Tales of my Trabi #3

Impulsiveness is certainly a benefit of our capitalist system. Should you have funds available when the goods are in supply, then it becomes yours. Unlike the original owner of this car, who almost certainlywould have patiently waited up to ten years to receive this automotive symbol of freedom.

I however had it a lot simpler, whereby I had received delivery of my very own Trabant within a week. Before documenting the progress of this vehicle, it is now time to discuss the origins of this very example.

Trailered in from one of his many journeys to Germany, Dominic had purchased the vehicle on a spares and repairs basis from the seller, of whom I have no information. He originally had planned to use it as a prop for the promotion of his recently released novel. Unfortunately, as with many of these fine little stinkers, the documents had disappeared somewhere prior to import. We can presume that they were bundled into the back of a large communist state vehicle and deported to Siberia for hard labour. More likely, the vehicle was deemed worthless and was left abandoned in a field.

Thankfully, the original German number plates were retained with this vehicle, odd considering they are normally returned when you complete a sale. Other than adding some original charm to the vehicle for future shows, I have inferred two valuable pieces of information about this vehicle from them alone. Firstly, that the vehicle was register in Zwickau, the birthplace of the Trabant’s manufacturer (IFA Sachsenring). Secondly, that the vignette for the TÜV (MOT) had expired in December 2004.

That’s right folks, the latest that this car could possibly have been road legal was at the arse end of 2004, just under 12 years earlier (at the time). Amongst enthusiasts, it is a well documented fact that Trabants don’t like to sit around doing nothing. Of course this does not refer to spates of wonderlust, akin to the film Go Trabi Go, but chronic failure of the brakes.

Stuck in a weird equilibrium between being seized and ineffective, the obvious solution was a full replacement of the brakes. One order from Trabantwelt later, and my second care package was due to arrive from Germany. All that was left to do here was find a suitable mechanic to complete the job without harvesting a kidney.

“Nice Mini!”

– Annoying Jehova’s Witness.

Anyone importing a vehicle into the UK also needs to complete the NOVA application. This formality, which determines whether import tax is due, often creates difficulty amongst enthusiasts. The fact of the matter is that the advisory period of 14 days, with the promise of a £5 daily fine, to inform HMRC of the vehicle’s arrival is a red herring. The vehicle had been in the UK upwards of three years, but it sailed through instantly. Due to arriving from an EU country, a fine for zero charges would be illogical. Thus the paperwork arrived stating that my tiny Trabi was indeed free of any duty. Hurray!


Check back next time to find out if the brake problem caused a sharp halt to progress.


by Mike Armstrong


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