Monday, December 27, 2010

This article is taken from the New York Times from 2008 and describes the Trabi safari tours available in Berlin, where you drive a trabi along city streets.


A Red Menace That You Can Drive Yourself

Towle Tompkins for The New York Times
In Germany, you can drive like a native in a Trabant.
Published: November 26, 2008
BERLIN
Jessica York for The New York Times
Some cars in the tour were painted as a zebra and giraffe.
Towle Tompkins for The New York Times
With an exterior made of plastic, you can't expect luxury inside.
OSTENSIBLY, there’s not a whole lot to love about a car that creaks like an out-of-warranty pirate ship and spews more smoke than a Winston Churchill-Fidel Castro summit could have produced. Yet, somehow, the Trabant I drove here recently has a primitive charm — along with an aroma of burning oil and smoldering brakes.
There are several ways to tour Germany’s capital city: by foot, tour bus, taxi, bicycle or the U-Bahn subway system. But, for those who want to steep themselves in cold war history, a Trabant transports you to the 1960s.
While Saabs were “born from jets” and Jaguars were “born to perform,” Trabants were born out of desperation. From 1957 to 1991, as West Germany made BMWs, Porsches and Mercedes-Benzes, East Germany took the road less traveled.
Because the economy was so bereft, the communist government decided to convert a plant that made motorcycles and tractors into a car factory. Thus was born the Trabant, a symbol for the failings of state-supervised industry. The body was made of plastic and the car plodded along with a 26-horsepower 500-cubic-centimeter 2-stroke 2-cylinder engine.
By East German standards of the time, the price, about $3,000, was not cheap. And although the car cost about a year’s salary, it still was not easy to obtain — after placing the order, an owner could wait 15 years for delivery.
Demand for the Trabant (and for the Wartburg, another woeful East German car) ended once the Berlin Wall came down and East and West were reunified. Easterners were then free to buy Western vehicles, and Trabant sales collapsed.
Today, there are collector rallies and Trabi clubs in Europe and North America, but I did not see any Trabants in the German cities I visited this fall. Which is what makes my driving one through Berlin so special.
The good news is that the Trabant is twice as powerful as a Sears Craftsman two-stage snow blower; the bad news is that it’s twice as loud. It is also not easy to shift.
In fact, not much is easy on a Trabant. The wheel wells could hide pregnant bulldogs. Two knobs the size of Captain Kangaroo’s buttons control the heat and the windshield wipers, which are slower than a stretching class on a senior citizens’ cruise. The tachometer is a series of green and yellow lights with no numbers. The needle on the speedometer (which optimistically goes to 75 m.p.h.) bounces as if it’s auditioning for the Richter scale.
The column-mounted manual shift is a puzzle. It is moved down for first and up for second, then a return to neutral to push in the lever and then down again for third and up for fourth. For reverse, it’s a return-to-neutral-and-push-all-the-way-in-and-down maneuver.
There is no fuel gauge.
The interior of my car had tan and rose-colored vinyl and cloth, and the exterior paint was what Trabant called Frog Green; an appropriate name would have been Gulag Green.
An Audi A8 it isn’t. Which was why the driver of the one behind me was impatient as I accelerated away when the traffic light near the Reichstag turned green and I found myself in third, not first. Not that I was going to burn much rubber when the shift points on this P601 S model were 15 m.p.h. for second and 28 m.p.h. for third. (I never made it to fourth.) The car accelerates from 0 to 60 m.p.h. in about 20 seconds, proving, perhaps, that the “S” in the model name stands not for socialist, but for sluggish.
Thanks to their Duroplast bodies (a weight- and money-saving composite of plastic and cotton-waste fiberglass), a Trabant weighs only 1,355 pounds. Trabants can hold four people and some luggage in a body about the size of a Fiat 124 sedan of the late 1960s.
But people notice this car when it explores Berlin, thanks to a company called Trabi Safari. It has several dozen Trabants and offers guided tours from its location at what sounds like a microfilm drop in a John le Carré novel — the BalloonGarten at the corner of Zimmerstrasse and Wilhelmstrasse.
In the passenger seat was a colleague, Logan Pingree, who appeared slightly amused riding in a vehicle that probably wouldn’t get a call back from the producers of the movie “Cars.” Behind us were two more colleagues, Jessica York and Brian Emerson, in a Trabant. Ahead of us was Simone Matern and Julie Robert of Trabi Safari. Ms. Robert was driving and Ms. Matern was narrating a tour of Berlin via a walkie-talkie — companion units of which were in holders on the dashboards of our vehicles.
An unintended safety feature of a Trabant: you would never even think about using a cellphone while driving. All of your brain’s bandwidth is occupied by shifting to keep the car in the flow of traffic, the concentration to maintain the engine revs high enough that you don’t stall and the concern about whether the brakes will actually work if a truck suddenly blocks your path.
On the tour, as the car passed some iconic structures of the once-divided city — the Reichstag, the Brandenburg Gate and Gendarmenmarkt Square — I began to understand how this slow, cheaply made, quirky vehicle became so popular. It represented a glimmer of freedom in a rigidly controlling society. While that era has long passed, some of these diminutive cars still motor on, powered by nostalgia, and, no doubt, a loophole in Germany’s recently enacted smoking ban.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Surprising Stats! Come and say hello??

Just had a look at the stats for this blog and I'm amazed at the traffic it has generated.
People from all over the world, Usa, Canada, Uk, Hungary, Germany, Poland, Russia, The Netherlands and many other's have looked at this blog.
Well, I only hope you all found something of interest.

Please feel free to leave a comment on any of my posts and drop me an email if you're a fellow classic car owner, whatever the car may be. I'd love to hear from you.
 Merry Christmas to all who reads it.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Pretty quiet now on the run up to Christmas

Nothing much to report these days.
Trabi is running great and I've had it out a few times. But , with Christmas looming and the snowy weather here at the moment, it will be the new year before there's any more to report.

