1. Mithras

    Mithras Puttering Along Moderator

    I'm still educating myself, but there were a few bits I want to make sure I've got right before I move forward to other matters. The following have come up relatively recently in discussions, and beginning my search for a vehicle.

    So, if I understand correctly...

    - There were several models of 601. Kombi, Sport, Limo, Universal, a couple of variants for citizens with physical challenges, and a Kubel variant for the NVA. No truck variants until the 1.1? Am I forgetting something? Edit: Looks like there was a civilian version of the Kubel, mainly for export?

    - All Trabis until the 1.1 are Manuals. 4 column shifter. Column shifting diagram not available in most models, could be purchased aftermarket (I think I've even seen decals on Etsy of all places.) Horn attached to the switch which also controls the wipers and the brights.

    - Tires are small, but can be acquired without huge dificulty.

    - lights usually adequate, but can be replaced by aftermarket LED kits.

    - Most 601s have speedometers, turn signals, seat belts (yeah, I know, a lot of the earlier seat belts at least are more 'festive suggestions'.) Only a small number have fuel gauges, but these can be installed aftermarket. Radios came with some not all? I occasionally see examples with casette or 8 track players... were these actually offered, or is that all aftermarket stuff?

    - And on the above note, because a friend asked me this evening at our weekly get together. Heat, yes; sure... A/C possible not at all standard but aftermarket options available. Wipers standard. Don't believe there's a "defrost" option, but hell, some Ladas and Yugos had this, so I'm willing to be wrong there.

    - Two kinds of ignition starter; the more complex of these is (generally) less common, and seems to be a mid-late eighties phenomenon. Key or button ignition depending upon year and model.

    - Freewheeling only in fourth Gear. Most driving will be done in fourth gear.

    - There is a fuel tank, possibly a reserve fuel tank, with a switch to direct fuel from either to the engine. Mix is oil and gas... varies from vehicle to vehicle, different opinions on what is ideal. I'm a little unclear on fuel consumption. I've read about 35mpg. Not sure how accurate that is. Very little fluid otherwise, beyond wiper and transmission. 601 seems to be one of those cars you fill under the hood (like the Delorean, for example) am I wrong about that? Did something change at some point?

    - The leather jacket around the engine is an attempt at *snicker* "Sound Dampening."

    - These are not horrible cars, mechanically,, and if well maintained, shouldn't be breaking down every week, or every day. Engine supposedly designed to be light enough to be removed from the car without significant difficulty, placed on a workbench. Not luxury cars.

    - Neither death traps nor was Duroplast a mixture of recycled cardboard and the tears of little orphan East German children. On a more serious note, it's essentially a material very much like bakelite, can be painted and filled like any other car body material if necessary.

    - Parts readily available. Most fixes can be done with little advanced equipment. Hub puller essential for removing tires and fixing or replacing brakes,. and these must be acquired from Germany (Trabiwelt?). Most competent mechanics can fix things the consumer can't fix at home.

    - Top speed varies by vehicle. Cruising between 55 and 62-65 or so unless using the "Race Tuned" engine, (which is what, 35hp?) , an aftermarket option still available from Germany. Some varied opinion on whether those are worth it. And those are, apparently, five speed?

    - Breaks don't like to stand. Don't ride them if at all possible. Unclear as to how often they should be looked at, changed, etc.

    - If you want a luxury East German car, you probably want a Wartburg;)

    Hope you'll once again forgive my naievete, but I appreciate your helping a rookie out!

    Last edited: Jan 7, 2018
  2. BillB

    BillB Loyal Comrade Administrator Forum Donor

    I'm "newer" as a Trabi owner, but have heard about the "communist car made of cardboard" most of my gearhead life. I'm not fully qualified in Trabant snobbery, but I'm learning every day. ;^)

    A few comments from the cheap seats:

    601 Models - Limo, the most common "sedan" - Universal, the "station wagon" - Both came in Standard, "S" (Sonderwunsch) and de Luxe option levels
    The 601 Kübelwagen came as the "A" for army and "F" for forestry or agriculture
    A great thread to study - http://trabantforums.com/threads/trabant-601-changes-throughout-the-years.1102/
    This will give you a solid background on the offering through the years.

    The turn signal switch (no auto return, 100% manual) operates the horn(push forward) and bright headlights (pull back). The wiper controls are on the dash.

    Tire are very available here in the US. I got a set from Tire Rack for $49 each!

    The only light I have found to be inadequate is the back lights for the speedo. I will find some LEDs that can replace the originals. The originals work, but just not bright enough for my liking.

    In the 601, 99.9% of the fuel gauges and radios were aftermarket. If available at all, they would be in the very last few off the line.

    Heat is good, just keep the windows cracked open ;^) AC, never seen air con in any Trabant. If it was available as a "kit", I'd be fearful of it eating all available HP. Turning the headlights on at night drags the engine rpm down! One driving factor for the cars going to 12v (around 1984?) was to be able to power the optional rear window defroster. My car (1989) has a rear defroster. The running joke is that they are really a hand warmer while pushing the car in winter!

