Saturday, July 31, 2010

TRABANT TREK, The book by Dan Murdoch.

I've just started reading the above book, well am about 30% through it to be exact and just thought I'd mention first impressions. The word 'crap' comes to mind, but to be fair will hold off my final appraisal until I read all of it.

So far, eight people have set off from Germany, east across Europe, across Asia, through twenty one countries, before ending up at their final destination,Cambodia, where they plan to give money they raised to a children's charity, some of them had visited five years previously.
The convoy consists of three, Trabants, ( 2 x 601 saloons, 1 x 601 combi)  in very poor condition and a Mercedes estate.( to carry supplies and back-up equipment)
The journey will consist of 15,000 miles, covering all types of terrain and many
bleak and barren landscapes.
You would think for such a journey of epic proportions, they would have spent wisely and bought pretty good cars, Wouldn't you?
The Trabbis they bought cost between, $150 and $350.
 They paid $1500 for the Mercedes, then realised thousands of miles later, after a blow out, that they didn't have a wheel brace to change the spare wheel!

Much comment, thus far to date, has been on the many minor problems and breakdowns that the Trabbis had. Is it any wonder, when they bought cars in crap condition?
They didn't even put new batteries in them before setting off, then write about them having battery failure.
They did, however, think it wise to spend $250( on each car, except the Mercedes), having a metal plate fitted underneath each Trabbi engine, to protect the engines from stones and debris.
The Mercedes was the only car with a sump and a steel plate under it WOULD HAVE made sense, due to the rough terrain and desert they would have to cross.
Oh yes, almost forgot, they set off on this expedition with no maps. They left them behind!

Three times, the trekkers managed to crack the sump on the Mercedes.
This may have been, at least partly to do with the fact that the rear hydraulic suspension failed, within a short time into the trip.
This suspension, similar to that used by many Citroen's, is great when working well and enables huge loads to be carried with an evenness of distribution, unknown with conventional suspensions.
But hydraulic suspension has always been problematic, especially on older vehicles.
Very, very few Mercedes models were fitted with this suspension. The fact that these people bought a car with such, was really bad judgement on their part, as hydraulics are difficult to fix and their pipes which carry the fluid are prone to rusting and springing leaks.

One of the group, Tony, was in charge of mechanical repairs as he 'allegedly' had done two years of a motor mechanic apprenticeship.
Eventually the Merc deteriorated further to the point, that they abandoned it after ten thousand kilometres.
This meant that they had to dump much of the cargo of spare parts that had been carried in the Merc, as the 3 Trabbis were being further burdened by two extra people, let alone carry the cargo as well.

There were plenty of mechanical problems with the Trabbis, but as the cars were heaps of junk when they were bought, this was hardly surprising.
A couple of clutches failed, a left control arm broke and attempts to weld it would only last a few hundred km before it would break again. ( they had no spare ones)
They seemed to have a lot of problems with battery failure in all the cars. I wonder if the cars had 6volt electrics, which would account for this.
A gearbox broke on one of the cars, a clutch plate sheared in half, a leaf spring snapped which was also unsuccessfully welded many times( a spare one of these would also have been handy).
The engine on one of the car's seized and had to be replaced. The Author doesn't say why this happened and I doubt he knew why, but a two stroke engine seizing is often due to insufficient oil being present in the fuel, which if this is the case, is down to the ineptness of the group and nothing else.

There were other engine changes also towards the end of the trip.
This may seem like a huge obstacle but Trabbi engines only weigh about forty kilos and can be changed in thirty minutes by a mechanic who knows what he's doing.
Trabants were made to be simply and easily fixed, not only for mechanics but with their owners in mind, for easy maintenance.
 Many times throughout the book, he would say one of the cars broke down, without saying what the problem was, nor say how it was fixed.
It is obvious that he had little mechanical knowledge, if any.

