1. hunterknox

    hunterknox Premium Member Forum Donor

    I'm considering a Trabi 1.1 as an everyday car (already got a 601 but I'd rather keep that for "best"). Has anyone got any experience of running a 1.1 as a daily driver?

    I'm taking the lack of creature comforts as a given but I'm also wondering about mechanical reliability/durability. I'd need to be able to do a 40 mile commute each way twice a week, and run it all through the winter.


  2. Wartburg353W

    Wartburg353W Loyal Comrade

    Well no personal experience but I think it would have the reliability of a 25 yr old VW minus the safety features. In fairness anything that old is going to need care and attention. I wouldn't rely on a Trabant for regular use but I know there are people on here who do, or claim they do. And if it's only twice a week and not on the highway, well fine I guess, but I'm not sure a 1.1 would benefit you much over a well-maintained and cared-for 601. And there's that accident-safety thing.
  3. vdubbin

    vdubbin Loyal Comrade

    My buddy Andy replaced his '94 Opel Astra with a '90 1.1 as his daily. There's less to adjust with the 1043cc engine, and it's good for 100,000miles. You get disc brakes, and VW spares are easier to get than IFA parts.

  4. mati0921

    mati0921 Loyal Comrade

    people used them as everyday cars when they were new, and since it does no have a calendar you should be good to go as long as you dont tell it it is 25 years old. :D
    Keri likes this.
  5. Keri

    Keri Leader

    Been driving a 601 regularly on a 35 mile commute for over two and a half years.

    Other than the relative loudness, it's a great commuting car. It keeps up with traffic, but only just.

    I imagine the 1.1 probably is quieter and has better heat, but at the cost of additional complexity.

    So far as safety, Trabants ranked about the same as 80s era subcompacts.

    Do try to not hit anything!
  6. Wartburg353W

    Wartburg353W Loyal Comrade

    Be fair Keri you are a professional mechanic and you know that car inside and out. I have to differ with you on the safety ratings. Even an 80s car is way safer in a collision. They have body cage integrity an East German never heard of (I know, I know, except for Volvo). But all that aside, my main point was that if you are going to commute back and forth to somewhere you absolutely have to be, and your car is 25 yrs old, then you're going to be doing a fair amount of tinkering. And in the case of the person asking this question, it doesn't make sense to employ a car that's going to need constant attention in order to spare the car he already has that also needs attention. BUT his theoretical commute is only twice a week so that gives him plenty of time to do the tinkering, so it's his choice how he wants to spend his time. Good point about the heat. So, bottom line then: get the 1.1 if you want a heater in your commuter car and you don't care about anything else such as comfort or safety. Oh also if you drive it to work you can't register it as an antique and you have to have safety inspections. In my area that would make it difficult since we have emission testing. :)
  7. Keri

    Keri Leader

    Don't underestimate the integrity of Sachenring's finest. Back in the 90's they put Trabant through crash tests as a joke, and it protected the passengers reasonably well, better than some 80's vintage subcompacts.
    Of course, a Trabant is relatively less safe than a car specifically designed to crash into things without harming the occupants, as most modern cars are. And of course, a car with structural rot or damage reduces the integrity.

    At high speed, a 601 has pretty decent heat, down to about -10ºC (+10ºF) . Around -15ºC (0ºF), the heater can't keep up.

    At low speed, the heater isn't very good below 0ºC to +5ºC

    Here in Illinois, the emissions tests were dropped for anything older than 1996, so all Trabants are safe from that.
    Getting a non US-spec car titled requires it to be older than 25 years, and almost all Trabis qualify.
  8. Aaron

    Aaron Leader

    Ive heard that as well..They do surprisingly well.....Heres a slow motion video..

    Not like old American crap
    Keri likes this.
  9. Keri

    Keri Leader

    Ah, but that huge, heavy, "sturdy" car FEELS so much safer! :eek:*

    Did you notice the steering wheel come out to break the driver's neck in the old car?
    That was caused by a non-collapsible steering column that probably extended most of the way to the front bumper.
    On the "positive" side, those cars reliably killed drivers that tended to crash into things, so they generally stopped driving badly immediately. (Darwin Safety, anyone?)

    At least in a Trabi, there's no false feeling of safety. It is absolutely clear to the driver that accidents will hurt a LOT, and this encourages safer driving.
    Plus, as the steering column barely extends past the firewall, it won't pop out and break your neck like old-school American cars did.

    By the way, reportedly the above Trabi crash test was performed at 54km/h.

