Tag Archives: 601

My Other Car’s a Bus

This is a Trabant 601 Combi, one of the great mobilisers of the people, and it comes from Eurobricks’ PsychoWard666 who has constructed it solely from the parts found within another historic people mover, the 10258 London Bus.

Both the Trabant and the AEC Routemaster bus are icons of their time and location, and – despite being rather different classes of vehicle – are more similar that you might think.

Each was designed to mobilise as many people as possible, and thus had a monopoly in its respective market, and both designs endured long beyond their intended lifespans, with the Trabant produced from 1960 right up until the fall of the Berlin Wall, whilst the Routemaster remained in service until 2005, outlasting far more modern bus designs.

Of course whilst this meant each became a symbol of the society they mobilised, they were also seen as polluting, noisy, uncomfortable, and dangerous by the end of their lives. And if you don’t think a Routemaster is dangerous you’ve never been on one at 2am. Although to be fair that applies to all of London’s buses.

Back to the model, and PsychoWard’s Trabant 601 captures the East German peoples’ car beautifully, particularly considering the parts limitation of the 10258 donor set. Building instructions are available too, so if you own the 10258 London Bus set and you’d like to turn one classic transportation icon into another you can find out how to do so at the Eurobricks forum – Click the link above to take a look.

Cotton Communism

From one iconic classic to another, although this one perhaps for very different reasons…

The Trabant 601 was a reasonable little car when it first launched in the 1960s, despite the shortage of metal in post-war Europe forcing its construction from cotton, and its two-stroke 600cc engine.

The cotton body meant that it didn’t rust, which – combined with a near monopoly in East Germany and a production run until the collapse of the Soviet Union some thirty years later – led to well over two million Trabants being on the roads at one point.

That number quickly fell once East Germans could buy Volkswagens and Opels instead though, as even by the ’80s the 601 was hopelessly outdated, such is the folly of Communism.

Cue this excellent Model Team version of the Trabant 601, built by Flickr’s Legostalgie who has recreated the classic cotton car superbly in brick form. A detailed interior, engine bay, and opening doors, hood and trunk are included, and there’s more to see at Legostalgie’s ‘Trabant 601’ album by clicking here.

Speed Communists

We continue the small-scale theme with this, László Torma‘s ace Speed Champions scale Trabant 601. An unlikely race car, László’s Trabant uses a be-stickered curved brick for the doors which he kept because his son said they were cool (the Elves agree by the way), and thus the Trabbi has a slightly more sporting nature than was originally intended. Clever techniques have been used throughout the build to recreate the communist car’s famous shape and there’s more to see of László’s 601 in both race and road car specification on Flickr – click the link above to take a look.

Eastern Promise

Lego Trabant 601

Here at TLCB we usually feature vehicles that are powerful, fast, and highly desirable. The East-German Trabant was… er,  none of those things.

Built between 1957 and 1991 the Trabant was almost the only car available to the East Germans trapped behind the Iron Curtain. Powered by a two cylinder two-stroke engine originally designed by DKW (who would later go on to form Audi) it was slow, uncomfortable and horrendously polluting, but engine aside the Trabant was actually quite an advanced design.

Front-wheel-drive, independent suspension, and unibody construction were all unusual for the time, but alas so was using gravity to get the fuel into the engine, rather than pumping it. This of course meant that the fuel tank had to be mounted above the engine, and that made a crashing a Trabant an often fiery experience.

Further ‘innovative’ thinking was evident in the Trabant’s bodywork, which was constructed from a material called Duroplast. Made from recycled cotton, Duroplast was chosen as metal in the Eastern Bloc was scarce and expensive. This had the side benefit of giving the Trabant incredible longevity; whilst its West German counterparts from Volkswagen, Opel, and Mercedes had rusted their way into scrapyards, the Trabant could go on and on, immune to oxidisation.

Lego Trabant 601

Being the sole car available to the people of East Germany the waiting list for a new Trabant stretched between one and two decades, depending on where you lived, and the design was pretty much unchanged during its entire 40 year production run.

What started as a flawed, but nevertheless reasonable little car in the late ’50s became increasingly outdated in the ’60s, and by the 1970s the Trabant was an unfunny joke, and it still had almost a 20 year monopoly remaining. No car demonstrates the folly, and ultimately the cruelty, of Communism better than this one.

East and West Germany were re-unified when the Berlin Wall fell in 1990, and the Trabant’s monopoly on the new car market in the East collapsed overnight. Up against the likes of the Volkswagen Golf, Opel Astra, Ford Escort and countless others, Trabant production ceased just a year later.

Lego Trabant 601 Estate

Around 3.7 million Trabants were produced in sedan and – as pictured here – station wagon forms. Following the collapse of East German Communism in 1989 thousands of families loaded their Trabants with as much as they could carry and made the long drive (which became known as the ‘Trabi Trail’) via Czechoslovakia or Hungary to reach Western Germany and a new life.

Many then abandoned the little car that brought them, buying a used Volkswagen or Opel instead, but Flickr’s Vilém Šustr remembers the vehicle that, even if under the oppression of Communism, mobilised a country. There’s more to see of his wonderful Model Team recreation of the Trabant 601 Combi on Flickr – join the Trabi Trail by clicking the link above.