Go Trabi Go

Yesterday I rented a Trabant station wagon and drove all the hell over Berlin.

The Trabant was the one and only car produced by the DDR, with pretty much the same design from 1963 to 1990. It had a Duroplast body, a two-stroke engine, and a whopping 26 horsepower. I briefly had mine up to 60 kph (36 mph). I don’t think it would have gone much faster.

1971 Trabant 601S

Key features:

  • You have to open the gas line before starting the car, and remember to close it again when you turn it off. If the engine is cold, you have to pull the choke.
  • You can only lock the driver’s side door from the outside. You can only lock the passenger door from the inside.
  • You honk the horn by pushing on the blinker lever.
  • Column shift! Just like my 1963 Plymouth Valiant.
  • There’s no glove compartment. Just a shelf with fuses and stuff.

The two-stroke engine made it smell like my old Vespa, but the closest experience was probably driving the 1937 Oliver tractor on my grandparents’ farm.