Please Provide Reasons Why I Shouldn't Buy This Trabant

Illustration for article titled Please Provide Reasons Why I Shouldnt Buy This Trabant
Photo: Loris Hausdörfer/Facebook Marketplace (Fair Use)

I already own two cars that are located more than 2,000 miles from my Troy, Michigan house (One of these cars I haven’t yet revealed, because I’m ashamed.) So what’s a third, really? If my 250,000 mile diesel manual Chrysler Voyager (aka “Project Krassler”) craps out, why should I not buy this Trabant? Seriously, I need reasons. This thing is tempting.

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Ah, the classic East German Trabi a two-stroke junker with plastic “Duraplast” body panels, no luxury amenities whatsoever, but all the charm in the world. I will own one someday, and that day may come sooner than expected. But hopefully not.

Here’s the thing. I said I planned on doing a road trip around Europe in #projectkrassler, and when I make a commitment, I keep it. I’m stubborn like that, but it’s this stubbornness that has helped me successfully complete all of my road trips in total shitboxes, though this trait also leads me to take my wrenching escapades too far (I once brought my friend Brandon to the brink of sanity, for example). Anyway, my point is that, I know if my van breaks down and winds up beyond repair something that I’m trying to avoid, of course —I’m unlikely to give up. I’m probably going to look for a parts car, and if I can’t find one, I’ll need an alternative vehicle.

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That’s not to say that I don’t have confidence in #projectkrassler, but I have to admit: I’ve been looking at the local Facebook Marketplace, and my god are there some temptations. Like check out this sweet old Lada 211 for sale for under $5,000.

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Photo: Sami Nermiev/Facebook Marketplace (Fair Use)

Even more tempting than that, though, has to be this old Mercedes firetruck for $3,500. It runs and drives!

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Photo: Adolphus Nlebedim/Facebook Marketplace (Fair Use)
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Yeah, if my van craps out, I’m getting that fire truck. It’s just too glorious. (Though I bet driving a firetruck in Germany isn’t as simple as it is in the U.S., where anyone with a license could probably daily-drive one. Maybe they’d need a Commercial Driver’s License, but getting one of those is trivial).

Anyway, enough about Russian crap-cans and firetrucks—back to the Trabant. The thing is simply stunning and just happy to be here. “Come on, plug the key into the ignition, and let’s have fun,” this little sedan says in what I imagine is a Spongebob voice:

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Photo: Loris Hausdörfer/Facebook Marketplace (Fair Use)
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The styling, especially in the rear where the upright lights appear to lead to miniature tail fins, is awesome, even if it’s rather similar to other sedans of the era (like the early 1960s Morris 1100, as my coworker Jason Torchinsky pointed out to me).

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Photo: Loris Hausdörfer/Facebook Marketplace (Fair Use)
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This one is the common two-door sedan.

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Photo: Loris Hausdörfer/Facebook Marketplace (Fair Use)
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Under the hood is a 600cc two-stroke, air-cooled two-cylinder motor that sent about 25 horsepower to a four-speed manual transmission.

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Photo: Loris Hausdörfer/Facebook Marketplace (Fair Use)
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The shifter for that transmission actually protrudes from the dashboard just behind the steering wheel, which is about the most exciting thing in the extremely spartan interior:

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Photo: Loris Hausdörfer/Facebook Marketplace (Fair Use)
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The asking price for this cute blue car is 4,000 Euros or about five grand in greenbacks. If I were serious about buying this machine, and I’m not really because five grand is about five to 10 times what my cheap-bastard self can bear to spend on a car, I’d actually be getting what seems like a decent specimen. Just read the seller’s description, translated from German:

With a heavy heart I sell my Trabant here, which I have prepared with lots of new parts and laborious work! The vehicle is in top condition and has TÜV [inspection] approval until 11/21! In addition, a lot of spare parts as well as a functioning engine and transmission with 6,000 km and much, much more.

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There are some cheaper Trabis for sale near me. Check this one out for $3,200:

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Photo: Jan Radiske/Facebook Marketplace (Fair Use)
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But it doesn’t have a current inspection, and the seller admits it would need some work to pass.

Anyway, I’m just dreaming right now. If I wind up on the side of the road standing near a burning Chrysler minivan, maybe I’ll take this more seriously. But until then, I’ll just drool over that gorgeous blue Zwickau, Saxony-built economy car.

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Though if that price drops any, I may not have the strength to resist. So please feel free to tell me while I shouldn’t even think about buying this blue Trabi.

Sr. Technical Editor, Jalopnik. Always interested in hearing from auto engineers—email me. Cars: Willys CJ-2A ('48), Jeep J10 ('85), Jeep Cherokee ('79, '91, '92, '00), Jeep Grand Cherokee 5spd ('94).

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DISCUSSION

halftrackelcamino
Half-track El Camino

To be totally, brutally honest David, I think you sound like you have reached a point in your automotive life where you need to take a break from doing ridiculous things with complete shitboxes, and spend some time getting to know a car or two that is interesting, characterful, and yet reliable. Reasonably reliable, anyway.

Automotive enthusiasm isn’t all about wrenching! Some of it is, in fact, about driving. You sound like you’re entering a phase where you find fixing up crappy old cars stressful rather than fun, and there’s no reason you have to live like that. You can spend more upfront—I’m talking like in the neighborhood of $10,000—and get yourself something that you can enjoy as a car rather than a project. Something weird, something with character, but also something that you can drive around Europe without spinning your mental wheels trying to get yourself motivated for yet another Herculean effort to take something that’s falling apart and make it work just well enough to pass inspection.

You’ve got nothing to prove. We all know you have what it takes to take trash cars and make them run again. But it sounds like you’ve lost the joy of it, and that’s fine, that’s life. Everyone’s interests shift over time, it’s natural. There’s more to cars than rusty, decrepit shitboxes, and if you no longer love those shitboxes then nobody will blame you. You owe it to yourself to be honest about what you want and what you don’t, and go after what you actually, really, truly want.

I love your articles, but I don’t love watching you tie yourself in knots trying to make yourself do something you clearly don’t actually want to do. Go find what it is you actually want, and write about that. We’ll all still be here to read about it.