I did buy some nice chrome lettering insignia to replace the old tired plastic, "Sachsenring and Trabant" signs on my car, similar to the ones I got for my Wartburg, which you may have seen in the pictures.
Next job is to take the old lettering off, fit the new chrome ones and spray the bonnet and the area around the rear light clusters( common area on trabis where paint comes off).
Then a good wash and polish and that's as much as I'm doing for the next season, unless something crops up.
Pictures and content to follow when the above jobs are completed.

My son and I are heading to Germany next February. We're flying into Schonefeld airport, from Dublin and picking up a rental car, which we'll drive to Eisenach and then onto Zwickau, before making our way back to Berlin. We're going to see the two Car museums, namely homes of the Wartburg and Trabant and all the other cars that came before them. Can't wait.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Wartburg left last Sunday

Well, kinda sad to see it go when the time came, but the car has gone now and to a nice fella as well.
I had the car washed and spotless, which was a bit pointless really as it got plastered in dirt, snow and ice on the journey from me to South Wales, where it will be staying now.
I really couldn't afford to keep the two cars and the trabi still needs a bit of work doing so, the Wartburg was the one to go.
Wartburg 353 tourist's ( at least good ones) are pretty thin on the ground lately and will be hard to get, I feel, in the not too distant future.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The hinges are fitted and my Wartburg is going to a new home.

Got the new hinges fitted to the Trabi. Not as easy a job as I thought it would be.
Original IFA hinges are no longer available, only after market ones can be bought nowadays and they're not the highest quality. The fit is also different and if you're not extremely careful, the alignment of the door will be affected and the tail gate will not close or lock properly.
I managed it anyway, in the end and put the shock arms back in place, after giving them a spray of lubrication fluid. Mind you, the air was pretty blue for a while and it wasn't from the two stroke engine!

Next job is to respray the bonnet, which was the most tatty area of the paintwork.
After that, just a couple of touch-ups here and there and that's as much as I'm doing.
I like the idea of having a Trabi that's very original, but looks smart as well.
I had toyed with the idea of a respray but decided against it.

My Wartburg 353 Tourist has been sold and is going shortly to it's new owner in Wales.
I couldn't keep two cars and the Trabi still needs work, so one had to go.
I'm happy it's gone to a good home and will be enjoyed and looked after.
It's due to go this weekend, but the weather will probably have the final say.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Got doors sills painted.

bad as these top sills were, the corresponding sills underneath these are perfect.
Got the door sills finished and they look really good. Really solid job that should hopefully last the life of the car.
spot the difference?
well pleased with how they turned out.
one job never to be repeated
I painted them myself with aerosol can in one hand and hairdryer in the other! Definitely hard to recommend but the end result is one I'm happy with.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

This article is taken from ' The Zwickau Journal' titled 'The little car that couldn't find love. Printed 07 Oct 1995


ZWICKAU, Germany, Oct. 4 — With their two-stroke
 engines, they sputtered along the roads of the former
 Communist East German like souped-up lawn mowers.
They were boxy and homely. Their plastic bodies came in
 four drab colors. They were so light, a handful of college
 students could play pranks on teachers by carrying them
away to unknown spots. But East Germans had to wait 15
 years and pay more than a year's salary for the privilege
 of owning one.
This, of course, was the Trabant, a clattering, bone-rattling
 heap of socialist technology that was the principal mode
of personal transportation for almost four decades in East

 Germany and that by the fall of Communism became
despised as representing everything wrong with the system.
 .
Once East Germans had the opportunity in 1990 to buy
an Opel or a Volkswagen made in the West, orders for

more than 1.5 million Trabants fell to zero in three months.


But how things change. The Trabi, as it is affectionately
 known in Germany, has developed a cult following.
There are Trabi owners associations. There are Trabi
rallies every summer. Trabis have been turned into stretch
 limousines,

 checkered taxis, dune buggies. Owners can convert their
trabbies into convertibles for $1,300.
And for the ultimate socialist-capitalist mix, change the
 front grill,  put on some chrome trim, and you get a Trabillac.

In this town, where all the 3,096,099 Trabants were built,
 the last 444 new ones go on sale next week, at the
 equivalent of $13,600,

 nearly 20 times the original price.
Ulf Rittinghaus, managing director of Sachsenring
 Automobiltechnik,  which produced the Trabis, says
 that the Trabi sale has generated 600 inquiries, including
 one Japanese auto maker that offered to
 buy the entire lot.


"It is absolutely unsafe and terrible, but it is one
 of the nicest old legends we now have in Germany,"
 Mr. Rittinghaus said.

 "It is the last product that exists intact as it did
 during the socialist times."
Some rather strong social and emotional currents
 underlie this new love for the Trabant.
  Five years after German reunification,
 many in the east are caught in a deep melancholic
 funk in which they long for the former days when
everyone had a job, rents did not rise,
 no one was dismissed, child care was free
and food was cheap and always on the table.

Though the last five years have brought remarkable 
prosperity for many, it has not brought an even 
distribution of wealth, and many of the 18 million
 East Germans have felt the insecurity of unemployment,
  
  competition for jobs, evictions, rent increases
 and social stratification. The longing for the Trabi, 
many say, reflects a desire for the simpler life as 
they knew it in Communist times, and an attempt to
 hold on to what they see as the good things 
about the old system.
"After the war the Russians took all our automobile technology
 and equipment, literally 32,000 pieces of machinery, and we
 had to build the Trabant up from nothing," said Frank
 Bretschneider, a technical engineer in the Sachsenring plant.
 "So we have something to be proud of. The only trouble was
 the political system stopped technological development of the
car, so at the end we were producing cars in 1990
 with a 1960's design."
To be sure, sitting squeezed into the front seat of one of the
 new Trabis that will go on sale next Wednesday,
 with its thin door panels, plastic strap door pulls
 upholstered map shelf underneath the simple black
dashboard, reminds one of Volkswagen beetles of the
 early 1960's.

Ever vigilant security!

Found out yesterday, my parts were returned to Trabiuk as the contents were deemed a security risk.
The pressurised spray can of 'Papyrus' must have been the problem. Isn't that ridiculous?
I've had paint sent before in the past and had no problems.
So, the package was resent minus the paint and I will get it by Friday (hopefully).

