Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Gas station visits are especially interesting in a Trabant. More often than not, I'm approached by someone either ex-military with great stories or a former East German who tells me their first car was a Trabant or their parents still have one in the garage back home. There is sometimes some embarrassment on their part to admit it though which of course I don't share. After all, I drive one in the US. Which, by the way, used to get a lot more snickers than today with gas prices the way they are. As with any mini car, one of the first questions asked by people is, '"How much mileage does it get?" But Trabis really get ...Smiles per gallon.


Mike Eldred said...

LOVE your Trabi.
I was stationed in Germany in the late '80s and early '90s. We saw the first Trabants trickle in when Hungary opened its border with Austria, then a flood when the wall fell.

I remember you'd be wizzing along on the Autobahn at about 90 mph and you'd see a cloud of smoke ahead - your signal to slow down because there was a loaded Trabant ahead of you, struggling to maintain a speed of 45 - 50 mph.
At first we used to slow down, lean out the windows and give them a hearty cheer when we saw them. After a while it became so common that we just tooted and waved as we zipped past.

The first thing most people did when they made it to the west was get rid of their Trabant (Or Wartburg, a larger E.German car) and buy a BMW or Opel. Although a few might have managed to sell or trade their Trabants, the novelty wore off quickly and there were Trabants all over the place - some abandoned, and there is even a famous photograph of a trabant sticking out of the top of a dumpster.

Reviled by many, I always thought they were kind of cool. Not for me, not useful as a serviceman with limited space for cars and no hope of importing one, but a real "emblem" car. It epitomized the period; ironically a symbol of freedom and bravery - the bravery of the people who left their lives behind and piloted the little cars to freedom.

Seeing the photo of you standing next to your Trabi reminds me of a similar photo I have, of an East German standing next to his Trabant, which was parked next to my Chrysler POS. The photo was taken on German Reunification day,October 3, 1990, in front of a defunct East German border guard tower.

Oh, if only I could find one of those plastic-bodied, two-stroke, suspensionless gems now.

-Mike Eldred
Wilmington, Vermont

Mike Annen said...

Hey Mike E.
Thanks for the Trabi story. It's always a pleasure to hear them. Don't give up your dream of owning a Trabant. Check out trabantusa and . We have a small but loyal following and they do pop up once in a while. There are a couple guys looking for the right deal to come along, mostly trying to find one locally. You're close enough to Canada where Trabis are a little more abundant. Just make sure you get one at least 25 years old (for import purposes)