East-German icon smokes into its half-century
21 February 2007

Get out your two-stroke oil and celebrate; the Trabant has reached 50. That's 50 years old, we should point out - we're not sure it'll do 50mph.

The Trabant was first created in 1957 as the communist answer to the VW Beetle. It was built in East Germany by VEB Sachsenring Automobilwerke Zwickau, and was expected only to last until 1967.

Many Trabants did only last 10 years – due to a steel shortage the bodywork was made from a cotton and resin mixture, meaning it wasn't the most resilient material, although it was rust-proof.

However, the car remained in production for four decades. Costs meant that the East German government didn't develop the car, and there was a waiting list for them.

Equipment was sparse – just seats for four, a speedometer and opening front windows coming as standard. The luxurious Trabant 601 De Luxe, however, came with optional equipment including front and rear fog lights, a reversing light and an odometer.

The engine was a highly inefficient two-stroke, although this was eventually replaced by a four-cylinder 1.1-litre VW unit shortly before production was stopped in 1991, after German reunification.

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