More Trabant news from Hungary:
Trabant a big hit for thieves
Reuters in Budapest
Tuesday October 12, 2004
It may be the laughing stock of the car world, but in Hungary the box-shaped Trabant is still hot property - for car thieves, at least.
When the daily Napi asked readers what car had been stolen from them, Trabant owners topped the list with almost a quarter of the 600 responses registered.
Police said 8,300 cars were stolen in Hungary last year, but did not give a break-down of brands.
Many people believe the Trabant was one of the biggest mistakes in automobile history, with its Duraplast body, a composite made of resin reinforced with cotton fibres. But fans of the car, originally intended to be a closed motorbike say the "Trabi" has become a motoring legend.
The above article appeared in the online version of the Budapest Sun.
Although it made me smile it also made me think that, while the rest of the world was riding around in comfortable modern cars, and taking them for granted, how important the Trabant was to people who had no luxury cars to buy. There were a few larger Eastern European cars available if you had the money to buy them but the Trabant was just about affordable to the average family.
The Trabant was made in East Germany and was considered to be very modern and up to date with its plastic body (a plastic similar to fibreglass called Duroplast). The first one was manufactured in 1957 and the last one was produced in 1991.
There was a time, in Hungary, when if you wanted to buy a Trabant, you had to pay your money and it took 2 or more years before the car was ready to be collected. Apparently, it took so long because all the plastic body parts were moulded by workers using hand operated moulding systems. Then, more often than not, the place in Hungary, where you collected your car from, would be far from your home so the trip to get it would be an adventure in itself.
The Trabant was (and still is) the main mode of transportation for families for many years and favoured because they were economical to run, easy and inexpensive to maintain.
However, because of the new vehicle emission rules, there is a deadline for taking the two stroke engines off the roads so any Trabants you see in Hungary in the future will most likely be the 1.1 Trabant that have a Polo engine in them. Trabants have passed us many times travelling at high speed up hills, their light body and Polo engine make them a swift little run-about.
When my family and I visited Hungary in the summer of 1990, we had driven over from England and we arrived in Budapest at around 7am. We drove across the Szabadság hid and along the Vámház Krt.
It was hot, even at that time of the morning, and there was a blue haze of exhaust fumes hanging over the city. The smell was horrendous and we could hardly breathe. We just turned the car around and drove away from the city and out into the countryside.
I remember reading that when the majority of the population drove Trabants, people who lived in Budapest, and suffered with asthma, were being sent to a clinic up in the Buda hills for a couple of weeks at a time to recuperate because of the bad air in the city.
Four years later, we returned to Budapest, there were not so many Trabants, and the air was much cleaner. Nowadays very few Trabants are to be seen in the city.
However, I cannot knock the little Trabant. In1992, we had driven over from England and the computer on our Ford car stopped working. There were no Ford parts in Hungary in those days so my husband had to go to Austria to buy one. His niece drove him there in her Trabant. It took four and a half hours to get to there and when they arrived, it was a bank holiday and everywhere was closed so they drove back to Hungary again. The following morning they set out again and this time they managed to get the part he needed.
Therefore, if it weren’t for the gallant little Trabant making those two 9 hour round trips we would have been well and truly in trouble.
When his niece sold her Trabant last year, it was 16 years old and she got more for it than she originally paid.
I was also surprised, and delighted, to learn that there were “fan clubs” for the Trabant, that many of them were exported to various destinations throughout the world and they are now being revered just like any other classic car.
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