Trabant Production in Zwickau

Today it is a nostalgic object, a curiosity, but for over three decades it was a cheap mobility device for people behind the Iron Curtain.

This video has been around for many years, but for some reasons it just came to our attention. It shows production at the Zwickau factory in the 1980s. Well, we also have a nice photo report on the AWZ P50, the first Trabant from 1958 so this makes for a nice blog entry.

This picture from the Bundesarchive picture archive was taken in early 1958. Note the sign on the factory

Sándor Bojár, a well-known Hungarian photographer, who’s report on the Moskvitch factory has already been featured here visited the Zwickau factory in his trusty AWZ P70 in 1960.

Bojár’s picture from 1960s shows the well-known Sachsenring badge on the factory wall

There are many misconceptions about the Trabant. Its body was not made from cardboard. The material was called Duroplast and to some degree it was similar to Bakelite: it was created by mixing phenolic resin – a by-product of the chemical dying industry – with cotton fibre and heating in a press.

Trabant bodies are being transported to the factory (Source: Sándor Bojár/Fortepan)
A P70 meets a shipment of Trabis (Source: Sándor Bojár/Fortepan)

A couple years ago we featured a short history of the Trabant. It was produced in Zwickau from 1963 to 1990. However its story started in the mid-1950s with the P70 which was halfway between the DKW-like models produced previously and the P50, the first real Trabant.

Available to buy in late 1958, the P50 was relatively advanced for its time, with front wheel drive, a modern, steel monocoque frame, the all-Duroplast body and independent suspension.

It was powered by an air-cooled 17hp, two-stroke, 499cc engine manufactured by VEB Barkaswerkes in nearby Chemnitz, which was light enough to be lifted by hand from the car and worked on with standard household tools.

In 1963, production began on the Trabant most well-known all over the world, the 601. It featured updated bodywork. You can read more about this on Adrian Flux’s site.

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