On this day in auto history - July 10th

Sat 10th Jul 2021

It was on this day in 1958 that the much-maligned Trabant - communist East Germany’s ‘people’s car’ - first went into regular production.

Ultra-basic and produced without major changes for almost 30 years, the Trabant was manufactured out of a hard plastic resin, took over 20 seconds to reach 60mph, and was so simplistic in its design that most owners could easily maintain it using just a few basic tools.

But, because of its affordable price-tag, demand was such that customers could endure up to a 10-year wait which had the effect of hiking up the value of instantly available used models. In export markets, which mainly included other eastern bloc countries, waiting times were much lower.

In essence, the writing was on the wall for the Trabant as soon as German reunification was announced in 1989.

After the Berlin Wall came down, TV footage of a convoy of smoking Trabants trundling across the border did little for the vehicle’s reputation among watching westerners and production ceased in 1991 as East Germans instead clamoured for second-hand western vehicles.

Even though the Trabant became a symbol of communist failure, the vehicle retains a cult following among nostalgics and general car enthusiasts with an estimated 100,000 still thought to be roadworthy.