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Frankfurt show: New Trabbie is people’s favourite

Creating a buzz: The Trabant nT is all electric.

The Trabant, a much ridiculed symbol of socialist East Germany, is back

Trabant logo21 Sep 2009

By JAMES STANFORD

THE butt of Cold War-era jokes, the Trabant, is the unlikely star of the Frankfurt motor show.

The symbol of East Germany’s lack of progress under communist rule, the Trabant was ridiculed for its terrible build quality and smoky two-stroke engine. Families had to wait an average of 15 years to get one.

Now the Iron Curtain is long gone and the humble Trabant is a cult car. Good examples fetch good money.

This popularity is the main driving force behind the Trabant nT, an electric-powered concept car that has proved to be a massive hit at the show.

Many German newspapers passed over cars such as the new Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG, Audi e-tron supercar and the Lamborghini Reventon roadster and put the East German’s people’s car on their front covers.

A constant crowd of media gathered around the car on a small stand among component suppliers during the first two days.

But for all the excitement it is not yet clear if the new Trabant has a realistic chance of making it into production.

The car on the stand in Frankfurt was not the result of a car-maker or even a component supplier, but a toy company that produces model cars.

92 center imageHerpa bought the rights to both the Trabant name and shape to produce 1/87th scale model cars from 1990.

After selling several hundred thousand of them, Herpa manager Klaus Schindler presented a design draft for a full-size car in 2007 before enrolling designer Nils Paschwatta to come up with the new concept car.

Herpa doesn’t have the money or the technical capability to bring the Trabant nT to market, but presented the concept in the hope it could attract investors and perhaps get the attention of a major car-maker as a partner.

The Trabant nT concept car has moved on from the old two-stroke, instead using an electric motor generating 47kW. This is linked to a lithium-ion battery pack which can store enough charge to give the nT a range of 160km.

Like the Toyota Prius, a solar panel in the roof produces enough energy to ventilate the cabin.

The Trabant measures 3950mm long, 1690mm wide, has a wheelbase of 2450mm and weighs 1050kg.

Herpa says the three-door model seats four adults and one child.

The design is easily recognisable as based on the early model P601 Trabant, but with some mild updates.

Instead of a traditional chrome grille, the new car has a body coloured panel with a cut-out line with turned up edges which can be interpreted as a smile.

Herpa’s Klaus Schindler said the Trabant could be an instant hit because of its design and its name.

“The seed is the publicity, the sympathy and the attention the Trabant brand attracts. It already has fans today,” he said.

Mr Schindler is not suggesting the nT could be a do-everything family car.

“It is a safe and reliable city and medium-range vehicle, a second car, a handy helper for service providers,” he said.

While the technology would need a lot of development, Mr Schindler is confident the new Trabant could be on the road within three years if the company is able to attract the necessary investment.

“It could be on the road in 2012 provided that we are able to find a strong partner,” he said.

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