauss Dietel.
In 2009, IndiKar Individual Karosseriebau GmbH presented a new edition of the Trabant at the IAA.
The Trabant was successful in motorsport in its class until the 1980s. As early as 1957, two of the first vehicles from the pilot series took part in the Wartburg rally, but did not make it. The factory sports department was officially founded in 1960, and clear class victories were immediately achieved in the rally of 1000 lakes in Finland and the European championship in 1960. In 1961 there was even an overall victory at the Rallye Hanseat with the finale at the Nürburgring in Germany , when only six of the 300 vehicles started managed all the limits, including the three started Trabant in positions 1 to 3. Another highlight was the 39. Rally Monte Carlo 1970, when two teams on Trabant took 1st and 2nd place in the class up to 850 cm³. By 1980 alone, 161 gold medals, 118 class wins and 7 overall wins had been achieved. This is remarkable in that the Trabant was grouped in its class with vehicles up to 850, later even 1300 cc. In addition to the series touring cars , the sports department started with special touring cars with an increased output of 46 hp. In the 1980s, too, international rally successes were achieved with the Trabant P 800 RS. In addition to the Sachsenring sports department, there were a number of private club drivers who took part in various rally events. For example, 46 private pairs of participants from GDR, CSSR and Hungary took part in the 1980 Wartburg Rally . The experience gained in rallying was incorporated into the further development of the series vehicles. The assembly of the V-belt and the motor was made easier, the interrupter housing strengthened, the suspension of the exhaust changed and much more.
Road racing on Trabant was done exclusively by club drivers. This happened for the first time in 1970 during the Schleizer triangle race . The races were very popular and some of them were watched by hundreds of thousands and more spectators. The original Trabant engines were trimmed for maximum performance and the touring cars achieved a top speed of around 165 km / h with 65 hp. The Trabant was also represented in the Auto-Cross , which was practiced in the GDR from 1976, and in the racing car class B8 up to 600 cm³, which was driven from 1978 and conceptually tailored to the Trabant.
- Trabant P 800 RS (rally sport)
|Trabant 800 RS|
|Body versions :||limousine|
Otto engine :
0.77 liters (48 kW)
|Wheelbase :||2020 mm|
|Empty weight :|
The P 800 RS was produced in a small series of three vehicles for the Trabant factory motorsport department , which was better suited for rallies than the P 601. In addition to the engine, which had been upgraded to 65 hp, the vehicle also had a 5-speed gearbox.
Production and inventory
Between November 1957 ( pilot series) and April 1991, a total of 3,096,099 vehicles of the Trabant series were produced in Zwickau . In contrast to the Wartburg , most of the vehicles were intended for the domestic market. The annual mileage of a Trabant was comparatively low. A statistical survey by VEB Sachsenring from 1961 shows that privately used Trabants only cover about 3,000–7,000 km annually. Trabants used for business / business purposes averaged 10,000–15,000 km annual mileage.
On January 1, 2015, 32,832 Sachsenring vehicles were still registered in Germany. The stock is now stable, currently even more vehicles are registered again than deregistered. On January 1, 2019, there were again 36,259 Sachsenring vehicles. This included 25,940 P 601 and 1,181 P 1.1 units. The Sachsenring brand also includes other models such as the P 70 and P 240.
Especially in the new federal states, the Trabant is still part of the street scene. In addition to pure collector's items, which are used as nostalgic second cars, you also come across real everyday vehicles. Their owners are not infrequently older people who never wanted to part with their Trabi. According to the final report of the Federal Office of Economics and Export Control , 1,819 Trabants were scrapped in favor of the environmental bonus between January 27, 2009 and July 31, 2010.
Meaning of the Trabant
The Trabant as a Volkswagen of the GDR
At the beginning of its production, the Trabant was celebrated as the East German "Volks" car and was considered an entry point into the automotive world for many middle-income families. When there was no further development of the Trabant, the picture changed: The car became a symbol for the stagnating economy of the GDR and for the narrow-mindedness of the political leadership, which obviously prevented a new model. Nevertheless, the demand could never be met. The waiting time for a new car was so long that a car that was several years old could still be sold on the used market at a new price. Therefore, owning a well-cared for Trabant was associated with a certain reputation. See also the availability of cars in the GDR .