    * "Feeling safe" is a big selling point for top-heavy, poor handling and excessively rigid SUV's that aren't too far removed from that ancient Chevy. You're more likely to crash in the first place due to poor handling and over-confidence, and far less protected than in any modern "car", including the tiny Smart car.
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2014
    Aaron likes this.
  10. Wartburg353W

    Wartburg353W Loyal Comrade

    That is just not correct that a Trabi is as safe as a small 80s car. The passenger compartment will collapse and crush the occupants or fold and allow the other vehicle to crush the occupants even worse than the 59 Chevy in the above video. Cars since the late 70s have been designed to maintain the structural integrity of the passenger compartment better and better. You can see in the Trabi crash test how the front wheel moves backward toward the driver's legs (no frame) and the driver moves forward to meet the front of the car because the seat belts have no integrity. Another item much better in 80s cars. An accident with a large truck would contact directly into the roof pillars which have no integrity and I don't even want to think about a side impact. I don't mean to sound obsessive but, reality check. There are members on the board who have direct experience with the flimsiness of our cars. Add this inherent riskiness to the fact that you're going slower than everything else on the highway.

    You're right even the 1990 Trabis meet the 25 yr law day after tomorrow! Funny Hemmings didn't mention the VW-powered Trabant in its recent article about 1990 cars that are becoming classics in 2015!
  11. Keri

    Keri Leader

    You're arguing against the crash test results.
    The Trabant protected its occupant, the Chevy totally killed its occupant.
    The front wheels indeed moved back, towards the occupants, but did not actually enter the passenger compartment, while the Chevy's passenger compartment totally collapsed.

    The integrity is not as good as modern cars but on a par with some 80's cars, like some Japanese ones, and very far ahead of anything from 1964 which is when the 601 went into production.
    Whereas American cars did get "better and better" throughout the 70's, they were pretty awful at the start of the decade. Even up until '67 not much had changed from '59s, while the 601 remained unchanged for the most part from '64 - '91.
    The closest American car to the Trabant was the famous chevy Corvair, from 1960-69, which would kill you really, really dead in several different ways, especially in front-end crashes.

    One of our members has had some crash experience with a Trabi, which you could compare to "hitting a large truck with the roof"
    He survived, and bought another 601 rather than something else.

    The seat belts on the Trabi crash test should have been able to do better than they did. Questions abut the belts will go unanswered, like were they the manual belts? If so, were they adjusted correctly? If they were the optional auto locking retractors, what caused so much slack? Did a mount break free? or the inertial lock fail? Providing good, well mounted seat belts is a technical non-issue, even on a car with as light of structure as a Trabi.
    The '59 Chevy didn't even have seat belts, while nearly all 601 did.

    One of the things that the 601's apparent flimsiness helps with… the car has such low mass, it gets "pushed out of the way" or decelerates with less damage to the passenger compartment, while a heavier, apparently more "sturdy" car has a lot more inertia to stop or change direction. This inertia will keep "pushing the car into the crash" and crush even very sturdy structures.. This is why the Trabi driver survived the crash test. It had very little mass pushing it into the wall!

    The best safety, of course, is to AVOID THE CRASH IN THE FIRST PLACE!
    Here, the Trabant with its independent suspension, rack&pinion steering and low, low mass (not to mention its honest lack of "feeling safe") outshines nearly all cars of the 80's.
    Yes, that's right… the Trabant's obvious flimsiness and lack of grossly excessive power encourages safer driving!

    You are less unsafe than you think in a 601! ;) Safety is often counter-intuitive.*

    Happy New Year!
    С новым годом!

    * "You Are Less Unsafe Than You Think In A 601" is the best sales pitch of 2014!
    copyleft 2014, kerriproductions
    Ron likes this.
  12. hunterknox

    hunterknox Premium Member Forum Donor

    The safety debate reminds me of this article on mandatory seat belt-wearing from a few years back. Counter-intuitive indeed!

    Back to my original problem, I think that lack of time for maintenance might be the kicker. I can keep one running nicely enough with occasional use and a winter lay-up but a second might be a challenge - I'm not a rat look kinda guy. Also, it's not rare to be snow-bound for a few weeks round here so I might have to think more practically. Now if anyone's got a spare Lada Niva for sale...
  13. Ron

    Ron Premium Member Forum Donor

    I'd love a Niva myself, I run an old Hilux Surf as my daily (a Four-runner in the US, I think?), I love it, but something a bit more interesting would be nice! I think you can actually sit and watch a Niva rust though...

    However, I think you'd be better off with a wee Japanese 90's jeep of some kind? My wife had a three-door Rav4 which was faultless, or a Suzuki Vitara or something? I don't think Toyota can be beat for mechanical reliability, but with comfort/heat too.

    Having said all that, my plan is to run the Trabi as a daily for work, 50 miles a day. Time will tell if I'm being silly of course, but my logic is that that was what the car was designed for. I'm in the fortunate position as a plant engineer, that my workplace will provide ample opportunity for running repairs/maintenance/tinkering as required. Also, where I live is almost completely devoid of congestion and highways, it's all country roads where sheep are the main hazard! I would assume that the VW engine in the 1.1 would be quite unstressed in a Trabi, and those old Polos went forever...

    Anyway, keep us posted,

    Cheers, Ron.

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