This is a Trabant 601, accurately resplendent in the colour of an old lady’s bathroom, and made from a similar material too. Created by László Torma in Speed Champions (ironically) scale, this neat miniaturisation of the rubbish East German people’s car captures the original wonderfully, and there’s more to see – including a ‘Combi’ station wagon version – at László’s photostream. Click the link above for more Hearing-Aid-Beige communist wonders.
Tag Archives: East Germany
The Soviet Union united multiple nations, languages, cultures and peoples into one giant bloc of automotive misery.
The Union’s ‘planned economy’ meant that those that could get their hands on a private car, after waiting over a decade for the privilege, could choose between a polluting two-stroke econobox, or another polluting two-stroke econobox. This was the ‘other’ one for East Germans between ’66 and ’88, the Wartburg 353.
The Wartburg 353 wasn’t a bad car when it was launched in 1966, although the engine coming from a 1930s design wasn’t a high point, and was even exported to the West (TLCB’s home nation included).
It was a bad one by the 1980s though, as the Communistical restrictions on the populous meant it didn’t need to keep pace with the Western cars that were unavailable behind the Iron Curtain. If you needed a car in East Germany it was this or the Trabant…
Previous bloggee Legostalgie has recreated the Wartburg 353 sedan beautifully in green bricks, following his brown estate version that featured here last year. The doors, hood and trunk open, there’s a wonderfully life-like interior, and there’s more to see at Legostalgie’s ‘Wartburg 353’ album on Flickr, where a link to building instructions can also be found.
Jump back to Soviet East Germany via the link above, plus you can check out two of Legostalgie’s previous communist cars via the bonus links.
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.
Beige Brick Barkas
This pot of Communist cream is a Barkas B1000, an East German forward-control van produced from 1961 until 1988, and powered by a tiny one-litre, three-cylinder, two-stroke engine.
Available as a pick-up, an 8-seat minibus, and – as pictured here – a panel van, the B1000 could carry a one-ton payload (probably very slowly), and proved so reliable and adept at doing so it was built virtually unchanged for nearly thirty years.
This charming Model Team recreation of the B1000 comes from previous bloggee and TLCB favourite Legostalgie, who has captured the East German workhorse beautifully in beige bricks.
Opening doors and a superbly detailed interior are included, and you can head to the other side of the Iron Curtain sometime in the 1970s via the link to Flickr above.
What’s Brown and Smelly?
It’s time for another delve into the automotive curiosity cupboard that is the Eastern Bloc, a Communist alliance renowned for the oppression of millions, waiting lists that stretched into decades, and cars that were almost comically bad. This is one of them, the Wartburg 353.
As with many Communist creations though, the Wartburg was not a bad car when it launched in the late 1960s. A weird one perhaps, but not bad objectively speaking.
The 353 started production from a pinched BMW factory in 1966, and was powered by a 1 litre, 3-cylinder, 2-stroke engine that had its roots in a 1938 DKW. This made it as torquey as the larger engines in the west, and meant it had only seven major moving parts, but also made the car incredibly unrefined and polluting, leaving a cloud of burnt oil behind it whenever it went.
A unique freewheel system meant the 353 required no clutch to change gear, and the car was also front-wheel-drive, still fairly novel at the time, although the set-up imbued it with terrifying understeer characterises in the wet.
Despite the niggles, the Wartburg 353’s low price, reliability, and the fact it wasn’t a Trabant, led to success, and meant that – due to the ‘planned economy’ of East Germany – the waiting list stretched out to fifteen years for private citizens.
The 353 was also exported to several countries as the Wartburg ‘Knight’, presumably to bring in foreign currency (which must have been frustrating for those on the waiting list), as well as being used by the police and East German government.
Of course as time passed the 353 became increasingly outdated, and little was done to keep pace with Western products that were out of reach for those trapped behind the Iron Curtain. The government even repeatedly refused to upgrade the polluting 2-stroke engine, despite Wartburg’s engineers having developed working alternatives.
By the late-’80s the writing was on the wall, both for East Germany and Wartburg. The eventual addition of a modern 1.3 litre engine from the Volkswagen Polo in 1984 came too late, and the reunification of Germany finally killed the 353 – alongside many other long-obsolete East German offerings – in 1988.
This splendid Model Team recreation of the Wartburg 353 ‘Tourist’ is the work of previous bloggee Legostalgie, who has captured the East German family car beautifully in period-correct brown.
Opening doors, hood and tailgate, plus a detailed engine and interior all feature, and there’s lots more of the model to see at Legostalgie’s ‘Wartburg 353 Tourist’ Flickr album. Click the link above to join a fifteen year queue in East Germany sometime in the 1970s.
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.