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Still waiting on hinges and paint

Hinges and a spray can of 'Papyrus beige' paint were posted to me on Nov 13 and I am yet to receive them.
Sometimes, postal services can be a disgrace and this is certainly one of those times.
 The package is only coming from England to Ireland. Should only take two working days by airmail, which is how it was sent, I'm told.

By contrast, I ordered a new boot lock and key, from Germany, last Wednesday evening and received it yesterday morning, after only three working days.
Always the same when you're waiting on something.
'A watched kettle never boils'.

Will report more and take pictures when i get the door back on and do the touch-ups to the bodywork.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Slow progress!!

Bloody fuel problems are driving me nuts at the moment, but after many false dawns and more illusions, I FEEL I HAVE FINALLY FIXED the fuel starvation problem.
As I last posted, I left the trabi over to welder to get sills fitted.
Well, I picked the car up and didn't get 250 yards before the engine slowed and stopped on me. AGAIN!
new joining T piece in place and connected.

I got out, fiddled with the fuel hoses and it started and away i went. Again, 200 yards down the road, stopped on me. This continued for 3-4 miles then suddenly drove fine for another 3-4 miles home.

I took the 'mauskino' off and blew through it to ensure it was clean, which it was.
I considered bypassing it altogether and just running one long hose from fuel tank to carb, but after putting new hoses all round, I didn't think there was anything hindering the mauskino, or fuel from it to the carb.
So, I took the three fuel hoses off the T joining piece and looked at it.
I did this before and noticed that one end ( the air breather end that goes to top of petrol tank) was severely pinched inwards., but done little about it as trabiuk didn't have a T piece in stock and I didn't want to pay 18 euros postage (from Germany) for an item that cost 6 euros!

So today, I took the T piece and went around hardware places looking for something similar, that would do the job and the third place I went to had something. It's made of copper too and much more substantial than the original.
So, I got home and connected it up, tightened the clamps and took the car out.
Did 15 miles over plenty of hilly country and had no problems whatsoever.
It didn't ever feel like it might stop.

one door sill ready for painting!


I always felt that the problem was a simple one, merely an air lock/ fuel starvtion, but with  repeated stoppages I was beginning to think, as some suggested that the carburettor was the problem.
There's nothing worse than coming to a complete stop in awkward places and knowing the problem is a simple one, yet failing many times to fix it.

So it seems that all that was wrong was that the T piece was causing an airlock, due to one end being pinched in. I never thought that the air breather pipe would have had such an effect, but I'm learning!

So, all fuel hoses have been changed and positioned to facilitate gravity flow. The inline filter has been dispensed with and all filters have been cleaned with air.

I'm confident now the problem is sorted, until the next time anyway. :)
If it stops again, the sledge hammer will get an outing. :)

So next thing is to get the tailgate hinges fitted ( whenever they arrive!) and spray the new sills ( welder primed them, ready for painting). There's also a number of touch-ups to be done around the car to tidy it up.

The car is a very good original motor, which drives probably as it did when new and as well as a trabi can.
on top is the old one, where you can see how pinched in it is at one end. New much better one below.
other door sill done.
every bit of carpet and trim was taken off, washed and in some cases turned over before being  put back on the car. Doing this has made a huge difference to the interior of the car. The interior is as good as you will see.
The best thing about this car is its originality. So often cars are restored and they look good and are ok for a while before their inactivity comes back to haunt them and they develop one problem after another.
This car has never been off the road and always well maintained. I think an original car that's always been running is always a better bet than one that's been inactive and undergone restoration.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Well, Good and bad to report!

The fuel starvation wasn't cured, so further effort and thought was required.
The fact that the inline filter would often be empty when the problem occurred, signaled to me that maybe the filter was blocking and sending the fuel back towards the petrol tank.
So, I removed the inline filter altogether and ran a fresh fuel hose straight from the joining piece to the carburettor.
Then I took the car out for a spin and it drove really well for a number of miles.
Just as I thought I'd cracked it and sorted the problem, the car stopped on me.
Fiddling about with the fuel hoses, restored flow and off I went again.
Although much better than it had been, I still had a problem.


I noticed from the start that the short, final piece of fuel hose, that runs from the mauskino ( the wheel that measures the fuel economy and relays it to the fuel economy gauge on the dashboard) to the carburettor wasn't in a great position to facilitate gravity flow, so at the suggestion of John Short, I removed this and replaced it with a fresh hose that was as short as could possibly be( no pun intended John :)), so that it had to be stretched onto the connectors to make it fit. This resulted in a more downward position with no slack in the line.

I also replaced any other fuel hose that hadn't been renewed and made the whole line as tight as could be, so it couldn't bounce out of place, as it might do, when driving,  if there was any slackness present in the lines.

I also replaced the plastic fuel tap bowl, under the tank as the one I had was ringed and wouldn't tighten properly, which resulted in a small drip/leak when the fuel was turned on.

Result, I drove the car about 15 miles the other day and it ran brilliantly, with no problems in fuel flow.
Lest I speak too soon, I feel it's well sorted now.

The other night I opened the tailgate of the kombi and closed it, thinking to myself it seemed very stiff.
So I opened and closed it again, well attempted to and the whole door came off in my hands, held on only by the wire that sends the heat to the rear window demister.

The hinges had seized and snapped cleanly off!

So I had to snip the wire and set the door to one side, while I unbolted the parts of the hinges that remained on the car and the other bits from the door itself. So, I'm ready for two new hinges that have to be ordered in from Germany as trabiuk couldn't locate any in their stocks.

Next morning, I had to deliver the car to the panel beater/welder who is fitting the new door sills for me.
After a couple of unsuccessful tries and disinterested tradesmen had shown no interest, I finally got someone who acted like he wanted the job and also quoted me a reasonable price.
Of course, as luck would have it, it was absolutely pelting down with rain and me with no back door!
Anyway, I got a tarpaulin and made it fit to shield us from most of the rain and drove to the garage.

