Profile Photo
9 articles

Trabant in turbulent times

October 5, 2018 · in Automotive · · 25 · 2K

A few years ago released its new Trabant kit. It was a much better kit than their first version, released in the early nineties. According to urban legends, a few Revell employees drove to the former GDR right after the reunification, bought a Trabant, and used that one as the base for their first kit. They missed only one important fact: the lack of replacement parts made the East Germans use everything available for repairs, so that particular old car was repaired many times, sometimes with components from early Trabants. The kit reflected this accurately... 🙂 It is a common a misunderstanding that the Trabant was produced unchanged for decades. There were also upgrades under the hood, and changes on the outside as well. You should not imagine huge changes, one upgrade over the times was adding an external mirror on the right side as well, or changing the bumper design.

My wife was born in the former GDR and grew up in a family with Trabant. She still remembers the times, when they were able to travel on the rear seat, without any safety belt or children's seat. A few years ago I found this kit is under the Christmas tree with a note: “We waited ten years for a new Trabant. I don't want to wait for so long this time!” Yes, there are rare cases where your wife encourages you to build models!

The build itself was trouble free and easy. My main challenge was creating the metal trimmings on the body. On the real car these were made with a rubber insert on the top. I tried to recreate this, but did not manage to get acceptable results. So after a few trials I left them simply metal, without imitating the rubber part.

I decided to mix my own “Trabant-blue” color based on photos and memories. The model is not too shiny, these cars got dull relatively fast. However, remember that the body was not made from metal , so don't show your skills of creating rust there! I have seen amazingly built Trabants, where the modeler made this mistake. The model looked amazing, but was unrealistic at the same time.

I decided to use the East German number plates and make a model from the turbulent years of 1989-90. East Germans used geographical coding in their number plates, and the plates starting with “X” were registered in the area of Karl-Marx-Stadt, nowadays known as Chemnitz. I printed a few newspaper front pages from that period and placed at the rear window. For the non-German speakers, the newspaper says: “The wall is gone! Berlin is again Berlin!”

Reader reactions:
8  Awesome

5 additional images. Click to enlarge.

25 responses

  1. Welcome aboard, Csaba...never have seen one of these before - thanks for the background.

    • Thanks Craig , I guess there are not that many Trabants there. I have seen on YouTube one guy driving a Trabant in the US. In the former East Germany this was the „people’s car“ for almost three decades. It was a really terrible car, two stroke engine, and the body made from resin parts reinforced with cotton! And the best part was the waiting time, 10 years was not uncommon... This made used cars more valuable than new ones, because you could buy them without waiting time. Strange times, huh?

  2. Great built of a classic "ossie" vehicle. @Craig, visit Berlin once you can have a guided tour in one of these! Well done Csaba.

  3. What a wonderful story. I’ll be going to Berlin next week and expect to see some of these cars acting as exotic tourist rides. Definitely exotic these days! Nice build - even the finish looks like matte plastic as per the original lol. Welcome onboard at iModeler, can't wait to see more..

  4. Wow, fantastic model. It does look like the real Trabant, no doubt being around these cars inspired you to build it as a masterpiece

  5. Welcome to iModeler, Csaba (@pikofix) !

    Very nice little car, and very well built and painted! Congratulations!

    Very interesting article and story! I've learned something new today, thanks a lot for that!



  6. A Trabbie! And a blue one at that!

    I was part of the 11th Cavalry "guarding" the East/West German border near Rasdorf when "the Wall" came down. At midnight, (I forget the exact date in November 1989) the East German Army guards stationed in or near Geisa opened up all 44 gates leading from East to West in the 1st Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry's sector. Of course, WE didn't know what was happening and we were afraid for the worst. Instead of tanks and other armoured vehicles, it seemed like every East German with a little Trabant (often Blue) or a Wartburg auto loaded it full of all his relatives (at LEAST 8 -10, it seemed) and drove West, through the now open gates and into the area around Fulda.

    Those were unforgettable days! While I never got to ride in or drive a Trabbie, I saw many, including the one driven by my landlord's Nephew and Niece, which was parked in front of the home where my wife & our Son lived when I came home from work that momentous day!

    • Great story Jeff, I can´t even imagine the tension at the border on that night. We never had a Trabant, but we had the other amazing product of the car industry in the GDR, a gull gray Wartburg. 🙂

  7. Beautifully wtitten post, Jeff. Thanks for this.

  8. At least it wasn't a Yugo, the world's worst car ever. Very realistic-looking.

  9. Great build Csaba, a real historymaker. The story from Revell you mention however is true and I've heard this first hand during two visits I made at Revell. The whole story in the development of this first versionof the Trabant kit is one of adventure. It will probably show up in the new Revell history book you can now sign-up for with Revell.

  10. Well, I have to say (with a hint of jealousy) that while some of you were cutting your teeth on Chargers, Mustangs, Camaros, and Pontiacs - well, this was my first car, not too distant from the venerable Trabant.

    I introduce you to the Hillman ‘Imp’

  11. Nice build! Love the story! and welcome to the site.

  12. Very nice build.
    When I first glanced at this fine model, and noticed its colour. Harry Potter came to mind. The Ford Anglia looks slighty similar.

  13. Thank you guys for the feedback! It was actually my first ever car model... I build mainly airplanes, but this build made me interested in cars as well. Especially the odd looking ones. 🙂

  14. Hi Csaba! Wonderful! The "baby blue" is just right - however I only had white Trabants - as they name the color off-white (törtfehér). In reality You cannot choose the color - You get what was in stock then or choose to wait to another three to five years to get one - figure out. Oh yeah, the famous "shortage-economy"! Well I actually have a real Trabant 601S Universal (yes the original two-stoke from '87 :D) - so I can tell that Your "Trabi" is great and really captures the feeling 🙂 Revell still makes the bonnet and the trunk cover too square as I see but overall I think their second attempt is a much better match to the original Honecker's revenge 🙂

    1 attached image. Click to enlarge.

    • Thank you! I agree, this new Revell kit has some minor shape issues (I think the roof is off as well) , but much better than their infamous first release.
      We did not have Trabant in our family, only Wartburg and other Eastern Block Cars.

      • We had a Warburg Tourist too 🙂 That gear selector! I remember finding the second gear was always a little adventure all the time 😀 And that "bong-bong-bobong" sound!

  15. Very nice model of a cool piece of history! Welcome aboard.

  16. Very well done, a pleasure to view!

Leave a Reply