Tales of my Trabi #6

Welcome back fellow comrades to my blog of Trabant! So far it has seen new brakes, a temperamental carburetor and the installation of various service items.

The next item to turn my attention to would be the brown stuff. Rust of course, what did you think I meant?

Trabants are often subject to a widely believed misconception, which is that they don’t rust. How possibly could a car made of duroplast rust? Surely that’s as ridiculous as saying that you own an aeroplane which is afraid of heights. Myth debunked, the chassis and frame is made of good old fashioned steel.

So if it had a steel chassis and frame, why the need for duroplast? Steel was obviously expensive and so finite in the DDR that you were more likely to see Richard Nixon parading down the Strasse on a pink unicorn reciting love poetry about Karl Marx.

As a result, the East German government recycled cotton and industrial waste to create the cardboard like substance used for the body panels. Unlike cardboard, this material was tough and could withstand a fair amount of abuse. In fact, this was a pioneering car in the way that is was largely manufactured of recycled materials, decades before it became the in thing.

Whilst it remained a strong material for body work, it would result in the deaths of millions of people were it to be used for the chassis – so steel it was. Hence why this predicament came to surface, literally everywhere. Although I was later informed by the club Chairman that the amount of rust was modest, the need to treat the wounds was vital.

“My Dad used to have a Hillman Imp too!”

– Misinformed passerby.

So armed with a dremel, sandpaper, vinegar water and zinc primer, I attacked the rust like a lion hunting a gazelle. Obvious spots in the boot floor, battery tray, rear panel and bumpers were treated with great urgency.

After a pleasant afternoon in the unseasonably warm Spring sunshine, the major spots of rust had been vanquished (so I believed at the time). Another feather in my restoration cap it would seem. All that was left to do was take pointless photos of my fleet.

What pray do tell happened about this whole carburetor malarkey? Check back next week to discover for yourself.


by Mike Armstrong


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