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West German Wagon: 1978 Trabant 601 S

033016 Barn Finds- 1978 Trabant 601 - 1

The 601 series was the third-generation Trabant, believe it or not, and they were made from 1963 to 1990! This 1978 Trabant 601 S is listed on eBay with an opening bid of $3,250 and a Buy It Now price of $3,750. It’s in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida so you could make a vacation out of picking it up. This is the wagon or “universal” version; much cooler and more rare than the sedan. This is the model that I would want, especially if it had the camping setup.. The Trabant name, German for “satellite”, was a reference to Sputnik.

033016 Barn Finds- 1978 Trabant 601 - 2

There are no photos of the rear of this car which is unfortunate, I think that it’s the best angle to show off the fins, so so speak. Here is what the rear of this car would look like. The “S” version is a special edition that had such things as fog lights, a rear white light, and an odometer. I don’t know if this one is actually an “S” version or not, I don’t see either fog lights or a rear white light as seen on this rear view of a different car. This may be a regular, non-S Trabant, although it has an odometer; confusing.

2,818,547 Trabant 601s were produced by VEB Sachsenring Automobilwerke Zwickau in Zwickau, Saxony, Germany and most of them looked exactly the same; good luck finding yours in the store parking lot. Of course, you’re supposed to be working so you shouldn’t be at a store; ever. You are being watched, now get back to work!

033016 Barn Finds- 1978 Trabant 601 - 6

This particular 601 was supposedly a weekend car for its former Hungarian owner so that probably explains the relatively low mileage of just under 30,000 miles. This car is said to have some surfaces that have oxidation, according to the seller, “BUT ABSOLUTELY NO MAJOR RUST or holes on the frame or body.” Of course, we know that these aren’t metal body panels so there won’t be any rust on them. The bodies of these cars are made of a material called Duroplast, a hard plastic made from recycled cotton waste from the Soviet Union and resins, making at least the body of this car somewhat earth-friendly to offset the horribly-polluting 2-cycle engine and, no doubt, the horribly-polluting factory itself.

033016 Barn Finds- 1978 Trabant 601 - 4

Speaking of that 2-cycle engine, here it is! Ain’t she a beaut? This 600cc, air-cooled 2-popper looks like it’s been detailed (i.e., sprayed with something to make it shiny) and is said to run good with about 26hp on tap. Here is a YouTube video of this car in action. Da! I love 2-cycle vehicles, they’re so unusual. You’ll have to mix your own oil with the gas at each fill-up on this car as there was no oil-injection system.

Yes, that’s the gas tank sitting there above the engine, there also is no fuel pump on these cars. It just adds to the interesting ownership experience, in my opinion. Everyone has those fancy fuel pumps these days; we’re all getting soft, comrade! Just try not to hit anything head-on. The owner says that this car runs good and it sounds and looks like it does from the video. Everything is original here other than a new six-volt battery. Yes, these are six-volt vehicles. It would be really run to own one of these cars, I mean, look at these happy Trabant owners enjoying their open-top 601 sedan!

033016 Barn Finds- 1978 Trabant 601 - 3

There is no mention why there are seat covers on here, maybe because the car is in Florida and they’re easier, sweat-wise, than vinyl seats would be. Some models had fabric seats but there’s no telling what’s under there. All is original here, supposedly, but hopefully the seat covers and steering wheel cover are just there to protect them from wear instead of covering up excessive wear. This car has a cool Videoton radio, too!

033016 Barn Finds- 1978 Trabant 601 - 5

And, this is where you’ll haul your bread home after waiting in line for three hours. It looks good back there, nyet? Talk about a car that would stand out more than a Ferrari at a Cars and Coffee gathering. I would rather have something like this than most Ferraris, just because I like unusual, small vehicles. And, coincidentally, somewhat like new Ferraris, used Trabants were often times sold for more than new ones were because the waiting time was so long for a new Trabant. Are you on board with owning a Trabant or do you prefer to not peek behind the ol’ Iron Curtain?


  1. John F

    aka BMV (Bakelit Motor Vehicle)

    This is the definition of a coffin on wheels

    Like 0
    • rusty

      Maybe not!

      A few reached Australia after the wall fell generally driven by Europeans on an adventure, crossing Australia which is a feat in its self. One famous novelty driver had a massive rear ender with a large truck in Wangaratta [ Aussie town..yes we have strange names for towns].

      The car was totaled [how do I know? well i saw it recently in my local museum preserved in its disaster condition]. Crashed So badly many of the plastic panels were popped off revealing the steel frame which surprised me that it was as substantial as it was for what it was. in fact seeing the damaged car like this certainly turned this into my favorite display.

      Being a micro car nut I thought in fact it was stronger than most people think [or perhaps want to think, come on you all know you want to hate..hee hee].

      I was impressed with its frame of what many people consider is a piece of crap. These are not as crappy as you have been led to believe for what they are. The strength is in the frame not the panels so it doesn’t matter that the panels are plastic. Isn’t that the way a lot of modern designs have been put forward..a frame with removable panels..perhaps forward thinking in that way. Even if I am a fiberglass full body type of micro car guy.

      Well the truck hit it in the dead of night the car squashing the rear of the wagon and flipping it onto the roof . Sliding on the roof for a very long way the occupants got out to find they were ok except for a broken arm I believe. I have seen a lot less severe accidents so thought that this had to be bad..yet it was survived and I believe the owner was planning another trip. I believe he is well known in his country and has dozens of trabbies.

      The museum owner had heard about the misadventure and found the wreck in the scrap yard where it happened. He rescued what to everyone would be scrap, displayed it and ended up I believe by coincidence talking to the truckie who crashed into it. Apparently the truckie didn’t see it because there were no tail lights or they were not see able on our fast pace highways. I guess suddenly a slow driving trabby was there??? bang

      This was to me the most exciting part of the museum, sure I loved his other micro cars, his exotic cars and others but this “as survived display” was truly different and eye popping.

      Certainly makes you think they do not deserve as much disdain as they get..and I am not a Trabby guy [the shape is not micro car weirdish enough for me infact to normal looking] but I gives credit where credit is due.

      all I can say is “Go Trabby Go”

      Like 0
  2. Squad41

    Sadly, no longer on eBay.

    Like 0
  3. David

    Headline should say “East German”.

    Like 0
    • Scotty G Staff

      Sorry, my mistake! I knew that, too.

      Like 0
  4. Jeffsr

    This should read East Germany since it was built prior to the wall coming down. I was stationed in Germany when the wall came down and when the wall came down these seemed to be on the autobahn everywhere and going slooooow as can be.

    Like 0
  5. kman

    NOT made in West Germany. East Germany.

    Like 0
  6. jim s

    no need to worry, there is a sedan for sale on ebay if you must have a 601. interesting find.

    Like 0
  7. angliagt

    The perfect camping vehicle – no mosquito repellent needed!
    Also,if you have the time,check out the YouTube video of these on
    the assembly line.

    Like 0
  8. MikeH

    I have no idea why, but I lust after Trabants. Gladly, it’s gone from Ebay. I don’t have to decide whether I want to buy it or not.

    Like 0
  9. Rich

    I am told that the bodies were quite toxic. No burn, no bury. They were growing up and added to asphalt on the autobahn.

    Like 0
  10. Andrew

    I always thought they would look so much better with feminine eye-lashes on the headlights.

    Like 0

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