The group made it 350km into China when the cars more or less gave up and packed in.
So, the cars were freighted 3500 km across China to Laos, where they managed to repair them enough to continue. Shortly afterwards they had to abandon one of the cars in Northern Laos and continue with two cars to Thailand and then finally Cambodia.
They visited two main orphanages there and donated the ten thousand dollars sponsorship their journey had raised. This, of course, was the best and most worthwhile part of the whole exercise.
The group are to be commended also, for doing the trip on their own funds, not dipping into the sponsorship pool to fund their expenses getting to Cambodia.

How this group managed to drive about eleven thousand miles (by my reckoning), across mountains, and two major deserts is beyond me. They seemed to be appalling drivers, almost without exception and many of the breakdowns were acknowledged to be of their own doing, by the Author.
Bad drivers, bad cars and constantly bickering amongst each other throughout.
Much effort is made by the Author to rubbish the cars at every opportunity, which I feel is unjust.
The three Trabants combined cost approximately eight hundred dollars and were poor cars to begin with.
That said, the Mercedes they bought cost $1500 and didn't perform as well as the Trabants, due partly to the fact that the Trabants are much easier to fix, work on, and replace vital components quickly and with relative ease.

The author at times, seemed to jeer the fact that the Trabants were archaic, slow and dated.
If the Trabants were not so simple, mechanically, this group would never have made the journey as far as they did. More complex cars would simply have broken down and none of the group would have had the skills necessary to repair them. I feel that the Author has attempted to make their journey seem much more of an accomplishment due to the fact it was done in Trabants, instead of admitting the simplicity of the Trabant is the real reason they were able to have any degree of success.

Even the book title ' Trabant Trek' Crossing the world in a plastic car' is derogatory and attempts to sound sensationalist. Trabants were made from a man-made material called 'Duroplast' which was plastic resin mixed with  a by product of Cotton waste. These materials combined together produced a body that proved more durable in independent crash tests, than many Western cars made from steel, of the same era.
The reason Duroplast was invented was due to the fact that there was a chronic steel shortage in Eastern Europe in the late fifties, early sixties.
These are well documented facts.

The book is at times interesting and also boring at times.
The Author tries hard, too hard in my view, to be funny.
Each chapter begins with a stupid 'Trabant' joke, which is unnecessary.
More about the individual countries should have been written, mainly costs and about the people they met.

There's a sort of yuppie smugness that comes across from the Author and some of the group, that is irritating at times. They appear at times to be a bunch of spoilt brats, lost in the desert, which was probably close to the bone on a number of occasions.

It's not  a great book by any means, but is at times interesting.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Two stroke Lamborghini of East Germany!

This is the Melkus RS 1000, which was produced from 1969-79.
The car was powered by the remarkable 992cc, Wartburg 353 engine, which was tuned to varying degrees.
The fastest of these, was the racing car version, which had a top speed of  130 mph (210 km/h) and 88HP.
The more common, road version had a top speed of just over 100 mph (165 km/h).
The car was mid-engined and rear wheel drive.
There was also some cars fitted with a 1200cc version.

Just 101 of these cars were built during their ten years of manufacture.
Thomas doerfer
owned by 
The car featured gull wing doors, similar to that of a De Lorean and had a fiberglass body.
They were built in Dresden, the brainchild of Race driver, Heinz Melkus.
In addition to Wartburg engines, many other parts for the car also were sourced from the Wartburg and also from the Trabant.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Has anyone ever had one of these? A 'Syrena' Polish two stroke car.

1961 syrena 104
1960 Syrena van

1961 Syrena 104

These are a very nicely styled example of a small, two stroke car, which was produced in Poland for over 20 years, with few changes. I've never seen one in the flesh, so to speak.
I imagine, one would have to go to Poland to find one, nowadays.
But cars are very cheap in Poland, compared to Western Europe.
One of these would be a lovely addition to any classic car show.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


The 'Ampelmanchen' symbols on Pedestrian crossings, that you will only find in the Eastern parts of Berlin.
Apparently, some time after the wall came down, plans were afoot to get rid of these and replace them with the ones used in West Berlin. There was a public outcry and they've remained ever since.
So Popular are these 'green and red men', there are shops in Berlin that sell all kinds of merchandise, with their logos on them. From handbags, t-shirts, keyrings etc, you name it and you'll probably be able to get it!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

How it all started

my first wartburg
my current car and the best Wartburg type to have. 353 Tourist.