I saw the new sills fitted yesterday and they look great and should stay that way for years to come.
The Panel beater sprayed them with primer, so I will spray them in papyrus when I the car home.

More pics and info to follow on Monday when I get the car.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Floor fixed and car back together.

Painted the floor today in its original 'Papyrus' colour and it turned out really well. With the rust treatment, 2 coats of primer and final painting, it was slow going but it's a good, thorough job and should never reoccur again.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The work is in progress

Started work on the Trabi.
It was air-locking occasionally in the fuel lines that go from the petrol tank to the carburettor.
There are 3 fuel lines in this simple, gravity fed system.
One fuel pipe had to be shortened and one replaced with a longer pipe to ensure better flow and rectify the problem. Sounds  simple really, but of huge importance.
Hopefully this will now do the trick.

Next, I vacuumed  out the whole interior of the car, but would still find dirt and dust in places.
So, I took out all the seats and all the carpeting and trim, which only took about 30 minutes as these cars are so easy to work with. I thoroughly cleaned all the seats and upholstery with appropriate cleaner and mopped and washed the whole interior shell of the car.
Result, everything is cleaner than it was since new and the whole car smells fresh and clean.


Next, the driver's and passenger's footwells were rusty and needed to be sorted before they worsened beyond repair and would end up needing sheet metal replacement.
They were only rusted on the inside and not through to the underneath of the car, so a rust remover ( deox C) was employed here to great success.

Then two coats of Lowes Rust primer was put on this area, which leaves it ready for paint.
Once painted, the whole interior can be put back together.

now solid, primed and ready for paint.
you can see the problem that needed fixing
the rust removed satisfactorily.
Next job then is to get someone to cut out the old door sills and weld in the replacements I received with the car.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

' Bruno ' The Trabant!

My Trabant was named 'Bruno' by its owner, before the one who sold it to me.
A German Professor ' Lew Schnurr' owned it since 1991 and traveled back and forth to the Uk a number of times in the car. It also went to the Alps I believe.

Prof Schnurr some trabi enthusiasts might know as he translated the 'Trabant Owners Handbook' from German to English. I got a copy of the book, supplied with the car and it's an excellent manual, full of easy to understand instructions and well illustrated with diagrams and sketches.

Today, I started to do 'Bruno' up a little.
The carburettor was running slightly slow as the engine sometimes would stall on idle, so I took the front grill off to get access to the carburettor and turned the idle screw. It's running better now.

I took all the carpets, mats and underlay out of the car and have them soaking in the bath.
I believe this is the first time they have been removed from the car and in dire need of a good soak and scrub.
Depending on how they come up after a clean, I'll decide whether or not to buy a new set or refit them in the car.
The driver side and passenger side foot-wells have some rust on the inside ( the other side underneath the car is fine) so I have scraped them clean and ready for some deox c which is basically a rust eating compound and de-oxidant.
I've never used this before but have heard only good things about how effective it is.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Got the Trabi home/first impressions

Well, It's been a busy few days!
Flew with my son to East Midlands Airport on Tuesday last, where the Trabi awaited us, courtesy of it's previous owner who was kind enough to drive it there.
We got there about 10 am.
We then had to drive approx 170 miles to Holyhead, Wales, to get the boat back to Ireland and the car never missed a beat. We arrived in plenty of time for our crossing and had a lot of fun too.
We took our time, drove about 90 miles and stopped for coffee and a sandwich.
Then we made our way to Holyhead and got to have a nice stroll around the harbour and do a bit of shopping  as we had about 3.5 hours to kill before boarding our ferry.
We bought some lovely fish and chips and ate them overlooking the Irish sea.

I'd never driven a Trabant before and was surprised at how good they are to drive.
The Trabant has had much criticism over it's long  lifespan, from Western critics, but I can now say those critics have been wrong and their criticism unjustified.
The steering is tight, accurate,  responsive and the turning circle is fantastic.
My car had recent new brake shoes fitted all round and the car stops up pretty sharp and in a straight line.
What surprised me most was how good the little car handles as negative criticism seems to attack that characteristic more than anything else. You can really chuck the little car around and its tyres stick to the road admirably. I can now understand how the Trabant won so many rallies in the sixties and early seventies.

My car is a November 1989 model and has the rear coil spring suspension set-up and electronic ignition.
November '89, of course is the same year and month that the Berlin Wall opened and this car is one of the last two stroke models produced, before the 'Sachsenring' factory switched to a Volkswagen derived, 4 -stroke engine in a failed bid to make the Trabi attractive to home-grown buyers. ( who could now buy cars cheaply from the West)
My car has only covered 62000 kilometres, just under 40k miles, so the tightness of the drive, like all cars is somewhat due largely to it's relative freshness.

Most surprising thing is the fuel economy I've gotten.
When I picked the car up, it had 22 litres of fuel in the tank.
I later topped it up with 12 litres, to fill it.     That's 34 litres.
I've done 438km(270 miles approx) since I got the car and it still has 11 litres of fuel in the tank.
So, the car has done 270 miles on 23 litres of fuel, which roughly equates to 54 mpg.
I drove the car at 80-85 kmph according to the speedo on the motorway and obviously mixed speeds on lesser roads. I would say that the motorway miles I've done would be no more than 180.

The paintwork on the car, like most Trabis I've seen is pretty flat and there is small surface rust here and there on the steel bits. Might try a T-cut and see if it does anything for the paintwork.

More to follow:

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

How it all started. Part two. The story of my current Wartburg 353 Tourist.

Having bought the Wartburg on Ebay, I had the problem of getting it back from the Uk.
The car was in East Sussex, which is almost as difficult a place for me to get to, as could be.
Bringing a car back to Ireland, you have to use either Liverpool/Birkenhead or Holyhead.
There's also a crossing from Fleetwood, but it's not practical, for me anyway.
Plus, I'd have to fly into London, get a train to East Sussex, then drive back the way I'd
came past London again, and continue onto any of the above ports.
Nomatter which ferry port I'd have used, I'd have had a 400-500 mile drive to get there.
The vendor told me that the car had been used very little in the past eighteen months, so
I reckoned the only way for me to get the car home was to use a transporter.
Again, I'd bought a car unseen, but a condition of sale for the car, was that the seller would
put a fresh mot on it at his cost.
So I reckoned with this fresh mot and the fact that the car had had a paint job two years previous
and came with a spare engine, full exhaust system in packaging, new clutch and pressure plate,
used carburettor and a big box of other bits and bobs, it couldn't be too much of a risk.



