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Hemmings Motor News has been around since 1954. We're proud of our heritage, but we're also more than the Hemmings full of classifieds that your father subscribed to. Aside from new editorial content every month in Hemmings, we have three monthly magazines: Hemmings Muscle Machines, Hemmings Classic Car and Hemmings Sports and Exotic Car.

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Misunderstood Cars: The VEB Sachsenring Trabant

Posted August 24, 2017 9:00 AM by dstrohl
Pathfinder Tags: classic auto Discussion history

[Editor’s note: It was Shakespeare who penned, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so”—wisdom that certainly applies to the world of the automobile. While others compile lists of “Worst Cars,” we prefer to see the glass as half-full, hence the reason for the new “Misunderstood Cars” series. In it, we’ll tackle cars that have long received a bad rap, beginning with Jeff Koch’s take on the oft-maligned Trabant.]

The year is 1964, and a young man’s dreams turn to sketching his ideal sports car. Thoughts of rack-and-pinion steering, four-wheel independent suspension with a firm ride that you can feel in the small of your back, unit-body construction, an air-cooled engine, four forward gears you shift yourself, bucket seats, lightweight composite body panels that never rust, German build quality, a no-nonsense cabin with radio delete, a sub-80-inch wheelbase and a sub-1400-pound curb weight flitter across the grey matter in a tantalizing tease of fantasy and unobtanium. (A lot of that spec sounds suspiciously like Porsche, or perhaps even Volkswagen.) We’ll bet a lot of sports cars so equipped were doodled in school notebooks of that era—we’ll bet you probably have a couple of those notebooks, up in your attic somewhere. It all sounds like the stuff of sports car delight – and for the early ’60s, a lot of it is pretty advanced, though none of it is impossible or out-of-time.

Shifting the conversation on a classic auto that was ahead of its time.

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#1

Re: Misunderstood Cars: The VEB Sachsenring Trabant

08/24/2017 7:52 PM

"At the end of production in 1989, the Trabant delivered 19 kW (26 horsepower) from a 600 cc (37 cu in) displacement. It took 21 seconds to accelerate from a stop to its top speed of 100 km/h (62 mph)."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trabant

Wow, a car more underpowered than the Renault Dauphine that I owned in High School (32 hp).

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#2

Re: Misunderstood Cars: The VEB Sachsenring Trabant

08/24/2017 10:38 PM

That looks a lot like an English Ford Anglia, circa late 50's....not a dream car for anybody I knew

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#3

Re: Misunderstood Cars: The VEB Sachsenring Trabant

08/25/2017 3:23 AM

I've heard the Citroen 2CV is actually a good car, but I have to question the following:

1. Gen 1 had a 9hp motor.

2. The top was made of canvas and pulled back to open.

3. The side windows folded down

4. It looked like someone slapped it together from leftover parts.

5. 3 lug nut wheels???

And here's the gem we've all been waiting for:

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#4
In reply to #3

Re: Misunderstood Cars: The VEB Sachsenring Trabant

08/25/2017 4:12 AM

Well the Citroën 2CV at least has a very interesting history....

Not what you would call an attractive car....but probably better than a horse...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citro%C3%ABn_2CV

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#7
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Re: Misunderstood Cars: The VEB Sachsenring Trabant

08/26/2017 2:39 AM

I read the Wiki page and I noticed that a few cars "broke off" of the 2CV. Check out this one. I'd like to get one of these! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citro%C3%ABn_M%C3%A9harihttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citro%C3%ABn_M%C3%A9hari

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#10
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Re: Misunderstood Cars: The VEB Sachsenring Trabant

08/26/2017 2:00 PM

Reminds me a bit of the Renault Jolie...Beach buggies...

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#11
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Re: Misunderstood Cars: The VEB Sachsenring Trabant

08/26/2017 5:48 PM

Fiat made one of these things too. I think the Fiat was a longer wheelbase model, but same concept. They're worth a lot now. Go figure ...

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#5
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Re: Misunderstood Cars: The VEB Sachsenring Trabant

08/25/2017 10:23 AM

I had a 2CV when I was a student. Great student car. Very cheap to run, great MPG for the time (around 50), very cheap insurance (obligatory in the UK), easy to maintain. Whole car could be taken apart with a really basic toolkit. Did all of my maintenance with two pliers, two screwdrivers and a set of spanners. Later added a set of box spanners for some of the more fiddly jobs. And a socket set when I got lazy.

