Trabant P 50

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Trabant P 50
Trabant P 50
P 50
Production period: 1958–1962
Class : Small car
Body versions : Limousine , station wagon , panel van
Engines: Petrol engines :
0.5 liters
(13–15 kW)
Length: 3375 mm
Width: 1500 mm
Height: 1395 mm
Wheelbase : 2020 mm
Empty weight : 620 kg
Previous model EEZ P70
successor Trabant 600
Rear view
Trabant 500 station wagon
The small caravan LC9-200 was specially developed for the Trabant , here pulled by a P 50 in a special version
A functional model (prototype) of the Trabant P 50 around the mid-1950s

The Trabant P 50 or Trabant 500 is the first type of the Trabant model series from Sachsenring from Zwickau . Until August 1958, the models still had the designation AWZ P 50 “Trabant”. A total of 131,450 P 50 cars were built between 1958 and 1962, including 50 pilot series cars in November 1957. The engine was produced in the Barkas factory . The designation P 50 means passenger car with a displacement of 500 cm³. The Trabant P 50 was one of the few small cars with front-wheel drive and transversely installed engine in addition to the transmission from the 1950s.

Development history

After the expropriation of the Auto Union plants in Saxony in connection with the referendum in Saxony in 1946 on the "Law on the transfer of businesses from Nazi and war criminals to the property of the people" after the end of the Second World War , vehicle construction came into being GDR in the 1950s only progressed slowly. While the VW Beetle celebrated successes in the Federal Republic of Germany , the East was struggling with material shortages and insufficient production facilities for large-scale production. Since at that time the goal in the GDR was still to draw level with the West economically, the presidium of the GDR Council of Ministers decided in January 1954 to commission a new, inexpensive and robust small car . Work on a P-50-like car had already started in 1953 at the VEB research and development plant in Karl-Marx-Stadt . Until then, however, private cars were rated as luxury items and mass motorization was not pursued at all. The displeasure about this also penetrated the press at the time. The key data was initially a weight of no more than 600 kg and a consumption of 5.5 l / 100 km. With an annual production of 12,000 pieces, the price should not be more than 4,000 marks . In addition, the outer skin of the body should be made of plastic, since deep- drawn sheet metal was on the embargo list of Western countries and was therefore relatively rare and expensive in the GDR and, on the other hand, Soviet deep- drawn sheet metal proved to be unsuitable.

The Trabant was given a self-supporting skeleton body made of sheet steel, the outer paneling of which was largely made of cotton- reinforced phenoplast . For this purpose, short cotton fibers (linters) from the Soviet Union, which cannot be spun, were first compressed into fleece mats and soaked with phenolic resin. The phenol came from the distillation of domestic brown coal tar. The mats were then roughly cut to size and cured in heated molds under pressure for around eight minutes at 180 degrees Celsius. Any protruding material was then cut off in several steps using band saws and grinding machines. In later years, the body parts were connected to the steel frame with adhesive strips made of Buna rubber at the seams and individual screws at heavily stressed points. However, as there was little experience with the new material, the body of the prototypes was still largely made of steel.

The first prototypes were too small for the specification made by the Council of Ministers that the P 50 should offer space for a family of four. In 1955 the project was handed over to the VEB Automobilwerk "Audi" Zwickau . At AWZ it was decided to first build an "intermediate type" in order to gain experience for the large-scale production of the P 50. This intermediate type was the AWZ P70 with a water-cooled engine, which was built from 1955 to 1959. In the mid-1950s, there was still no clarity about the right small car concept. Experiments with cabin scooters and other small vehicles were rejected in the GDR from the start as being ineffective. A full-fledged small car was aimed for. On the way there, they orientated themselves on the vehicles from Lloyd . In 1956, work began on the P 50 prototype, but the final shape was soon found and a small car design that was progressive for that time was created with front-wheel drive, acceptable space for four adults and a trunk of 415 liters.