My interest in cars, classic cars to be exact has always leaned towards the unusual, or even 
quirky. With curiosity and great interest I spotted a Wartburg 353 on the front cover of the 
'Classic Car Weekly' on 29th April 2009.
In the cloudy dusty shelves of my mind, I thought the name Wartburg sounded familiar, yet
I couldn't ever remember seeing one before this article.
I had seen the 'Trabant', or rather a field full of them on Tv a few years previous, 
when a local UK Council ordered the owner to move them, and remember hearing they had
a tiny two stroke engine. I thought little of it at the time, but this was the first introduction to
IFA vehicles for me and maybe subconsciously the start of an interest that would become a 

The CCW article was pretty positive reading for the most part and my curiosity was further piqued,
when the article stated that the car's owner had three Wartburgs and wanted to sell one!

My classic car ownership up to this point, had been exclusively French. I'd owned a Citroen
DS, 2 x CX's, a 2CV, Visa and a pretty rare Peugeot 405 4x4 ( with hydraulic rear suspension).
I will always have a soft spot for French cars and their idiosyncrasies, but problems with complex
hydraulics of the CX and particularly the DS, made me yearn for something simpler that I could work 
at myself , without having to consult expensive specialists.
One of the things I've always admired about French Classics is that they invariably have soft
suspensions that  mask bad road surfaces probably better than anything else.
So when Ian Seabrook who wrote the CCW article, commented on the fact that the Wartburg 
soaked up potholes and other road imperfections, better than the modern BMW he was driving,
I was very interested. 

When I first saw the picture of the Wartburg 353, I immediately thought it might be a Peugeot,
the styling clearly looked French to me.
The paper provided an email address only for the vendor, and I sent off an email declaring my interest.
It was about a week or so later that I got a reply. The vendor  had two
Wartburg 353 saloons, a red 1984 one with column change and the 1988 two tone grey and blue one that
was in the paper. The third car he had was a 1986, red 353 Tourist estate model.
He indicated that he might sell two out of the three cars.
Unfortunately I was told that someone had beaten me to it and had been given first refusal on
either the Grey/blue saloon or the Tourist, one of which he seemed certain of purchasing.
It turned out he bought neither and after some protracted emailing with the vendor, I did a deal
for the grey/blue saloon that I'd read about.
Now here's the thing, the vendor lived in Derbyshire and I live in Ireland, so couldn't just pop down the
motorway on spec for a viewing. I bought the car unseen, mainly based on the CCW feature.
I'd never bought a car this way before and almost backed out of it a couple of times, as I wasn't
entirely satisfied with the email correspondence. Whilst email is a great tool at times, written text
can be very ambiguous and one can easily get the wrong impression, or a different impression that
what is intended, which of course works both ways!
Anyway, I sent the vendor a holding deposit and my fears turned out to be unfounded as the car was
as good as I'd hoped it would be.
The vendor was decent enough to meet my thirteen year old son and I at East Midlands Airport and 
bring us back to his place in Loughborough, Derbyshire.

He picked us up in his 353 Tourist, which was a top of the range model with fitted sunroof and an 
olematic oil pump for automatic dispensing and mixing of petrol and two stroke oil.
The vendor explained that these oil pumps were only fitted to cars that were originally exported
to Belgium. The upholstery in this car was also of a higher quality that that of the standard models.
I was very impressed with the Tourist, particularly it's cavernous space, greater practicality, and
plusher interior. When I saw my saloon back at the Vendor's place, my initial feeling was that
I preferred the Tourist and might have plumped for it if the owner hadn't just transferred his personal
plates from the saloon I'd paid the deposit on, to the tourist ( and did not have the V5 back yet).
We had to drive to Liverpool for the boat to Dublin later that evening, so we took the saloon we'd
came for.
The vendor told me that the car was the best driver out of the three cars he owned, and I also
reckoned that he would surely have given Ian Seabrook the best car to test drive and to base
his report on.
The car had been driven to Germany and Belgium in recent years and I knew I was getting
a good car.
The car had been painted it's two tone colouring about six years previously, from it's original solid
grey colour and it still looked very smart.

