Italy, no stranger to maniacal despots itself, had a nice little business selling its old products to scumbag dictatorships in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. The most famous of these is probably the Polski-Fiat 126, built under license in Poland alongside the Italian made, and actually quite good, Fiat 126.
The two cars were almost identical in the 1970s, with the Polski version using a few lower specified components but otherwise being indistinguishable save for a little ‘p’ on badge.
The Italian-made 126 ceased production in 1980 after an eight year production run, however the Polski-Fiat version, with its Communist standard long waiting list (with Poles largely dependent upon coupons from the Government to buy one), survived for another twenty years, by which point it really was a turd.
This wonderful model of the Polski-Fiat 126 isn’t a turd at all though, being a thoroughly excellent recreation of the humble Polish peoples’ car. Built by previous bloggee Dornbi of Flickr it captures the real 126p beautifully (and is pictured above alongside an equally good communist counterpart Trabant).
Head to Poland (via Italy) sometime in the 1980s at Dornbi’s photostream by clicking on the link above.
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.
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.
Kermit’s right, it isn’t easy, particularly if you’re a LEGO builder. Until fairly recently green was exclusively reserved for vegetation and base plates, making building from it trickier than wiring a plug wearing oven gloves. There are a few builders that do brave the hue though, and the results can be very good indeed. Here we bring you a speedy run-down of four of the best, whilst the Elves feast on green Smarties for their efforts.
First up (above) is Legohaulic’s brilliant ‘Sludge Puppy’, built for the Lego Adventure Book 2 and suggested to us via the Feedback page. Legohaulic uses – quite literally – a splash of green to great effect. Check out all the images on Flickr here.
Next up, and continuing the sci-fi theme, is LEGOLIZE IT MAN‘s ‘Green Machine’ mech. We’ve featured LEGOLIZE IT MAN’s work a few times here at The Lego Car Blog, despite it never really including a car. You can see all his awesome builds via his photostream at the link above, and you can see what has appeared here by typing his name into the Search function at the bottom of this page.
And finally as we’re supposed to be a car blog we’d better throw in a few cars. Above is newcomer Vilem Sustr’s superb Trabant 601 Combi. One of the nicest cars we’ve seen this year we heartily recommend viewing all the photos and Vilem’s MOCpage here. Below is our final Green Special creation, Vibor Cavor (aka Veeborg)’s Audi Quattro concept. As with all of Vibor’s work there is some very inventive design throughout and you can see all the photos on either MOCpages or Flickr.
That completes our round-up of one of LEGO’s most unusual hues. You can join the discussion on each creation by clicking the associated links, just remember to power-down and turn the lights off when you’re done!
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.