However, the P 50 reached series production much later than was originally intended. In order to cope with public pressure, - unlike in the GDR - photos of prototypes and specific technical descriptions of the P 50 were published before production began . After a wooden model on a scale of 1: 1, the first prototype was presented on October 23, 1956. In the meantime a name had also been found: Trabant ("companion"). A pilot series of 50 cars was produced in November 1957. Internal problems were also admitted - also atypical for the GDR - which had delayed the development of the vehicle. At first it was not possible to agree on the concept of the vehicle, there was a lack of coordination work with the head office and branches of industry and there was a lack of prerequisites in the accessories industry. "How else could it be explained that to this day, for example, the questions of Alfer composite casting or the porous chrome plating of light metal cylinder surfaces as well as the proper functioning and adaptation of the carburetor have not yet been clearly clarified", asked the KFT in the April 1958 issue. In fact, hard chrome-plated cylinder sliding surfaces could no longer be implemented in series production. The inferior quality of the oils available in the GDR also caused headaches during engine development. In tests with Shell oil, engines that had previously overheated or coked ran perfectly. Oil of this quality was not normally available in the GDR, so that the Trabant engine had to be structurally adapted to run with inferior oils (imports from the Soviet Union or obtained from brown coal tar ). These oils were also the cause of the pungent exhaust odor, especially in the GDR.

In order to achieve sufficient capacity for mass production of the car, the two plants AWZ (formerly Audi ) and Sachsenring (formerly Horch ) merged on May 1, 1958 to form VEB Sachsenring Automobilwerke Zwickau. Since then, the curved "S" has adorned the front of the Trabant. On July 10, 1958, serial production could begin, but it got off to a slow start: in 1958, not even 2000 of the cars intended for mass motorization were finished. Nevertheless, three further prototypes have already been presented: a station wagon , a coupé and a full-view sedan (here in the sense of a hardtop ). Of these designs, however, only the station wagon was implemented.


The most common was the Trabant 500 as a standard sedan, of which 81,710 were built. From 1959, there were vehicles in special designs with curved chrome trim and two-tone paintwork, at first there was even a three-color special request variant. Features of the special version were a different upholstery of the seats, sun visors, ashtrays in the rear, and lighting in the engine and trunk. From 1961, the special version was provided with a straight trim strip and two-tone paintwork. A total of 38,097 vehicles were produced from the variants special design and special request .

In 1958 and 1959, pilot series of the Trabant station wagon were produced, and series production began in the spring of 1960. The station wagons were delivered with a different axle ratio of 4.94, which resulted in a lower top speed of 90 km / h compared to the sedan. In 1961 a delivery van variant was presented, as well as the camping version with reclining seats and folding sunroof. In the literature there is also information that the above-mentioned versions only appeared later than the Trabant 600 . However, various specimen copies of the Trabant 500 Camping from 1961 and 1962 are known. At that time, the vehicles were officially counted as a station wagon, which is why their production is not explicitly noted in the operating documents.

A total of 11,643 station wagons of the Trabant 500 were produced. The small proportion of the total production of less than 10% was significantly increased in the successor model Trabant 600.


The engine of the Trabant 500 was subject to continuous development. Just a few months after the start of series production, the so-called “Z” engine was introduced in October 1958, the main feature of which was cylinder liners made of gray cast iron with cast aluminum cooling fins ( Alfer process ). The P 50/1 with 15 kW (20 hp) followed in August 1959. This engine managed with a fuel-oil mixture of 33: 1, and a new 28 HB 1-1 carburettor was used. The axle ratio was changed to 4.33, the top speed increased to 100 km / h. The exhaust and heating performance have also been improved. In 1960, asymmetrical dipped headlights and noise insulation for the heating cable were introduced. Vehicles built up to that point allowed the noise of the cooling fan to reach the interior of the vehicle unchecked when the heating was switched on. In 1961, legroom in the interior was improved by redesigned seats and a new dashboard, and the output of the alternator was increased. The suspension was a little softer and the wiper and defroster system improved.