You really get a sense of how dour and grim, life in the DDR could be when you see the bland
choice of original colours from the seventies onwards. This is in complete contast to the many
beautiful two tone schemes that prevailed in the fifties and sixties.
The car also had had it's original black bumpers changed for chrome ones, to give the car more
of a sixties look and had been very well maintained.
It had had all four wings replaced at some point and had a clutch replaced three years previously.
The three original coils had been replaced in favour of a single coil system and an electric fuel
pump had also been fitted.
The vendor recommended a fuel mixture of 50:1 petrol- 2 stroke oil, despite the fact it said
40:1 in the user manual provided. I certainly had no experience of two stroke cars before, but
had a bit of experience with two stroke bikes and chainsaws and always used a richer mix than
specified. I reckoned a little more oil was safer, as long as you didn't over do it.
So I ran the car on a mix of approximately 40:1, if not slightly richer and it always ran well
for me, free of excess belching or other over-oiling symptoms.
The car also came with a number of useful spares including front brake pads and a
timing belt.

The only thing I didn't like about the car, was that the original gear knob was missing
and had been replaced with an awful, shiny silver, plastic aftermarket one that I thought
was totally out of character with the car's interior.
Despite being a driver of considerable experience and a former taxi driver,
I'd never driven a Wartburg before and found it difficult at first, particularly the gearchange
when making clutchless changes. But these cars are hardy beasts and it forgave my crunching
changes with no ill effects.
After a while, I sussed out that you needed to listen for the engine revs to drop, before changing
up a gear, in order to effect a smooth change and maintain progress.
Once I'd mastered this, I started to enjoy the drive to Liverpool.
Wartburgs really offer a classic driving experience that harks back to a much earlier era
and give a lot of enjoyment. To get the most out of them, I think the best way to drive them is
similar to the way one would drive a diesel, accelerate  hard, drop off the throttle,
 change up and away again with a heavy right foot. These cars seem happier to
slog at low speeds in fourth, than changing down a gear as one would in a modern car.

We arrived safely in Liverpool, with a few hours to spare for our ferry crossing.
We were at a toll booth near Bootle, when the car behind me honked the horn.
I looked around and there was a Wartburg 1.3 saloon behind us.
The occupants, a couple in their late twenties I'd say, were smiling profusely and motioned us
to pull over, to see the car.
They were a very nice German couple, on a driving holiday across Europe and we chatted amiably
for a few minutes, whilst admiring each other's car's. I'd no camera but they took a picture of all
of us and the two cars together. It was a nice moment.
We arrived home the following morning, having driven over three hundred, trouble free miles
since picking the car up and only had a week before taking it to a classic car show
that I've been attending for years about an hour away from where we live.
I come from Belfast, originally, but moved to Eire some years ago.
The show is an outdoor affair and held in the grounds of Trim Castle, in County Meath, where
much of Mel Gibson's 'Braveheart' was filmed.
It really provides a gorgeous backdrop from which to display classic  cars and the show
usually has around seven hundred cars in attendance, displayed spaciously within the grassy
slopes of the Castle grounds.

