If there’s one car that epitomizes everything that’s great about rally, it is the Trabant. I say this not in spite of the fact that East Germany’s pinko commie plastic prank upon the automotive world was noisy, slow and cramped, but because of it. The Trabant is the world’s greatest rally car.
The Trabant was originally supposed to be a three-wheeled motorcycle, but the project soon morphed into the bare-bones duroplast-bodied two-stroke car we know today.
Trabants are terrible little machines, clear products of the Eastern Bloc’s prohibition on anyone coming up with a better automotive idea.
Watch this video for the most anticlimactic standing start of your life.
So much noise. So little go.
You have to manually mix two-stroke oil into the fuel tank when you fuel it up because there’s no oil injection system. The earliest models didn’t even come with a fuel gauge, giving you a dipstick instead to figure out how much fuel you had left.
Did we mention they came with a column shifter? Oh yes.
These cars were outdated when they came out, yet they were made for thirty-four years.
People rally them anyway.
The Trabi’s light weight and front-wheel-drive layout gave it excellent traction on loose surfaces and made it a popular option in places where there weren’t very many options at all, particularly in central Europe. The easily tunable, simple and durable two-stroke engine also made it a popular choice. It’s not hard to increase the power-to-weight ratio with a few mods in a car that weighs as little as a Trabant.
Many owners abandoned their Trabis when the Berlin Wall fell, but enthusiasts have picked up the cast-off cars and made them into a cult classic.
It’s the ultimate case of making do with what you have, and the sheer insanity of entering a rudimentary, outdated plastic city car into one of the most grueling forms of motorsport makes it the greatest rally car ever.
Look at it this way: anyone can take a nice, shiny, durable modern rally car, flog it for days and only have a few minor issues along the way, provided the driver doesn’t run out of talent.
Coaxing a Trabi into running well and driving rally’s ultimate “momentum car” quickly takes a buttload of talent.
Here’s a Trabant that breaks mid-stage, gets mended on the side of the road and (eventually) keeps going. That’s just what you do in rally: keep going.
Speaking of that, the guy at 0:23 in this video rolls all the way over, lands on his wheels and starts driving off again. Car’s not completely done? Keep going!
It’s the same reason why I enjoy LeMons’ “ugly” Class C so much more than its “good” Class A: you’re a special kind of masochist for racing that, and you’re a mechanical genius for making it run reliably.
It is impossible to see a Trabant rally car and not bust into laughter. That is why it is the greatest rally car in the world.
If you didn’t have enough reasons to chuckle from seeing Trabants go up on two wheels, catch air and send giant clouds of dirt into orbit, the car at 0:30 in this video has an interesting passenger.
Oh, and codrivers can double as hood pins, too.