Rarely went wrong – too simple. Some Citroen madness though, such as a coil (no distributor the coil fired both cylinders at the same time but with only one on the compression stroke) which was mounted in just the right place to get cold and wet. I regularly took the coil into the house with me in the winter. The inboard front brakes were always a right pain to get at.

Back seat came out easily transforming the car into a small van. Soft-top roof rolled right back which was fun in the summer and also made transporting weird-shaped loads easy. Or you could half-open the front part of the roof which was on a frame that just hinged back.

Absurdly low-ratio first gear and big wheels meant it was surprisingly good off-road. So when that festival car park transformed itself into one big mudbath the 2CV just drove on out. Talking of festivals, leave the back seat at home, pop the front seats under a tarp on the roof when you arrive and hey! Roll out a small futon to make a bedroom.

Downsides? Slow. Sixty if you were lucky and then you’d be terrified. On the other hand it took so long to get to 60 you’d probably have stopped off for a coffee anyway. Lacked uphill power to the point where lorries overtook me going uphill on the motorway. Front crumple zone was the driver’s legs.

It was a lot of fun though. And did I mention cheap?

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#8
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Re: Misunderstood Cars: The VEB Sachsenring Trabant

08/26/2017 3:38 AM

This will bring back memories! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XpXZ_8YcPns

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#14
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Re: Misunderstood Cars: The VEB Sachsenring Trabant

08/28/2017 10:10 AM

Awwww. It so does. Running a /little/ more smoothly than mine did.

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#15
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Re: Misunderstood Cars: The VEB Sachsenring Trabant

08/28/2017 2:25 PM

One of the best races I have ever seen was a 2CV race in the rain at Brands Hatch, cars sliding everywhere but just as happy on the grass as on the track.

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#6

Re: Misunderstood Cars: The VEB Sachsenring Trabant

08/25/2017 9:11 PM

My second car was a Subaru 360. That is ~360cc of course, 2 cylinder, 2 stroke, curb weight of 900lbs, 60mph TOPS, with suicide doors.

I was 17 and working as a cook in a restaurant; used to come out after work to find that car in some unusual places - the busboys used to pick it up and move it wherever they wanted.

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Re: Misunderstood Cars: The VEB Sachsenring Trabant

08/26/2017 3:42 AM

My next door neighbor had a little 1980 Honda Civic hatchback. My friend and I would pick up the back of the car and rotate it around (a few feet at a time), so it would sit in the driveway the other way. We thought it was a pretty funny trick, but after reading your post, I have a feeling he didn't think it was that funny.

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#12
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Re: Misunderstood Cars: The VEB Sachsenring Trabant

08/27/2017 9:47 AM

I thought it was funny! It didn't bother me, because I knew that I could lift the front end up myself (it's got a rear engine) , and swing it around where I wanted/needed it.

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Re: Misunderstood Cars: The VEB Sachsenring Trabant

08/28/2017 5:57 AM

That's good to know. I just assumed that you didn't like the joke they played on you. Maybe my neighbor felt the same way??? I sure hope so.

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#16
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Re: Misunderstood Cars: The VEB Sachsenring Trabant

08/29/2017 6:17 PM

Well you know you own a car like that you gotta' expect that sort of thing, it just sort of comes with the territory....

Is this a Camel tow?

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#17
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Re: Misunderstood Cars: The VEB Sachsenring Trabant

09/14/2017 3:28 AM

Using a camel to carry your broken down car home! That's funny!

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#18

Re: Misunderstood Cars: The VEB Sachsenring Trabant

09/14/2017 3:42 AM

I delivered a car to my client last week and he told me about the cars in Cuba (where he's from). He said that the old US cars are actually pieced together from spare parts. Then he told me about the Moskovich. I checked the internet and they exist, but they're horrible cars. Here's one of these gems: Moskovich car in Cuba

And we thought the Trabant was bad!

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#19
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Re: Misunderstood Cars: The VEB Sachsenring Trabant

09/14/2017 4:13 AM

A mate of mine had a Moskovich years ago, 3 cylinder petrol with an ignition coil for each cylinder. As I remember it went quite well.

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