While scrolling on the Web through photos of ridiculed cars this week, I came across a picture of the maligned Trabant. The decrepit cars were manufactured in East Germany as the only automotive option for citizens of the German Democratic Republic until 1990.

The car was about as basic as anyone has ever manufactured. The steel unibody frame was clad in a substance called “duroplast”–a hard plastic consisting of recycled cotton waste from the USSR and phenol resin from East Germany’s dye factories. The engine was little more than a glorified lawn mower engine. The car’s nickname was the “little stinker” because the two-stroke engine required an oil-gasoline mixture that produced smoke when it was running.

As I contemplated the Trabant’s photograph, it seemed that the little car was kind of cute in a backhanded way. I wouldn’t mind owning one as an in-town errand running car if it had a better engine or was electric powered. There was a bit of beauty in the overall concept of the sorry little car.

Although the cruising speed of the Trabant was around 45 miles an hour, it had a top speed of about 60 before the tiny engine was on the brink of shaking to pieces. Speed was not an issue, there was nowhere exciting nor urgent to go to in the politically repressed nation of East Germany anyway. If you owned a Trabant, you were one of the few fortunate people who could own a car of any type. At least you had the privilege of personal motorized transportation. That is, if you had the patience to wait two or three years on the official bureaucratic list of car buyers.

If we mentally scratch below the surface of the primitive “duroplast” body, we notice that there was an attempt to make a vehicle that evoked some level of beauty. Instead of simply constructing a bland “econobox”, there was some thought put into the shape of the body, the front and rear lights, hubcaps, two-tone paint, and even the small chrome trim piece on the front panel. Technically, a grill was not necessary because the two-stroke engine did not require one. There was no air conditioning available, so again, no need for a grill. Yet a shiny decoration was added as a styling adornment.

The stylists were somehow able to bring a touch of beauty to what could have been a much more boring vehicle. This is a profound fact because even within the structure of that oppressive, dictatorial regime, there were people daring enough to express a modicum of beauty–a reflection of hope for a better world. Philosophically, the Trabant was a meaningful icon in the struggle for social progress and basic human rights. So, the Trabant was a glimmer of individualistic optimism in the dreary world of Soviet Bloc life.

As I continued to contemplate the Trabant photo, the current state of political divisiveness in the United States came to mind. A great many human rights advances have been achieved in this country through the grit and struggles of activists, freedom fighters, and other people who understand the importance of freedom and liberty for all people. In a sense, the Trabant stylists were on the same wavelength as the civil rights activists have always been on. All of them have had a driving hunger for progress.

This hunger and love of individual liberty and freedom are unconquerable in the hearts of optimistic people everywhere. This inner beauty remains as power in the face of the rising tide of the populist movements that embrace autocracy, theocracy, and the rolling back of civil rights gains. Regardless of the drive towards tyranny, oppressed people harbor the beautiful goal of freedom in their hearts.

I have to hand it to the clever Trabant design stylists. They were cheeky and daring in their efforts to add optimistic design notes to a car that was mandated by the Soviet aligned apparatchiks and pencil pushers. The somewhat cute little car was an aspirational artifact to the freedom-craving Soviet Bloc citizens. Eventually the Berlin Wall came crashing down. East German motorists drove their Trabants to freedom and liberty at last.


The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes the legendary rock singer, Jim Morrison. “The most loving parents and relatives commit murder with smiles on their faces. They force us to destroy the person we really are–a subtle kind of murder.”

About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
This entry was posted in Contemplation, Gadgets, History, Politics and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Trabants

  1. When I was younger, you saw these “Trabis” – that’s what the Germans called them – often on our streets. It was associated with Eastern bloc thinking and that often went hand in hand with an attitude of arrogance. Cars as an object of identification – as old as the car industry πŸ™‚

  2. Yernasia Quorelios says:

    πŸ’œ Yup EveryOne; this most excellent “Trabants” post πŸ“« πŸ‘πŸΎ πŸ‘ŒπŸΎ πŸ‘πŸΎ πŸ™Œ πŸ™„ πŸ“« EveryBody


  3. Pingback: ReBlogging ‘Trabants’ – Link Below | Relationship Insights by Yernasia Quorelios

  4. tiostib says:

    Fascinating insights. Thank you!

  5. People rebel at oppression in many ways like sneaking in a bit of beauty and creativity in the Trabant. Totalitarian governments do a really good job of making their own people the state’s most dangerous enemy.

  6. qprgary says:

    Remember these complete piece of crap, not forgetting the other famous piece of shit the Moskovich

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