The Story of the Trabant
The Trabant is today’s undisputed cult car. It has been painted, built up for rallies, left in its original state, or altered beyond recognition into a rolling sculpture. Under Communist rule the Trabant was designed as a low cost car. With a full steel embargo from the West and from Russia, producing any car was a serious challenge. Built under conditions still hard to understand from a western perspective, it took as long as eight to ten years to receive this prized possession. Still the Trabant became the two-cycle, plastic bodied object of desire for anyone who hoped for their own personal transportation – a status symbol and an illusion of personal freedom.
After the fall of the wall, the Trabi was rejected and shunned by everyone, making it extremely cheap. It was literally sold for one single Mark. It became the instant choice of not only those of low-income, but also artists, students, and the cool and the underpaid. In their hands the Trabi was destined to rise to today’s art car status – a story totally unique in the automotive world.
The Trabi now reflects the creative spirit of it’s owners. The unique simplicity and charm of this car has spread across Europe, from Italy to Bulgaria, Zwickau to the UK, and surprisingly even Australia and New Zealand have Trabi enthusiasts and clubs to share their passion.
This film is based on three aspects of the story. The social changes that are woven into every part of this car, the fascination people have with the Trabi today, and on its incredible production history.
The social aspects are inseparable from this story and evident throughout the film. A strong theme in this story is the thirty-year separation and reunification of East and West. But even today The Wall still exists in many minds. The Trabi has become a bridge of acceptance, insight, humour, and information. This film will support and reflect these aspects of a reunited Europe.
The people associated with rallies and gatherings certainly add colour and texture to the film. Between 20,000 and 35,000 people are expected to attend June 21st to the 23rd, this year at the largest Trabant festival held for three days each year. Merchandising is huge, parts, cars, conversions, poems, songs, and an endless supply of Trabi jokes are part of this culture. The owners are always as colourful and unique as their cars.
On the internet today, Trabi fans can find more than 500 sites for all possible and impossible aspects of Trabi enthusiasm. Parts made in the U.K., news, schedules, pictures, endless chat groups and even manuals in local dialects can be found.
Musicians paying tribute to the car have ranged from the East German Puhdys to the British super group U2. Recently U2 featured the car on their world-wide ”Achtung Baby” tour, prominently displaying Trabis as a source of stage lighting. The Trabi charm has gone world-wide.
The history of the Trabi is presented by those who worked and designed this car. Available to us are their private archives of pictures, films and other materials. Settings for these interviews vary from personal and quiet, to on location. They are shot on film for the depth and natural look it provides to the faces of those who have lived the story.