Over the years, the durability of the crankshaft turned out to be unsatisfactory , which could be attributed to damage to the connecting rod bearings . This damage increased in 1961, which was reason enough for the Ministry of State Security to identify those responsible for these problems. The suspicion of sabotage was not substantiated; instead, an unfavorable modification of the connecting rod bearing, which had been introduced in September 1961, was identified as the source of the problem. With the introduction of the P 50/2 in May 1962, the insufficient stability of the crankshaft was finally to be eliminated, for which various changes were made in detail. This was necessary anyway for the introduction of a synchronized transmission, since the crankshaft was more stressed during clumsy gear changes than with unsynchronized transmissions. In an international comparison, the new synchronized transmission found its way into the Trabant quite late. Due to the direct connection of the crutch lever to the gearbox, the gearshift was very smooth and direct, even with the synchronous gearbox. However, the freewheel , which is typical for two-stroke cars, was limited to fourth gear, which was controversial. In addition, the P 50/2 had a softer engine suspension to reduce noise as well as a new color range including a new interior design and a flasher. The engine of the P 50/2 was only built until October 1962. In July of the same year, a new drive with a displacement of 594.5 cm³ was developed. The vehicles with this engine were named Trabant 600 .

Technical specifications

Structure and chassis

Sales description Trabant
Trabant station wagon
Selling price 7650 M. 9100 M.
Design Notchback sedan Station wagon
chassis self-supporting steel frame with duroplastic paneling
Front suspension individually on wishbones and transverse leaf springs , telescopic shock absorbers
Rear suspension individually on pendulum swing , transverse leaf spring, telescopic shock absorber
Braking system 4 drum brakes, hydraulic single-circuit braking system
Dimensions 3361 mm; 1493 mm; 1460 mm 3600 mm; 1493 mm; 1460 mm
Empty weight 620 kg
Perm. Total weight 950 kg


Engine designation P 50
P 50Z
P 50/1 and P 50/2
Type air-cooled two-cylinder two-stroke engine, installed transversely at the front
Fuel supply Flat-flow carburetor
Drive type Front wheel drive
transmission unsynchronized 4-speed stick gear, lockable freewheel;
from May 1962: synchronized 4-speed crutch stick shift, permanent freewheel in 4th gear
Displacement 499 cc 499 cc 499 cc
compression 6.6: 1 6.8: 1 7.2: 1
lubrication 1:25 1:25 1:33
Max. Power / speed 12.5 kW (17 hp) / 3750 rpm 13 kW (18 PS) / 3750 rpm 15 kW (20 PS) / 3900 rpm
Max. Torque / speed 42 Nm / 2750 rpm 43 Nm / 2750 rpm 45 Nm / 2750 rpm
Top speed 90 km / h 95 km / h 100 km / h (combination: 90 km / h)

Test reports

The Trabant was tested for the first time in 1960 in the scientific and technical journal Automotive Technology ( KFT ). It was emphasized that the Trabant is a fully-fledged small car with sufficient seat width and a relatively large trunk. The driving performance was assessed as sufficient for city traffic (a vehicle with the original engine was tested). The very direct and smooth-running rack-and-pinion steering with a large steering angle and the engine, which is easy to start at all temperatures, were also positively mentioned. Criticism was the suspension that was too hard, poor workmanship in the interior, the unsynchronized gearbox, inadequate engine noise insulation and the rear seats, whose backs were too steep and uncomfortable on longer journeys. In the interior, an enormous maximum noise level of 92 to 100 DIN-Phon was measured , depending on the road surface . The fuel consumption of 6.0 l / 100 km initially reported by the manufacturer is unrealistic; during the test it was 7.8 l / 100 km, which was above average for a car in its class. The maximum speed was determined to be 90.5 km / h.

In an endurance test over 17,000 km through Scandinavia with over 50% unpaved roads in 1960, the Trabant P 50 was given a consistently positive verdict. This was already a vehicle with a 20 hp engine.