So, with the help of my son, Iain, we washed and valeted the car thoroughly inside and out
and restuck some loose carpeting in the boot and she was ready for the show!
Our Wartburg was the only one present, indeed it was the only IFA vehicle in attendance
and it got a lot of attention, almost overwhelmingly positive.
Quite a few people from Eastern block countries, particularly Polish and Latvian people
stopped to talk about the car and said that they'd grown up with Wartburgs and Trabants
in their countries, owned by their parents and knew many people  who still drove them today.
They all spoke with great affection for the cars they'd known.
I met one elderly  man who had been a Saab mechanic and was familiar with the older
two stroke, 841cc engine fitted to the Saab 95 from the mid fifties to mid sixties
This engine was made by DKW and was also the technology used by the IFA of which a wide
range of vehicles were based (including my own), 
with many improvements and adjustments over the years.
Other people, who had never seen or heard of Wartburgs before, were simply amazed
that a two stroke car of such a size existed or was possible.
I really enjoyed the show and in particular having a car to show, of which there weren't dozens
of others in attendance, like the case of many other marques at the show.

In the weeks afterwards, I sought to make a few small improvements to what I now knew
was a very good and reliable car.
With the two-tone colour scheme and chrome hubcaps, I knew whitewall tyres would make
a fantastic addition to the car's overall appearance.
All four tyres were excellent, so I was able to purchase whitewall flaps that you simply
insert between tyre and rim and is a much cheaper way of attaining the same effect.
These, I picked up on ebay for about forty pounds.
I located a Wartburg parts specialist in Germany, with the hope of obtaining a genuine
replacement gear knob, but this proved to be unsuccessful.
I then trawled Ebay for the same and couldn't get one there either, so I searched through
dozens of web pages for a gear knob that would look authentic and importantly have the correct
gear ratio inscribed on it.
I ended up getting one made for a Volkswagen T25 transpoter van, that was the right colour, size and
ratio and wouldn't look out of place with the interior ambiance of the car.
It was brand new and a good choice and only cost a fiver.
Only downside was that the inner threading of the new one was much wider in diameter than
the gear stick.
I sorted this by managing to remove the inner threading core from the old aftermarket one and filing
it down sufficiently, until it fitted snugly into the new one.
It then screwed perfectly onto the gear stick, just like the aftermarket one had.
I changed the front brake pads and overhauled the rear drums, then had the whole underneath
of the car professionally sprayed with waxoyl.
Wartburgs are very easy to work on and some of this work wasn't necessary, but I enjoy
working at cars as a hobby and I like my cars to be as good as they can be.

For me, Classic car ownership is all about having something that is unusual and unique in some
way. Wartburgs, Trabants and all IFA vehicles possess these traits in spades.
In Particular, the two stroke engines are for me anyway, the best to buy as a two stroke car is
very different and the freewheel system is practical and a joy to use.
Sure, they're smoky and noisy, but that's part of the appeal and what makes them special.
One of the reasons that two stroke engines fell out of favour with other manufacturers, was their
inability to make two stroke engines that had the longevity and durability of four stroke units.
Perhaps the fact that the Communist regime doggedly resisted technological advances, this
enabled the East German's to perfect the two stroke engine to a new level, as they had no
other option.

I know from some research into Wartburgs that they wanted to abandon the two stroke
engine in 1978, in favour for a 1289cc four stroke Renault engine.
This car was the proposed Wartburg 1300, essentially the 353 with a new engine.
This venture was vetoed by the Government as were many progressive ideas proposed
by the IFA over many years, for many models.
Best fact about Wartburgs and Trabants ( from a classic car perspective) is that they used
old technology right up to 1989/1990, until four-stroke Volkswagen engines were used, so there
are still many good examples to be found and enjoyed.
Wartburgs and Trabants in the Uk are pretty thin on the ground of late and the best choice
of cars to buy, lies in Germany and other parts of East Europe.
In Particular, Poland has many IFA vehicles available at the moment at very low prices, 
but it's a long drive back to the Uk and Ireland.

The four-stroke cars will also appeal to many as they're that bit  more modern, but for me
they're more like an ordinary car (and part Volkswagen), without the appeal of the two stroke cars.

So you can buy a car only twenty or so years old that looks and drives like a classic
of a much older vintage. Isn't that pretty unique and worthwhile in itself?
Also, they're usually very reasonably priced (although prices are rising), compared
to other classics.