I went onto a couple of websites for getting transport quotes.
There's a number of these and they let you put in your details and then the transporters
quote you and bid for your custom.
I ended up getting a quote of 350 quid sterling, which I thought was pretty good value.
That was right to my door, so I did pretty well on that one and also became friendly with
the transporter and developed a good contact for future use.
So, I got the car back about a week later and as far as initial impressions go, my heart sank!
For starters, it was absolutely filthy, with the type of ground in dirt that looked like it had been
lying up for a very long time. There were leaf imprints all over the bodywork.
I got it off the transporter and started it up. The engine sounded good, which was a minor respite
to how I was feeling.
The key in the ignition though, felt extremely tight, as if I turned it a fraction more than was necessary
to engage the starter, it would break.
My driveway is quite steep and I drove the car up to the top of it, but it seemed very underpowered
and I just about made it.
After a few minutes idling, the engine developed a bad miss and began running very roughly.
I turned it off for the moment, until I got the transporter sorted and away.
I checked the car over and realised that the ignition key was a copy and wasn't right for the car.
When you engaged the starter, it would often as not, fail to disengage after firing.
This was purely down to the key being wrong for the car and sticking.
On occasion, it was even possible to take the key out of the ignition, with the engine still
running and the starter staying stuck!
The wipers didn't work.
One of the headlamps was out.
The indicators didn't work.
The black wartburg insignia was missing on the car.
There was a cd player in the car, minus the detachable cover, which
was an eyesore and totally useless without the cover.
The speedo was either disconnected or broken.
.
Although the respray on the body had been well done, there was a couple of touch-ups
on the car that had been done with the wrong shade of green, on the tailgate and front
panel that houses the headlamps.
The spare engine and box of parts had been put in the boot
The engine was pushed so tight against the tailgate, that I had great difficulty getting it open.
How the engine didn't smash the rear windscreen on the journey to Ireland, I'll never understand.
Apart from the disappointment I felt, the thought uppermost in my mind  was, 'How did this car
pass an mot four days previously?'
Next day, I started the car and again it fired up with no problems and initially ran well.
Somewhat heartened by this, I took it out for a spin.
I got about a quarter of a mile, before the car started missing badly and making loud and
horrible cranking noises from under the bonnet.
The power also had decreased at the same time, to the point where the car would start but
would not drive.
I had to park the car up and come back later to tow it home.
All I could think of at this moment was, what a good job I didn't arrive in England to
drive the car back!

I'm no mechanic but will do a bit of servicing and basic repairs.
I realised that whatever was wrong with this car was beyond my capabilities and in the
frame of mind I was in, the car seemed to be nothing but a disaster.
I did feel that the loss of power was probably something to do with the fuel pump,
but it could have been anything. The miss in the engine was very worrying, as well
as the noises that accompanied it.
I thought there was a big possibility that the spare engine I'd got with the car, would
be called into use.
So, I towed the car to my mechanic, Noel  and hoped for the best.

The manual fuel pump in the car wasn't working, or would work a little with the choke out.
This explained why the car would drive a short distance, before losing power.
As soon as the choke was disengaged, the car was being completely starved of fuel.
He fitted a new electric fuel pump which worked a treat.
The miss in the car was due in part to the carburettor which ended up having to be rebuilt.
This wasn't as costly as it might have been, due to the fact that the car came with a spare carb.
 Noel used the best parts of both carburettors, to make one as good as possible.
Although greatly improved, the car would still run rough and seemed to only run on two cylinders
at times.
Noel tested the 3 coils individually and they were fine, but he did find a broken earth wire under
them  when he had them out of the car, which was significant.
The original carbon plug leads that were on the car were also faulty and once these were changed
the car ran as sweet as a Wartburg can. New Ngk plugs were also installed.

The speedo it turned out was merely disconnected.
The wipers and indicators are powered by the same fuse, which just needed changing.
A new fuse was needed for the lights as well.
I got a new ignition switch from German Ebay with 2 keys for 25 euro delivered.
I found a seller on Ebayuk who had original chrome 'Wartburg' insignia for sale and
bought a set for about 20 euros and put them on the car.
I got, also from German Ebay, a 'Konstant' radio from a Wartburg 311 and fitted it in place
of the 'half a cd player'.

Shortly after this work was done and the car had been used a few times, the alternator
started playing up. There was no current going to the battery.
I managed to find a brand new one ( old stock) on German ebay
There were both new front brake pads and rear brake shoes in the box of parts, so I fitted these
and changed the gear oil. The coolant system was then flushed and the coolant renewed, along
with a number of hoses that had probably never been changed since the car was new.
I'm not mad on the bright green colour, so I had the tailgate and the front panel that houses the
headlamps sprayed in Ivory white, which complements the green and also hides the touch-ups
that were done in the wrong shade of green.

I was far from happy with the people who sold me the car and told them as much.
To cut a long story short, they agreed to refund me part of the purchase price, which went
a little of the  way to sort the car out.
When you focus on the negative aspects of any car, you are blind to the positives.
The interior of the car is very good, seats and carpets came up great when thoroughly
cleaned. The bodywork is excellent and the underneath is as solid as could be.
The car has a massive history file and lots of receipts.
The car came with an original Ddr toolkit and first aid box which are very nice items.
Likewise, the spare wheel has an original 'Pneumant' winter tyre on it.
Now that the car has been sorted, it's an enjoyable drive and I'd take it anywhere
with confidence.
This car feels faster and fresher than the one I had before. It's also quieter.