In 1962 the Trabant P 50/2 was tested over 5000 km by the automotive engineering editorial team. The hard suspension was now presented as a pleasantly sporty design, whereby one distanced itself from various criticisms of the allegedly too uncomfortable Trabant. With its quite considerable torque of 4.5 kpm, the Trabant is particularly suitable for a sporty driving style. The loud interior noises were disapproved because of the air-cooled front engine and some safety aspects in the interior. The 500cc engine was certified with full throttle resistance, it was operated at full throttle over 250 and 300 kilometers of motorway and turned up to 120 km / h on downhill stretches without showing signs of overheating or the like. Under test conditions, the maximum speed averaged 99 km / h, the average consumption 7.5 l / 100 km.


  • The small car type 50. In: Automotive technology . 10/1956, pp. 361-364 and 9/1958, pp. 338-339.
  • About experiments to determine the optimal intake timing on the P 50 engine. In: Motor Vehicle Technology 10/1958, pp. 364–369.
  • Modern BVF carburetor type 28 HB 1-1. In: Motor vehicle technology 8/1960, pp. 316-318.
  • About experiments to influence the air ratio in the P 50 engine (Trabant). In: Motor Vehicle Technology 8/1960, pp. 300-305 and 9/1960, pp. 347-349.
  • The Trabant engine. In: Motor vehicle technology 10/1961, pp. 422-425.
  • Jürgen Lisse: Vehicle Lexicon Trabant. Bildverlag Thomas Böttger, Witzschdorf 2006, ISBN 3-937496-12-2 .
  • Peter Kirchberg: Plastic, sheet metal and planned economy. nicolai Verlag, 2000. ISBN 3-87584-027-5 .

Web links

Commons : Trabant P 50  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Peter Kirchberg: Plastics, sheet metal and planned economy. nicolai Verlag, 2000, Appendix C, ISBN 3-87584-027-5 , p. 732.
  2. State Archives Chemnitz - Economy
  3. Where's the little car? In: Automotive Technology. 5/1955, p. 173.
  4. Jürgen Pander: Nu isser fuffzsch. Spiegel Online , accessed June 1, 2009 .
  5. ^ The type 50 small car. In: Motor vehicle technology 10/1956, pp. 361–364.
  6. Where's the small car? In: Motor vehicle technology 4/1958, p. 122.
  7. ^ Peter Kirchberg: Plastics, sheet metal and planned economy. Nicolai-Verlag, Berlin 2000, ISBN 3-87584-027-5 , pp. 182-183.
  8. ^ Nationally owned vehicle construction at the Leipzig spring fair. In: Motor vehicle technology 3/1959, p. 112.
  9. ^ Nationally owned vehicle construction at the Leipzig autumn fair. In: Motor vehicle technology 9/1959, p. 367.
  10. Trabant and Wartburg improved. In: Motor vehicle technology 05/1961, p. 197.
  11. Trabant station wagon with folding sunroof and reclining seats. In: Motor vehicle technology 07/1962, p. 287 + cover picture.
  12. Technical progress on the Trabant small car. In: Motor Vehicle Technology 7/1960, pp. 273–274.
  13. state-owned motor vehicle at the Leipzig Spring Fair 1960. In: Automotive Engineering 3/1960, p 99th
  14. Noise reduction in the Trabant. In: Motor vehicle technology 06/1961, p. 257.
  15. Rally sport with the Trabant - effects on series production. In: Motor Vehicle Technology 8/1961, pp. 340–342.
  16. ^ Peter Kirchberg: Plastics, sheet metal and planned economy. nicolai Verlag, 2000, ISBN 3-87584-027-5 , pp. 192-193.
  17. Further development of the Trabant engine. In: Motor vehicle technology 08/1962, pp. 331–332.
  18. Improvements to the "Trabant" 1962. In: Motor vehicle technology 3/1962, pp. 101-106.
  19. Trabant 1962. In: Motor vehicle technology 4/1962, pp. 138–140.
  20. Locking the freewheel on the Trabant. In: Motor Vehicle Technology 8/1962, pp. 345–346.
  21. ↑ The Trabant small car has proven itself in Lapland. In: Motor vehicle technology 03/1961, pp. 119–120. and 10/1961, pp. 428-430.
  22. Motor vehicle technology tested Trabant with synchromesh transmission and 500 cm³ engine. In: Motor vehicle technology 11/1962, pp. 457–459.