In 1964 AWZ released the most famous of the Trabants,
the P601. This new car had a 594 cc, 26 bhp engine naturally
enough derived from the P50.
One should not expect too
much in the way of innovation when detailing new models
of Trabant, however this engine did use new cylinders,
new cylinder-heads and a modified exhaust system.
We may well laugh at the shape of the P601 by today's
standards, but for 1964 it appeared in tune with other
manufacturers. Most importantly for it's Eastern European
owners, it was both easy to repair and relatively easy
to live with.
The Trabant was reportedly the butt of many jokes of
the day, but remained the mainstay of family transportation
and the epitome of socialism. Despite the shortcomings
of the car, it remained highly sought after.
wanted one, you didn't simply walk into your local
Trabant dealer. Instead, you "applied" for the car,
and in some cases the waiting list was 14 years!
East Europeans could opt for larger more expensive cars,
such as the Wartburg's of the day, but it was the humble
Trabant that was in financial reach of most, and this
ensured the car was the most common sight on the (very
In an attempt to improve performance, many owners tried
to convert their two-stroke into a four-stroke, long before
the Trabant 1.1 with a Polo engine debuted.
The most popular
engine option was that derived from the Fiat 128, this
model arguably the most collectable and sought after of
the P601's today.
The 1.1 lived a short life in the midst of the changing
regim�s. More square (if that was possible), and considerably
more robust, this was the last of the line for the
More than 3 million Trabants were constructed, until production
stopped in 1991, two years after the Berlin wall came
down. After the car first motored into the western consciousness
following the fall of the wall many treated it as a joke,
although the car soon developed a certain cult status.
Irish rock band U2 helped in all this, using the car in
videos during the band's Zoo TV tour in the 90s. Bono
and co even took to the stage with used Trabants hanging
above them, the headlights shining down onto the band. Many of the Trabants on the road in Eastern Europe today
have been converted into open-top sports cars or vans.