Indulging in #Trabi
, 1964 & #1965-Trabant-P601
Owned by Malcolm McKay, contributor (MMc_Kays)
Miles this month 25
Costs this month N/A
Previously Malcolm rescues three ColdWar icons
I’ve always championed underdogs. And they don’t come much more maligned than the poor old #Trabant
. Launched in 1957 with all-independent suspension, transverse engine, front-wheel drive, rack-and-pinion steering and a P6-style steel inner monocoque clad in non-structural easily-replaced panels made from recycled industrial materials, it’s a car that really deserves a better press.
The trouble is, you never see those early ones. You only see the ones made in the late Eighties, by which time they were seriously outdated. So, when in late 2016 I spotted a 1964 Trabant P601 on eBay, I jumped. Production began in mid-1964, so this was really early – and unusually original because most were steadily updated with later components. It needed work, but wasn’t at all bad. Then the next week, a 1965 one popped up. So I had to have it too, figuring there would be economies of scale in restoring two side-by-side. I spent about £750 on parts, shipped from Germany. Original factory panels are still available and I even bought a new door for the 1965 car, which was in worse condition having clearly had a harder life, evidenced by later engine, brakes, seats and other bits.
We did some work on the 1964 car and soon had it running reliably on its original six-volt electrics. I was lucky enough to buy a tranche of spares from a former Trabi owner, who’d acquired parts hoarded by his wife’s family in the Czech Republic. These came in handy to get the 1965 car running because it had an electronic ignition conversion, which had failed and melted a coil. Back on points, it ran a treat. A year on, man-logic struck again; this time a 1962 original shape Trabant. It needed some work, but not much; engine and seats were later, but not obtrusively so. Some sense did prevail, though – the 1965 project had to go. Young Bryn James was delighted with it and hopes to have it on the road sometime in 2018.
The 1962 car needed some work on the brakes, but not a lot more before I drove it over to West End Garage in Buckingham for an MoT. The look on the tester’s face when he returned from a 15-minute Tapley decelerometer test run summed it up, ‘I haven’t had that much fun in years!’ Needless to say, it passed. More on its new adventures next time!
Malcolm’s barn fills up with Trabants, as the 1965 example is unloaded alongside the 1964 one. Malcolm replaces a fuel line to get the 1964 Trabi running.