Modern cars are fine as everyday transport, but they all look the same nowadays and all
you see is masses of black plastic inside. Even French cars which used to be a little different
from the mainstream, have succumbed to banality and look and drive similar to the competition.

Unfortunately, the recession hit my business hard last year and I had to close it.
This prompted me to advertise my car for sale, which i did and it sold pretty quickly.
I believe it went to Switzerland.
I missed the car though and wished I hadn't sold it, but felt I had to at the time.
Owning the car, I developed an interest in East German history and was intrigued by the
Communist regime that existed there until the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989.

In January of this year, I visited Berlin for a few days, never having visited Germany before.
I did my research before I went and stayed in the Friedrichshain area, which appealed to 
me as it been one of the most 'Eastern' districts of the former East Berlin.
This area is today one of the poorer parts of the city, but it still has masses of character
and is very different in personality and architecture to Western suburbs such as
Charlottenburg and the new Mitte.
Friedrichshain had some lovely architecture and wide leafy boulevards everywhere you
looked. It was also practically free of western franchises, like McDonalds and their ilk
that are ubiquitous almost everywhere nowadays.
In contrast, most of the restaurants in Friedrichshain were family owned, low key affairs
with great food and service, at low prices.
Whilst here, I tried 'Currywurst' for the first time and found it delicious.
It's basically a grilled Bratwurst sausage with the delicious sauce made from a 
mixture of curry powder and ketchup. Very tasty and handy as a snack or impromptu
lunch as there are Currywurst stands and kiosks everywhere in Berlin, especially in
the train stations etc. At around 1.60 euro a pop, with a bread roll included, it's good value.

The traditionally Eastern parts of Berlin is much better value than the new western parts and
potential tourist traps like the 'new' Mitte, for everything, food & drink, accomodation and 
In one of the streets, adjacent to Frankfurter allee, had a shop dedicated to the
fast growing 'Ostalgie' trend which basically sells products and collectibles from the
former East Germany. The shop called 'Mondo's Arts' sold everything from nostalic t-shirts to
model Trabants, food items and mock telephones of vintage design.
Visible in all areas of East Berlin is the quaint and distinctive 'Ampelmanchenn' green and
red man symbols at pedestrian crossings.
Berlin is a huge city and the transport system there is vast and absolutely brilliant,
with typical German efficiency prevalent everywhere.
There's overland and underground trains, buses and a great Tram system, all of which
traverse the city. No matter what hour of the day or night, you will get to where you need to go
quickly and with no fuss.
You can get a day pass which gives you unlimited travel on all transport services, for only
6.50 euro which is great value for seeing the city.
The city in January was wrapped in a blanket of snow and whilst bitterly cold, gave the city
a magical air.
Despite the snow, footpath's and roads were always clear and life went on with no hiccups.
A day's snow in Ireland and the country is in turmoil!

In Friedrichshain, lies the East Side Gallery which has the best and longest stretch left
of the Berlin Wall. Many artists of international repute have painted some fantastic murals on
what's left of the wall. It was within walking distance to where I was staying and it was very
enjoyable walk which is adjacent to the Spree river.