The car stands me a good few quid, but I'm now happy with it and I know I'd go a long
ways now to find a better one.
For me, Classic car ownership is as much about keeping cars on the road for as
long as possible, as driving the cars themselves.
This car is as good as I can make it and should provide enjoyment for many years
to come.

I took my fourteen year old son, Iain, to Berlin last week of June this year and we saw some
nice IFA vehicles. I also saw a lovely Wartburg 311 driving along in the Mitte area.
We stayed in Frankfurter Allee and enjoyed the break.
Amongst other places, we visited Sachsenhausen concentration camp and explored
East Berlin quite a bit, including seeing other less known, remaining parts of the Berlin wall.
For those interested in Ddr history, there's a brilliant documentary made by independent
film maker, Ian Hawkins, titled ' My Ddr t-shirt'.
In the film, he speaks to many former Berliners about what life was like in East Germany,
and how their lives were affected in many ways, positively and negatively.
The film is extremely well balanced and speaks to people from East and West.
It's a very well made film with lots of interesting Ddr footage.
He also visits a field full of Trabants.
I've spoken to Ian Hawkins and he has agreed to give a discount on this film to IFA
club members.
.
It's normally £8, but if purchased through myself it's £7 including P&P


Info on the dvd 'My DDR T-SHIRT:    www.myddrtshirt.co.uk

Thursday, September 23, 2010

That Good-for-Nothing Car Is Good for a Laugh - NYTimes.com

I found the following newspaper article from March 7,1991, about the film ' Go Trabi Go'.
The article was written by Stephen Kinzer:




CHEMNITZ, Germany, March 1— As eastern Germany spirals toward economic collapse, people who live here have found a way to escape from the onrushing specter of unemployment and social upheaval.
They visit the local movie theater and see "Go Trabi Go," the first film comedy about German unification. It makes them laugh not precisely at themselves, but at the absurdities of the system under which they lived until last year.
In the six weeks since "Go Trabi Go" was released, more than 600,000 Germans have seen it, making it one of the most successful German films of recent years. It is playing in 125 theaters across the country, and is drawing big crowds in western as well as eastern cities.
The film tells the story of a father, mother and daughter from the bleak Saxon town of Bitterfeld who, finally free to travel abroad, pack into their Trabant and drive toward Italy. All three leading actors turn in lively performances, but the real star is the Trabant. A Part of the Family
Probably no symbol of the former East Germany is as widely recognized and ridiculed as the ugly, polluting Trabant, or Trabi, as it is affectionately known.
"You had to wait 10 or 15 years to get one, and when you did, you cherished it," said Wolfgang Stumph, who plays the father. "Your Trabi was part of the family. It represented your connection to the world."
"The Trabi was a lot like East Germany. It was far from perfect, but somehow it worked. You had to improvise every day to keep it going. It was small and smelly and it broke down a lot, but it was what we had."
Mr. Stumph, a well-known satirist and cabaret performer from Dresden, portrays a high-school German teacher entranced with Goethe's accounts of his travels in Italy. Whe East Germany's Communist Government collapses, he resolves to live out his lifelong dream of following Goethe's path. He paints the slogan "See Naples and Die!" on the back of his Trabi, packs his wife and daughter inside, and sets out.
The family's first contact with the West is in Bavaria, where a brother-in-law lives. He turns out to be a fat and boorish character who personifies the excess of West Germany's self-satisfied prosperity. When the noisy, overloaded Trabi pulls up in front of his impeccable suburban home, he gasps, "The Saxons are at the door!" and quickly hides his half-eaten chocolate cake.
From Bavaria, the family makes its way south, through nations of people who seem to love laughing at Trabis. At one point, when the car breaks down, the father telephones for road service. "What kind of a car do you have?" the service agent asks. "It's a 601," the father replies. "What, a Porsche?"
"No, a Trabant!"
The agent bursts out laughing. "Why don't you just leave that plastic can by the side of the road?" he suggests. The Trabi Triumphs
The Trabi survives a host of other outrages, including being mistaken for scrap at an auto junkyard. Insensitive Westerners subject it to ridicule at every stop, but it serves its owners well and no amount of abuse can destroy it. Like East Germans themselves, it survives through difficult times and ultimately triumph.
Thanks to the Trabi, the intrepid pilgrims from Bitterfeld finally reach Naples and are able to walk where Goethe walked.
Public premieres of "Go Trabi Go" have been held in several cities in eastern Germany. The three lead actors recently attended a premiere in Chemnitz, near the Czechoslovak border. The theater was packed, and outbreaks of delighted applause suggested that viewers recognized themselves on the screen.
"There's nothing in that film that isn't true," a young man said after the lights went back on. "You have to love your Trabi, just like you have to love your wife. It's part of what we are." Real-Life Vacations Recalled
Mr. Stumph and the actress who plays his wife, Marie Gruber, were surrounded by autograph-seekers after the show. The real commotion, though, was around 25-year-old Claudia Schmutzler, who plays the cheeky teen-age daughter. "Go Trabi Go" is her first film, and critics have suggested she has an appeal that could make her a star of the future.
As a girl growing up in East Germany, Miss Schmutzler took several real-life vacations in her family's Trabant. "Of course it's not so comfortable in the back seat, but it was a chance for the family to have an adventure together," she said. "In the West, people just fly from place to place. It's a very different feeling."
"Go Trabi Go" was made by Bavaria Films, the largest studio in Germany, for about $3 million. It is a trifling sum by Hollywood standards, but fairly expensive for a German film. No figures are yet available, but the film has already grossed much more than it cost to make.
Bavaria Films is a well-established Western studio, and Peter Timm, the director and screenwriter, is a native of the former West Germany. The producer, Reinhard Klooss, has lived in Munich for years but was born in the East.
"I was watching TV the night the wall fell, and I was fascinated by the thousands of Trabants pouring across," Mr. Klooss said in an interview. "I was instantly curious about who those people inside the Trabis were. What had they gone through? What were they really like?"
"Audiences have a very warm reaction to this film. It shows people from the East as good-humored, optimistic and happy with themselves. For a lot of people in the West, it's the first time they've had any glimpse into the way East Germans really are." So Much Stress Now
After the Chemnitz premiere, when the last autographs were signed, Mr. Klooss and his three stars climbed into their car -- not a Trabant -- and sped away. A man standing on a corner watched and waved.
"People ask if things are better now, since the reunification," he reflected. "What does 'better' mean? Sure, you can make real money now. But everything is so overwhelming. There's so much stress. In the old days we knew what to expect."
Few citizens of the former East Germany feel genuine nostalgia for the days of Communist rule. But many insist that life back then was not all bad. After all, they say with a smile, there was always the chance of getting a Trabi.
Photo: Probably no symbol of the former East Germany is as widely recognized and ridiculed as the Trabant, a car that is the real star of the German film "Go Trabi Go." The film's human stars are Wolfgang Stumph, at the wheel, Marie Gruber and Claudia Schmutzler, on the hood. Reinhard Klooss produced the film. (Axel Petermann for The New York Times)

