The Germans are known for their engineering and, in particular, the engineering of legendary cars. The brands of Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Porsche, BMW and even breeds of Volkswagen are synonymous with the highest standards of quality and feats of engineering. And should you be so fortunate to see, let alone drive, a Bugatti Veyron, you will have encountered the ultimate in automotive design reserved for select Saudi princes and rich gangster rappers.
But there’s another legendary car, also crafted by Germans that many have never heard of and may find almost as rare to encounter as the renowned Bugatti “ride”. My family had the once in a lifetime opportunity to cruise around in this collector’s item while visiting a museum downtown. Those fortunate enough to own one of these automotive gems, so unique and so rare, will hold on to them tenaciously as family heirlooms to be passed on from generation to generation.
Readers who follow automotive news know that I speak of nothing other than the legendaryTrabant 601, manufactured by VEB Sachsenring Automobilwerke Zwickau from 1963 – 1991. Yes the Trabant, endearingly referred to as the “Trabbi” —a car like no other, thankfully. Just take a look at these specs (source Wikipedia):
- Air cooled two cylinder 600cc two-stroke engine with a eye-popping 26 horsepower – about the same as a large lawnmower.
- The car took 21 seconds to get from 0 to 100 km/h (62 mph) with a top speed of 112 km/h (70 mph), assuming it did not fall apart before then.
- There were two main features with the engine: the smoky exhaust and the pollution it produced —nine times the amount of hydrocarbons and five times the carbon monoxide emissions of the average European car of 2007.
- The fuel consumption was a respectable 34 mpg with a dipstick inserted into the tank to determine how much fuel remains.
- The fuel tank was placed high up in the engine compartment so that fuel could be fed to the carburetor by a technological marvel called gravity at an increased fire risk in front-end accidents.
- Sturdy duroplast construction made of recycled material, cotton waste and phenol resins from the dye industry—going green before green was cool.
- Streamlined with the removal of unnecessary safety features such as brake lights and turn signals.
- The lifespan of an average Trabant was 28 years because if you waited enough time for the privilege to buy one, that was probably the last car you would ever get to own.
So how is it that the Trabant, designed and manufactured by Germans, could be listed as one of the worst cars ever built? Because this wasn’t the Germany we know and love, fueled by freedom, capitalism, engineering pride and corporate enterprise. This was state controlled East Germany, monopolized, void of competition, and deprived of any incentive to do anything remarkable. And so goes America as we outsource our lives to the drab and dreary juggernaut of Socialism and government issued healthcare, retirement, education and industry.