I was recently perusing with amusement, a website of some of the worst cars of all time. The list is fascinating; while it could be argued that it might be a bit harsh to judge a vehicle from the early part of the 1900s or before due to advances in automotive technology, and while there is indeed very little to argue the case for the likes of the Trabant, the inclusion of the Triumph TR7 will, I know, ruffle quite a few feathers (although I concede that yes, the hidden headlamps in the streamlined bonnet often remained hidden in my friend’s TR7 – one of the many criticisms heaped on this car..)
But what of the Trabant, can it be justified? Well, it was the car that many East Germans used to propel themselves over the remains of the Berlin Wall after it’s demise and was, after all, intended to be a basic, communist version of the Beetle – a “people’s car” for Eastern Europe if you like.
Sadly for the Trabant though, it is more famous for being an inefficient 2-stroke engined poor performer – in the main due to the fact that the vehicle underwent few changes or improvements to the original 1950s design and engineering concept. Right up until 1989 you could only squeeze around 26 horsepower out of an old Trabi with a 0-62mph of around 25 painfully long seconds.
But in our green conscious world, worse than this was the pollution each auto’ could pile into the atmosphere. Around 5 times more carbon monoxide and 9 times more hydrocarbons than an average European motor from 2005-7. I have heard it said that the average life expectancy of a cycle courier in London is around 5 years (most bikers don’t do this sort of job for more than a year or two), and having sat behind fume spitting buses on our busy UK roads in rush hour before, I can only imagine what this must have been like on East German roads in the 1980s.
So let’s face it, I’m struggling here to do this car any justice really – and it gets worse.. The car was made from a steel monocoque frame with the basic steel panels being replaced by a substance called Duroplast, which was essentially plastic resin, though with wool or cotton added as a strengthener. What a comfort. Clearly if you choose to drive such vintage, you need to make sure your classic car insurance is – unlike the panels – pretty solid, and that of course is where Performance Direct come in.
And what of that 2-stroke engine? Well the engine had no fuel pump, so the tank was placed higher that might be expected in the engine bay using gravity to move the fuel to where it was needed – which allegedly increased the risk of fire from a front end collision. Something that would be a further surprise for you after your initial surprise at surviving a front end collision protected by wool, no doubt.
The problem with the Trabant stemmed from the lack of upgrades that were implemented into the car’s design over the years. Even when the vehicle was introduced in 1958 it only managed to remain modern for a very short period of time, having failed to take on board the new more efficient 4-stroke engine that it’s contemporaries were now proudly sporting by the late 1950s.
But what of the Trabant now, what has become of this Berlin Wall traversing icon? There has been a rumour since 2009 that there will be a rebirth of the model with an electric engine. This is now expected to show it’s cards next year in 2012 with a range of around 250 km (around 155 miles) – which is a third more than the Nissan Leaf can currently claim. An irony, you may think, that the 2-stroke, potential courier killer and noxious fume blaster is now to be seen as a green vehicle for a new generation probably too young to remember the fall of the Eastern Bloc.
For more articles like this, receive our weekly e-newsletter, including partner deals and all things motoring, register your email below.