Trabant, the iconic car of the communist era is 60 years old

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Residents of Érd celebrating the 60th birthday of the iconic car of the communist era, the Trabant.

Sixty years ago today, on November 7, 1957, the first Trabant rolled off the assembly line in Zwickau Sachsenring, East-Germany. MTI Photo: Mónus Márton

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One day back in the communist era, a friend of mine invited me to join him and his wife for a trip at the Matra mountain with his brand new Trabant car he has just received after 7 years waiting.

I was impressed with the Trabant; it had a nimble two cylinder, two stroke engine capable of reaching a top speed of 90 km/h (55 miles per hour). The good thing about this car was that you didn't have to worry about getting speeding ticket. The only noticeable weirdness you could feel when sitting in a Trabant was the engine induced vibration that the plastic chassis could not absorb.

The day turned out really well, we enjoyed the beautiful scenery and the captivating sunset at the end of the day.

On our way home, we stopped at a small waterfall; my friend took two buckets out of the trunk and filled them with water; he gave one to me and the other to his wife.

What is this water for, I asked?

Then, he explained to me that on downhill the brakes of the Trabant get hot due to constant braking; as a result, we have to stop time to time and spray the brake assemblies with water to prevent overheating. (Those who have no understanding how two stroke engines work here are a few pointers. Two stroke engines don't have engine brake. On a steep downhill ride you have to use the brakes to keep the car under control, which causes them to overheat.)

We stopped at least 3 times on our way home to cool the brakes by spraying them with water. When we sniffed the burning smell of the brake pads we knew it was time to repeat the operation.

Other than this minor inconvenience, the Trabant worked well - not many things could go wrong with this simple technology. A large screwdriver went a long way when it came to fixing a minor problem - back then, a large screwdriver was an essential part of Trabant owners' repair tool kit.

My friend was a happy owner of this car for many years.

The only problem nowadays to drive a Trabant is that gas stations don't sell anymore gas-oil mixed fuel that two stroke engines need. You still can pour oil separately in the gas tank, but you have to make some calculations to find the proper ratio.

Zoltán Mátó and his wife, Arabella Tonhajzer are sitting on a sofa made out of a Trabant in their home in Tiszaújváros



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