I haven't seen this film yet, but it is available to buy on German Ebay ( Ebay.de) and I will review it at a later date. Apparently there's been a sequel to the original as the picture denotes.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Book Review: Trabant. Die Letzten Tage der Produktion ( The Final Days of production)

Very good book, with text in both German and English.
The only Trabant book I know of which is not in German, apart from the 'Ddr Trabi owners handbook' translated by Professor Lew Schnurr.

This book briefly outlines the history of the Trabi and the factory in Zwickau where they were produced. It also features a very good newspaper article that was published by a German newspaper in April 1991, just days before production of the 'Trabant' ceased forever.

The rest of the book is made of of the stark, yet brilliant photography of Martin Roemers who visited the Trabant factory in 1990 and 91 to photograph production.
One of the most evident things the pictures show, is the look of despondency on the faces of the workers, who know their factory, livelihood and life as they know it is coming to an end soon.
Also poignant is the lack of youth amongst the workers and the pictures of elderly women operating powertools on the assembly line.
Another shot, shows a male worker on his break, his clothes so poor, the crotch of his trousers has clearly been patched over.
Black and white imagery gives a much more bleak and perhaps, depressing picture than the same images in colour would. Nevertheless, the pictures show a factory that was archaic by modern production standards and the cars built there were as hand crafted as cars could possibly be.
The images would not look out of place from the 1950's and this factory probably changed little from then to 1991.
To say, Car manufacture here was extremely labour intensive, would be an understatement.

But the fact that this factory produced cars at all is largely due to the ingenuity and determination of the East German people.
In the aftermath of the Second world War, the Russians confiscated all major tooling and machinery. Practically anything of any industrial value in the Gdr was stripped, crated and sent to Russia.
Imports from the West were now a thing of the past and there was obviously no industrial help forthcoming from Russia.
The Sachsenring factory in Zwickau ( like the Wartburg factory in Eisenach) had to start from scratch and practically make their own tooling applications and overcome countless production problems, using their own ingenuity, stubbornness and the extremely meagre financial investment from the Gdr government. ( which the Soviets had ultimate control over)
To combat steel shortages, the Germans invented a new material for body panels which was called 'Duroplast'. This flexible and strong material was made from Plastic resin mixed with cotton waste. The body panels made from this were then mounted onto a unitary steel frame. This enabled the Germans to build cars, using a bare minimum of steel compared to other contemporary cars.

Production of cars started with the introduction of the P70 in 1958. This was followed by the P50 and then the P601 followed in 1964 and continued with few visual changes until 1990. The 601 was only meant to be produced for a few years and engineers wanted to replace it as early as 1968. Many prototypes would be rejected by the Government who insisted they only build the 601, many times over.
There were also repeatedly refused permission to switch from Two stroke power to a more modern and more environmentally friendly, four stroke engine.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the demand for the Trabant virtually ceased.
East Germans now had easy access to Western cars and wanted them as human nature generally hankers for what's never been had, or has been denied.
The final Trabants (90-91) made were given a four-stroke Volkswagen engine from the Polo, which the Zwickau factory had been producing under license for Volkswagen.
This was a last ditch attempt to save the Trabant from extinction and somehow make it appealing to East Germans, despite the car looking largely the same apart from a new powertrain and transmission. It failed.
Prior to this, waiting lists were between twelve and fourteen years to get a new Trabant.

In the immediate aftermath of the 'Wall' falling, Trabants were literally given away or abandoned on roadsides as their owners saw them as symbols and reminders of the oppression they'd been forced to live by.
Nowadays, the Trabant is fast becoming evermore scarce and an object of desire by classic car enthusiasts and is seen at many car shows.


The final pictures of the book, taken in 1992, are as poignant as they are telling.
They show hundreds of Trabants piled up,waiting to be stripped for parts and then crushed as the factory is now owned by Volkswagen and now producing for their own interests.
This is a very good and enjoyable book for anyone interested in Trabants and Gdr history.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Bought myself a Trabant!

Just done a deal for the pictured car. It's a 1989 Trabi  601 S Kombi.
Interestingly, this was the last year of production for the two stroke model and was manufactured in the same month(Nov) that the Berlin Wall opened.
This improved model had the coil spring suspension and electronic ignition.
The car is a great runner and the previous owner has made quite a few improvements, with  new brake cylinders and drums, new bonnet frame, windscreen, tyres and battery.
I'm on my second Wartburg, but this will be my first Trabi.
It needs a little work to improve, namely two door sills to be spliced into place and a little welding around a wheel arch. But the car has a long mot and is taxed.
It's on the button mechanically, has a good solid chassis and clean seats and interior. Has only covered about 40k miles from new. Will post more about it soon.
The car is still in England and I have to make arrangements to go and collect it.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

DVD REVIEW FOR ALL TRABANT FANS

TRABANT Ein Auto fur eine Mark! ( A CAR FOR A DOLLAR) DVD.:


