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Trabant redux: Mr. Gorbachev, put back this wall!

September 16, 2009 |  4:12 pm

Trabant at Frankfurt 2 As proof that, if given enough time, people will become nostalgic about anything, a German company is trying to reincarnate the Trabant, the smoky cesspool of a car made in East Germany in the days of the Soviet bloc. The company is Herpa (pity about the name), one of the country's biggest makers of metal miniatures -- models, in other words. After the wall came down in 1989, Herpa's head of marketing, Klaus Schindler, commissioned a model of the Trabant, the much-scorned, Duroplast-bodied city car made by the DDR in Zwickau to the woe of the working class. The orders came pouring in. 

Then a funny thing happened: The orders kept pouring in, year after year. "We have never seen a life cycle quite like this," Schindler told me. In 2007, the company decided to see if it could market a real, full-size Trabant redux.

Trabant in Frankfurt 3 In polls conducted at the 2007 Frankfurt show, 94% said they wanted to see the Trabant come back. "People seem to associate it very positively," Schindler said. It's also true -- and a bitter historic irony -- that Russians recently voted Stalin the country's third-greatest historical figure, but that's another story.

The proposed Trabant nT will be an electric city car, with a 47 kW electric motor and a lithium-ion battery of unspecified size. The designers are targeting a Trabant at Frankfurt 1weight of 400 kg, or 880 pounds (cough ...never happen ....cough). Nominal range: 100 miles. Nominal max speed: 80 mph. Nominal recharge time with 220V: 8 hours.

Among the many modern upgrades proposed is a solar PV cell on the roof to run the car ventilation and "extra appliances." What, like a hot plate?

-- Dan Neil

Photos: Dan Neil