Whilst there, I visited the former 'Stasi Prison' Hohenschoenhausen and got the guided tour
which was  fascinating.
The Stasi secret Police, whose motto was 'To know everything' were probably worse than
the Gestapo that preceded them, in cruelty and their penchant for ruining people's lives.
In Communist times, this prison was largely a secret and the people who lived in the area
were almost exclusively Stasi employees. The prison and its surrounding streets did not
feature on any map and great lengths were taken to ensure it's secrecy.
There was no visitation here and prisoners would be moved to another prison to visit their
When sentenced by a court, prisoners could be driven for hours around in circles, before
making the short distance to the Prison, so they thought they were being driven great
The prisoner transport vans were Barkas 1000 models and were disguised as delivery vans
to all outward appearances and of course the detainees were kept in darkness.
The prison had one of these vans exhibited in stunning condition, which had six individual
holding cells inside.
The Lichtenberg area where this prison is situated is probably the most Eastern part of the city, where
Soviet style concrete tower blocks of Flats are everywhere. This area today is one of
high unemployment and low rents.
This, like many other parts of East Berlin had graffiti everywhere you looked.
The film 'The lives of Others' released in 2007 and set in 1984 Berlin, shows many
scenes set in Hohenschonhausen Prison and is a great film which shows how the
Stasi operated and also has many IFA vehicles on show. These include Wartburg 353's
,Trabants, Barkas Vans and a Robur split screen truck.
HMV were selling this dvd recently for three pounds, worth buying if you haven't already
seen it.

I just finished reading a book, 'Alone in Berlin' by Hans Fallada, which tells  story
set in the war years 1940-1945. The Berlin depicted under Hitler's dictatorship mirrors
very closely, that of East Berlin in the DDR, where suspicion and informants were
everywhere. The similarities really are striking and profound.

I also visited the ' Stasi' Museum which isn't that far away from the Prison, but it was
disappointing by comparison. All the exhibits are in German, but you can buy or rent
an English translation booklet, but it's pretty poor and I was disappointed in it.

I visited the excellent DDR museum, which is a short walk from Alexanderplatz train
station and whilst small in size, it's very enjoyable.
It's an interactive museum where you can see many aspects of how life was in the
former DDR. In this museum, they have a cracking Trabant 601 Deluxe on show, with
very good leather effect seats. You can sit in the car and turning the key starts a 
simulated drive through a typical DDR town, complete with all the sights and sounds
created by a projector.

You can see the 'Lipsi' dance in operation which was designed to be an alternative
for the DDR's youth, to the capitalist evil which was Rock & Roll!
When you see it in operation, it's no wonder the youth of the day wanted Western
You can watch the football match where East Germany beat West Germany 1-0 and
find out about how nudist beaches were very popular in the DDR!
There is also some interesting ex-Stasi surveillance equipment on display, which looks
very crude and clunky compared to todays modern world of electronics.
This museum publishes an excellent English book, GDR-Guide which deals with all
aspects of how life was in Communist times.
The book tells the whole history and more interestingly, how life really was for East Germans
in an interesting and easy to read style.

The book provides a chapter on the Trabant and in this reveals some interesting statistics
for 1988.
In this year, there were 1.9 million Trabants on  East German roads, 600,000 Wartburgs, approx
300,000 Lada's and the same number of Skoda's.
For most East German's, the Trabant was the only car that they could afford, which perhaps
explains the iconic status that the humble Trabi has in Germany today.
The waiting list for a new Trabant could be as much as sixteen years, so when people
attained one they invariably looked after it, which goes some distance in explaining how
the average lifespan of the Trabi at one time was twenty eight years.
If you could afford it, you drove a Wartburg or a car from another 'Socialist' Country.
The Volvo was seen by many East German's as the ultimate Western car to aspire to.
I find it ironic that Communist Countries always refer to themselves as Socialists, in spite of
their restrictive and stifling regimes with which they governed their own people.

So I've happily switched from French classics to East German ones.
They're cheaper to buy, easier to work on, just as much fun and even more unusual.
These cars have given my son and I something to look after together and enjoy taking to
shows for a day out. That's what Classic cars are all about.

Monday, July 19, 2010

More pictures from Berlin. June 28-July 02-2010

Here's some pictures taken on the strip of wall that's known as the East side Gallery, Friedrichshain, Berlin.

The trabant I'm leaning against is one that's parked here daily, as an advert for trabisafari tours, where you can drive a trabant through various designated driving tours around Berlin.

Back from the show.