    Can't say on the ignition as I've only seen key ignition/start.

    Yep, freewheel in 4th only. Never let the engine slow the car. Always put the car in neutral as you decelerate. No oil injection in these engines. higher revs with the throttle closed means no lube for the crankcase.

    The fuel tank is just like an old motorcycle. One tank with a petcock. It has "on, off and reserve" positions. You should get a "dip stick" with your Trabant to measure liters in the fuel tank. Otherwise, drive the car until it starts to sputter, switch to reserve and find a gas station. If you cruise along at 80 kph, I could see getting 35 mpg. City driving or over 80 kph will kill fuel economy. I've seen as bad as 20 mpg with mine. They all fill under the hood as the fill cap is right on top of the tank which is next to the engine.

    Yes, the engine wrap is a bad attempt to quiet the 2 stroke noise.

    The later production cars are much more reliable due to many improvements, but the early cars are not horrible (just older tech). Mechanically, they are very simple and easy to work on. The mass majority of people in the Eastern Block had to be their own mechanic, so the cars were built to accommodate this reality.

    Bodywork/repairs on Duroplast are straight forward, however Duroplast will never rust while the stuff underneath the Duroplast will rust big time.

    Parts are very available other than they are in Germany. Most will ship directly to the USA. The down side is the time lag for the shipment. The hub puller is only needed if replacing the front brakes.

    Just from your one point on the "race tuned" engines, my .02 is to leave these things alone (stock). Even with 35 hp, it's still slow and likely less reliable.
    I've been involved with racing all of my life and in my humble opinion, anything Trabant Motorsport should be left to the guys running the Trabant RS Cup https://www.facebook.com/groups/412068585587654/?ref=bookmarks or https://www.facebook.com/ig.a600/
    My only point is that these are just not performance cars. Sure, there are many a hot rod Trabi variants seen. My favorite in the Wabant, a 601 with a Wartburg engine installed. Sounds cool for sure, but for the effort/cost there are lots of performance cars that are WAY better.

    Brakes are fine when in good condition and the car is used/driven. Parking a Trabant for long periods of time is bad news for the brakes.

    Look around, do a lot of reading and shopping. If you're not in a rush for your car, you're likely to get something you'll be much happier getting.
    Read through this thread. It really helped me a ton when I was figuring out what I wanted.
    Mithras likes this.
  3. Mithras

    Mithras Puttering Along Moderator

    Thank you kindly Bill. I’d seen that thread before and lost it, thought maybe I’d seen it on another site!
    As recently as this weekend, a very loud mouthed car snob friend assured me that they “were absolutely built of recycled cardboard with pressboard backing.”

    Could you explain to me the specific meaning of the term “Kombi”? I had been under the misapprehension that it referred to the wagon variants.
  4. BillB

    BillB Loyal Comrade Administrator Forum Donor

    I always tell people they were made out of old shop rags and bed sheets.
    Developed in 1955, it truly is the first car made of recycled material, WAY ahead of its time.

    Kombi in German translates to station wagon.
    For what ever reason (not sure), the wagon version was tagged "Universal"
    Can't believe everything on the internet, but this Wiki page is another source of reasonable info.
    Mithras likes this.
  5. Mithras

    Mithras Puttering Along Moderator

    Duly noted. Perhaps Universal was used as another example of East Germany's attempts to change the nature of certain German words and phrases?
  6. Steve

    Steve Loyal Comrade

    Just a couple of things to correct on comments by Bill, the 1.1 versions with the VW Polo engine have normal rear side flap refuelling, but 1.1 versions aren't half the fun as 2 strokes. Also, pre 1984 cars have tapered stub axles front and rear. You will need the factory puller to get at the brakes, but changing tyres or wheels no puller is needed. After 1984 the stub axles are parallel, not tapered and so the drums can be gently knocked off.
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2018
    Mithras and BillB like this.
  7. Mithras

    Mithras Puttering Along Moderator

    Adding to this. If I understand correctly as per colors available for the 601:

    I know there are official names for these. Just trying to couch these in familiar terms.

    - Off-White (Seems most common)
    - Mouse Grey
    - Green in light, dark, and medium shades
    - A sort of mustard tan/Khaki. (Almost Afrika Korps in a certain light)
    - Medium to Light Blue ("Heliotrop" if I'm understanding correctly)
    - What appears to be a brick red to me, called "Champagne Beige"
    - Various two tone iterations of the above.

    And of course the dark green shade used for NVA vehicles, which varied by batch. Guessing(?) the Forestry Service and Border Guard vehicles were similarly colored.

    I have seen examples sold as original in the following colors, but strongly suspect they were repainted:
    - Black
    - Red
    - What I'd describe as a Tardis Blue (so, essentially an RAF Horizon Blue)
    - Yellow

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