Since the consistent further development of the Trabant was politically denied, the design became visibly out of date. Development difficulties prevented the planned replacement by a Wankel engine . In the 1980s, the Trabant, like the Wartburg, had become almost unsaleable even in the socialist brother countries because of the emerging environmental awareness and corresponding legal regulations. In the GDR , apart from minor exceptions, it was the only small car on offer, so that, due to the lack of alternatives, demand remained high until the fall of the Berlin Wall. Many GDR citizens had a kind of love-hate relationship with their Trabant that began with the long delayed but ultimately convincing premiere of the first Trabant P 50 .
The Trabant after 1989
The image of the car collapsed almost overnight in 1990. Even at Volkswagen , which had been planning to sell the new Trabant in a “joint venture” with IFA since December 1989, such a failure of the “1.1” was not expected. After the monetary union in the summer of 1990, new Trabis were difficult to sell despite the four-stroke engine, so that production had to be ended as early as 1991. In keeping with the spirit of the times, the demand for products from the GDR had generally fallen sharply. 601s that had been maintained for years were now to be found as illegally decommissioned wrecks almost everywhere in the GDR. The classifieds market at the time documents that even everyday copies were sometimes sold or even given away for a case of beer or a bottle of wine.
While West German traffic experts predicted the extinction of the Trabant from the street scene within two to three years at the turn of 1989/1990, in 1993 around 900,000 Trabants were still registered in Germany. Many people still used their Trabi as a second car for some time, as it was not worth selling due to its extremely low market value. The low price and the relatively undemanding, robust technology made the Trabi particularly interesting for young people, hobbyists and students in the 1990s. The first Trabant fan clubs were formed in the early 1990s. The Trabi fans' scene grew, as evidenced by the number of visitors to the international Trabant driver meeting (ITT) in Zwickau. There are several associations, interest groups and private individuals who dedicate themselves to the Trabant - also outside of the former GDR area. Especially in the countries to which the Trabant was exported in large numbers (Poland, Hungary, formerly CSSR), there are now numerous Trabant fan clubs. Around 20,000 visitors a year came to the “International Trabi Meeting” in Zwickau until 2008, and this largest Trabi meeting now takes place every two years.
“They found their fans and their future. [...] It seems that you have finally made it to the finish line, the two folk heroes. "
A monument to the Trabant was erected in Zwickau in June 1998, created by the artist Bertold Dietz . It shows a scaled-down satellite made of sandstone and a half-height family made of bronze, consisting of father, mother and daughter. In 2014, the Berlin artist Carlo Wloch created a full-size Trabant out of sandstone. Several films focused on the Trabant, including Trabbi goes to Hollywood , Go Trabi Go , Go Trabi Go 2 - That was the wild east . For several years the Trabant has been developing into a collector's item. Instead of tuning and creative conversions, there are more often restorations true to the original. In contrast to similar cult vehicles such as the VW Beetle , Citroën 2CV or Mini , the Trabant is still a comparatively inexpensive classic car to this day.
The Trabant still stands internationally as a historical symbol for the GDR and the opening of the Wall in 1989. Appropriate Trabant accessories are an integral part of the tourism industry. David Hasselhoff , who sang the title “Looking for Freedom” on the wall in December 1989 and is better known as a sports car driver from his films, said in October 2019 at a horn concert with several Trabants that he was a fan of the car.
The name "Trabant" was found in a survey; it means “companion” or “companion”, just like the Russian word Sputnik . Around the same time, the Soviet Union ushered in the age of space travel with the launch of the Sputnik 1 satellite . In the GDR the Trabant was mostly called Trabi (pronounced 'Trabbi'). In the course of time it got some nicknames like "walking aid", "covered spark plug", "plastic bomber" or "cardboard". At that time, the term "racing cardboard" was used exclusively for Trabants used in motorsport.
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