This 1950s East German oddity is not a tractor. It is, apparently, a RS09 ‘universal carrier’, and we’ve deliberately chosen an image that hides just how weird it is. Powered by a two cylinder diesel engine that made about one bhp, the RS09 was produced from the mid-’50s until the mid-’70s, and could be attached to any number of Communistical mechanised items.
Built by Jundis, this smart Technic recreation of the RS09 features a straightforward digging bucket in place of some of the weirder attachments, and also includes a working two-cylinder piston engine with power-take-offs, a mechanically raising/lowering drawbar linkage, and an oscillating front axle with steering.
There’s more to see of this Radschlepper 09 Universal Carrier on Eurobricks, where you can see further imagery including a photo of the decidedly strange real thing, and where Jundis assures us some of the weirder attachments are soon to follow. Click here to check it out.
Every day’s a school day. Following yesterday’s post featuring a vehicle by a successful German truck manufacturer that we’d never heard of, here’s another.
This is an Industrieverband Fahrzeugbau W 50, or ‘IFA W50’ for short, which is what we shall definitely be calling it. Constructed in East Germany from 1965 to 1990, the IFA W 50 was titled simply after the conglomerate that ran all of the East German vehicle manufactures at the time, including Trabant, Wartburg, and a host of other rubbish Communist companies, plus a few designs pinched from West German DKW.
Like many manufacturers behind the Iron Curtain the W 50 was produced in huge numbers, partly because it was built for so long, and partly because, well… you couldn’t buy much else.
Almost 600,000 IFA W 50s were built during its 25 year production run across over sixty body varieties, with up to 80% exported throughout the Soviet Union and sympathetic countries in some years, until Germany reunified and the Union began to collapse, abruptly ending production in 1990.
This neat Lego recreation of the East German truck comes from Clemens Schneider (aka popider) of Flickr and it features a working tipper and a rather accurate drivetrain too. Head to Clemens’ ‘IFA W 50’ album via the link to see all the images.
White, cheap, and made of plastic. ‘Qualities’ shared by both this Lego model of a Traband 601S and, er… an actual Trabant 601S. The Trabant’s plasticky bodywork was actually produced from material derived out of recycled cotton, which meant it didn’t rust and was readily available in an economy where metal was precious, and – perhaps surprisingly – it was also quite an advanced car when it launched.
However four decades of zero development due to its monopoly in the East German market (thanks communism) meant that the Trabant quickly became a symbol of everything that was wrong with the other side of the iron curtain.
Fortunately once the wall fell East Germans rushed a) into West Germany, and b) into cars that weren’t a Trabant. Still, it was a vehicle that mobilised a nation, and it is therefore one of the most important car designs in history. Flickr’s Dornbi has paid tribute to the little East German oddity with his lovely Creator/Model Team version, complete with opening doors, raising hood, and an interior resplendent in ‘medium nougat’. See more on Flickr via the link above.
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.
The Cold War. A fantastically pointless game between two megalomaniacal superpowers that very nearly destroyed half the planet. Still, at least we won’t repeat that mistake again. What’s that? We are?!… Sigh. Better start storing tinned food.
Anyway, this hulk of Soviet terror is a ‘Rubezh’ coastal missile launcher, shown here in East German specification where it was deployed up until the fall of the Soviet Union and Germany’s reunification in 1990.
This expertly recreated mini-figure scale version comes from Ralph Savelsberg (also aptly known as Mad Physicist) of Flickr and there’s more to see of this Cold War monstrosity at his photostream via the link above.
Iiiin the red corner, representing West Germany, driven by Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, Hermann Göring and Pope Pius XI, and powered through the 1930s by eight cylinders and a supercharger, it’s the Großer Mercedes 770!
Aaaand in the beige corner, representing East Germany, driven by peasants, and powered through the 1950s… and 60s… and 70s… and 80s… and 90s… by two cylinders and hope, it’s the Trabant Combi!
Two very different yet very German cars today, represented by two very different but very excellent Lego creations.
Above we have the Großer Mercedes 770, built by Aleh of Eurobricks in Technic form and absolutely packed with amazing technology. Aleh’s recreation of one of Mercedes-Benz’s most opulent vehicles includes Power Functions drive and steering, an inline-8 engine hooked up to a three-speed+R gearbox, working all-wheel mechanical brakes powered by a Medium motor, all-wheel suspension, LED lights, and SBrick bluetooth control.
At the other end of the automotive scale we have this wonderfully replicated Model Team style Trabant Combi, resplendent in an authentic hearing-aid beige and built by fellow TLCB debutant Dan Falussy. With opening doors, hood and hatchback plus folding seats, Dan’s homage to the world’s finest cotton car (yes really) is about as well equipped as the real thing, and very probably better built.
There’s more to see of each model on Eurobricks (as well as Flickr in the Trabant’s case) via the links above. Take a look and choose your winner!
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.
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.
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.
The Cardboard Car
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.