Tag Archives: Communism

Eastern Exception

Lego Technic Tatra 603

Cars from behind the Iron Curtain were almost universally crap. Cars like this, this, this, and this for instance.

But there was one exception. A glorious, wonderful, magnificent oasis hidden in the vast automotive wastelands of Communist Europe. Tatra.

Now famed for their indestructible off-road trucks, Tatra used to produce cars too, and what cars they were. This is their incredible 603, powered by a 100bhp air-cooled V8 mounted in the rear, and with an amazing aerodynamic body that was extensively wind-tunnel tested way back in the 1950s.

This stunning Lego replica of the 603 is the work of Horcik Designs of Flickr, and it faithfully recreates the T2 version of Tatra’s masterpiece. Working steering, suspension, V8 engine, opening doors, hood and engine cover, and a six-seat interior are all included, but Horcik’s real party-price is surely that spectacular bodywork.

There’s a whole lot more of the Tatra 603 to see on Flickr – click here to see the full photo album at Horcik’s photostream.

Lego Technic Tatra 603

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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.

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Socialist Snowmobile

Lego Rolls Royce Silver Ghost Snowmobile

Communist revolutionary, ‘Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars of the Soviet Union’, and Ming the Merciless inspiration Vladimir Lenin is one of the most influential figures of the 20th century, pioneering the development of communism and the Marxist socialist state.

Decreeing that all resources should be under common ownership – thereby removing the need for money, reliance on social class, and inequality – Lenin was driven around in a 1915 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost, modified by Adolphe Degrease in 1922 to run on tracks, whilst 6 million people died of starvation during the Povolzhye famine. Yay communism!

Nevertheless, Lenin’s Silver Ghost was a very cool vehicle, and today it resides in Russia’s Gorky museum. If that’s a bit far to travel, previous bloggee Karwik has the answer, with his gorgeous Town-scale version of the unique vintage Roller. Click the link above to make the jump to Flickr.

Lego Rolls Royce Silver Ghost Lenin

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The Cardboard Car

Lego Trabant

This unassuming little white car is one of the most important in European history. Behind the Berlin Wall Communism was giving everyone a prosperous and bright future… wait, no, that’s not right. It was oppressing and crushing the people. Yeah, that’s it. And one of the ways it oppressed and crushed the people was by limiting them to one choice of wheels; the Trabant. But this did mean the Trabant became, by virtue of monopolisation, a great mobilisation force in the Eastern bloc.

Thankfully when the Wall fell and Trabants flooded back into the West many were abandoned as newly liberated Eastern Europeans switched into cars that didn’t pollute four times more than the European average, weren’t made of cardboard (yes, really) and also that didn’t explode in a head on collision.

But spare a thought for the humble Trabant. It may have been rubbish, but without it Eastern Europe would’ve been powered by the bicycle alone for 30 years.

Oh, we nearly forgot; this lovely Lego version is the work of Dornbi on Flickr. Check this and his other creations out here.

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