 THIS EXCELLENT DVD IS A MUST FOR ALL TRABI FANS. ALMOST ONE HOUR LONG IT TELLS THE WHOLE STORY OF THE TRABANT FROM IT'S INCEPTION, THROUGH TO ITS DEMISE. IT ALSO TELLS HOW THE CAR WAS BUILT WITH MUCH HUMAN LABOUR, AFTER THE RUSSIANS PILLAGED THE FACTORY AFTER WORLD WAR II AND SENT MOST OF THE MACHINERY AND TOOLING TO RUSSIA. AS YOU PROBABLY KNOW THE TRABANT WAS MADE FROM 'DUROPLAST', WHICH WAS A MIXTURE OF PLASTIC RESIN, STRENGTHENED WITH A BY PRODUCT OF COTTON WASTE. MANUFACTURER 'SACHSENRING' INVENTED THIS NEW MATERIAL OUT OF NECESSITY AS STEEL WAS VERY HARD TO COME BY AND PROHIBITIVELY EXPENSIVE. THE WEST WOULDN'T SELL THEM ANY AND THE RUSSIANS DIDN'T HAVE ANY TO SPARE. AS THE DVD SHOWS, DESPITE THE DERISION IN MANY CIRCLES OF THE 'PLASTIC' BODY OF THE TRABI, IT ACTUALLY FARED BETTER IN CRASH TESTS THAN MANY WESTERN VEHICLES. THE DVD TAKES YOU INTO THE FACTORY FLOOR, WHICH SHOWS THE TRABANTS WERE BUILT WITH MUCH HAND LABOUR. INTERESTINGLY, SACHSENRING PRODUCED MANY REPLACEMENTS FOR THE TRABANT AND BUILT MANY PROTOTYPES, BUT WERE REPEATEDLY REFUSED PERMISSION FROM THE GOVERNMENT TO PRODUCE THEM. THE TRABANT TRULY WAS A PEOPLES CAR AND COST ON AVERAGE A YEARS SALARY. MANY PEOPLE HAD TO WAIT UP TO 16 YEARS TO RECEIVE ONE, WHICH USUALLY MEANT THAT ONCE THEY GOT ONE, THEY LOOKED AFTER IT AND BECAME SKILLED AT MAINTAINING THE CARS. THE TRABANT WAS SIMPLY BUILT TO ALLOW NON-PROFESSIONALS TO WORK ON THEM. ALTHOUGH THE TRABANT RECEIVED MUCH BAD PUBLICITY AND WAS THE BUTT OF MANY JOKES IN THE WESTERN WORLD, WHEN IT WAS LAUNCHED IN 1958, IT WAS QUITE ADVANCED WITH FRONT WHEEL DRIVE, UNITARY CONSTRUCTION AND WAS THE FIRST CAR EVER MADE FROM RECYCLABLE MATERIALS. THE MAJORITY OF WESTERN MANUFACTURERS HAD SWITCHED TO CLEANER BURNING FOUR STROKE ENGINES, SO TWO STROKE ENGINES, LIKE THE TRABANT WERE SEEN AS OUTDATED AND UNFASHIONABLE. THE TRABANT THOUGH WAS VERY ECONOMICAL AND GAVE REASONABLE PERFORMANCE, RELATIVE TO THE TIME IT WAS BUILT AND THE 600 CC ENGINE WOULD HAVE BEEN ON PAR WITH MOST WESTERN FOUR STROKERS, UP TO 1000CC. THIS IS PROVED BY THE REMARKABLE SUCCESSES THE CAR HAD ON THE RALLY CIRCUIT, WHERE THEY REGULARLY BEAT BMW AMONGST OTHERS. INTERESTINGLY ONE OF THE PROTOTYPES THE 603, LOOKS REMARKABLY LIKE THE VOLKSWAGEN GOLF WHICH APPEARED ABOUT 3 YEARS AFTER THE COMPANY WERE REFUSED PERMISSION TO BUILD THE CAR. THE AUTHORITIES NOT ONLY REFUSED THEM, BUT CONFISCATED ALL PAPERWORK AND FILES. STAFF AT SACHSENRING BELIEVE THAT THE GOVERNMENT SOLD THEIR PLANS TO VOLKSWAGEN, WHO IN TURN PRODUCED THE GOLF. THIS 603 PROTOTYPE IF PRODUCED WOULD HAVE BEEN THE FIRST HATCHBACK CAR EVER AND WOULD HAVE APPEARED 3 YEARS BEFORE THE RENAULT 5 (WHICH WAS THE 1ST). IT'S A GREAT DVD AND TELLS THE COMPLETE STORY. IT ALSO SHOWS THE TREMENDOUS POPULARITY 'TRABIS' NOW ENJOY ALL OVER THE WORLD AND THE CLUBS, ASSOCIATIONS AND EVENTS DEVOTED TO THEM. HARD TO BELIEVE THAT WHEN THE WALL CAME DOWN IN 1989, TRABANTS COULD BE BOUGHT FOR AS LITTLE AS A DOLLAR. THEIR OWNERS SO HAPPY TO ESCAPE TO THE WEST, SAW THE TRABANT AS A REMINDER OF THEIR OPPRESSIVE PAST. ALSO THEY WANTED WESTERN CARS AS THEY WERE LARGELY DENIED THEM ALL THEIR LIVES IN EAST GERMANY. VOLKSWAGEN TOOK OVER THE SACHSENRING FACTORY IN 1990 AND THE LAST TRABANT WAS MADE UNTIL 1991, WHEN PRODUCTION STOPPED. SACHSENRING HAD BEEN MANUFACTURING ENGINES FOR VOLKSWAGEN, NAMELY THE 1.1 POLO ENGINE AND THIS WAS USED FOR THE LAST YEAR OF PRODUCTION IN THIS LATEST TRABANT 1.1. THE DVD IS IN GERMAN, BUT THERE IS SOME ENGLISH AUDIO AND SUBTITLES. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.


NB: CHECK OUT OTHER DVD RELATED BOOKS AND DVDS ON THE RIGHT HAND SIDE OF THIS BLOG. THEY ARE ADDED TO REGULARLY. THIS DVD IS READILY AVAILABLE TO BUY ON EBAY.