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Trabi was a cold war hero; Trabant 501s.

ACHTUNG Baby. Those of us over 20 or so will recall clearly those pictures on our television screens back in '89.

Depictions flashed across the globe; Berliners from either side of the wall, some with bare hands, tearing down the big bad, gruesome symbol of the cold war block by block, shard by shard.

Such symbolism, such emotion. Proof that communism didn't work.

Before the dust had even settled on the ruined wall, it was joined by a cloud of smelly bluish smoke, most definitely coming from the East. And the source of this mushroom cloud of noxious gases? The Trabant.

Not just one, but thousands - all overloaded with possessions and people, and all making a long overdue journey to West Berlin and beyond.

These little blighters, probably regarded as Die Nusse den Hunde in the Eastern Sector, had never been seen by the Audi, Mercedes and BMW-driving West Berliners before.

Und wot in Gott's name are zese schtinking little Schweinen doing, mit all zet smoke und noise?

What indeed? The "Trabi" was that great tool of liberation, travel if you will. A bit like Albanians and their tractors and trailers. Absolutely the must-have item, until you see what the much, much more privileged folk are smokin' around in on the other side of the wall, curtain - whatever.

Soon, every third lay-by and sections of Autobahn hard shoulder became Trabi dumps. These quirky 602cc two pot, two-stroke stinkers were of no fiscal value whatever in the wealthy West, their trails of thick exhaust gases making them as welcome as a botty cough in a spacesuit, in a country that likes to lead when it comes to matters Green, believe it or not.

Former East Berliners spread far and wide, with varying degrees of success.

Their Trabants were much ridiculed, though became, to some, minor icons around Europe, simply because of what they stood for. Young roister-doisters picked up abandoned Trabis, intrigued to learn more about these cardboard self-combusting death traps.

Actually, contrary to popular myth, they were not made of cardboard but of something called Duroplast - a bit like Formica. That lot would hold up for, oh ... seconds when the whole nine yards blows up, what with the petrol tank slap bang next to the engine.

A recipe for disaster. The surprise is that only a small percentage of these Duroplastic dogs went up this way.

And so when young West Berliners got their hands on them they spammed them up, pulled very gullible chicks in them and even took them racing. Ah, the ways of the world.

A well maintained Trabi won't record a 0-60 dash, the poor thing running out of everything at around 55mph.

You'd need to rev its nuts off just to get the wheels turning at all. Do keep the windows open at all times, though. This impairs the little turd's aerodynamics a tad but, due to an exhaust system that doubles up as a heater blower, this tip will prevent nasty headaches, if not a run-in with the Grim Reaper. Freedom, eh? Small price.
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Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Aug 3, 2001
Words:510
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