When most people remember about the 1964 Trabant 601, or any of the other model years until 1991, is that this was the car that streamed across the East German border in its thousands when the Wall fell – no, not The Wall – in August, 1989. There is not much good to say about the Trabant; for East Germans, the good thing about them is that they were available (somewhat) but besides that, everything about them was terrible. So terrible that is almost made them likable. For starters, they had drum brakes all around, even the latest models, and a terrible four-speed manual gearbox. What Westerners remember most was the fact that the body was made of cardboard – I’m sorry, “duroplast”. Call it what you will, it wasn’t metal. Wouldn’t want to be in a crash in this deathtrap.
As far as the engine is concerned, don’t hold your breath. The Trabant 601 was powered (if we can call it that) by a 600cc, two-cylinder two-stroke engine that produced a ridiculous 26 horsepower. I’m sure Fred Flintstone and his legs outpowered that! Anyways, the top speed was a barely legal 65 miles per hour, and acceleration figures are, thankfully, unavailable. I’m sure it wouldn’t have been pretty. This car must have literally sounded like an under-powered lawn mower. The Trabant 601’s only saving grace was that it had an independent suspension on all wheels, something surprising on such a car.
The last two production years were built using VW Polo engines, since the West Germans didn’t want these slow, polluting cars in their beautiful country.Despite the upgrade in power, no one would buy the Trabant anymore, for good reason, and the name and brand died out. The 1964 Trabant 601, almost identical to the 1991 model, was also available as a sedan or station wagon; they were all terrible.