Well., despite the deluge of heavy rain all day yesterday, four of us and bobby the dog, made our way to the annual Trim Co.Meath, vintage car show.
Due to the rain, the number of cars was well down on last year, as was the turnout of people.
Nevertheless, there was plenty of interest in my 353 and many people made a point of asking about it.
The car covered about 90 miles, with no problems at all and we all enjoyed the day.
The room inside these Wartburg estates is truly cavernous.
There were no other IFA vehicles, out of over 400 in attendance.
In fact, only other East European car I saw was a Yugo 511.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

A little history on my car

My car has one East German owner from the Lausitz area until 2008.
Then, an American fella living in Sussex, Uk, flew to Germany, bought the car and drove it back 600 miles to the Uk. The trip went smoothly, with no problems.
Shortly afterwards, the fella decided to sell the car and a  local Garage owner purchased it.
He then had the car resprayed to a colour, close to the original and at the same time sprayed the wheels white.
For reasons unknown, the car was then put into a barn and left uncovered and neglected for 18 mths or so.
He then advertised the car on ebay and I bought it earlier this year.
As you will read in further posts, the car had a few problems that needed sorting.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

More Pics

The seats in this car are very good quality and are both,  very comfortable and supportive.
I had a Wartburg 353 saloon before and the seats were much more basic.
The back seat looks like it's never been sat in.
As you can see, this car also has the factory fitted sunroof, which would have been an option at the time.

She's Ready for the Show this weekend, Trim. Co.meath. Ireland, Sun 18th July

All the work has been done over the past couple of months. Full carburettor rebuild, new electric fuel pump fitted, new ignition switch, new alternator and regulator. Gearbox oil changed and replenished, coolant flushed and replaced. Front panel under bonnet and rear tailgate spray painted in Ivory white.
Rear brakes shoes replaced and new front pads
New chrome badges and cigarette lighter fitted ( so I can use a sat nav or charge my mobile).
New Ngk spark plugs.
Four recent tyres.
Car looks great, inside and out and drives as well as a Wartburg can.

Electronic ignition was fitted already, by previous owner.

Pictures from Berlin, June 28th-July02 2010

Here's some nice Simson's seen near Frankfurter Allee and the East Side Gallery.
It's great to see old bikes like these, still being used every day.
 These are powered by a 50cc, 2 stroke engine.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Pictures from Berlin, June 28th-July02 2010

Here's some pictures taken a couple of weeks ago in Berlin. Note the 'Barkas' Prisoner transport van, which had 6 individual prisoner cages inside. The exterior of these vans were made to look like shop delivery vans, to look inconspicuous. This remarkably well preserved example is in 'Hohenschonhausen' Prison in East Berlin, also known as the Stasi Prison.
This was a remand prison in a secret location, known only to it's employees and old maps of Berlin showed a blank spot where this area should have been. This vehicle remarkably was powered by the wartburg 353 engine of 991cc. Further evidence of what a good engine this two stroke unit was.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

These are becoming rare now!

Most people when you tell them, that you own a two stroke car, don't believe there is such a thing!
Once you've heard the throaty warble of the Wartburg's engine, you'd instantly recognise it again.
These are practical classics that you can drive daily if you want to.

Tough, Durable, go anywhere attitude

These cars were made to cope with Communist Winters and their Two stroke engines were known for their longevity and high durability. The same 991cc engine also powered the 'Barkas' range of vans and mini-buses! There are examples of these cars that are known to have covered over 200 and 300,000 miles!

are these the finest cars from the Communist era?

My car has covered 105,000 km since new and the Engine always starts first turn of the key, hot or cold, nomatter the weather.

Whilst the ordinary joe soap drove Trabants in East Germany, those who could afford something better, drove Wartburgs, including many Police and Government employees.
They were especially popular with the 'Stasi' secret Police, as their chosen mode of transport.

Wartburg 353 Tourist, the pride of East Germany

Here's my 1985 Wartburg 353 Tourist, powered by the famous 2 stroke engine of 991cc.
As you can see, she's in excellent condition and also drives perfectly.

When I bought it, there were a few problems to be sorted, but now they're done and this car would drive anywhere.