The Worst Car Ever: A Brief History of the Trabant

There’s no shortage of awful vehicles produced in the 20th century, but the Trabant tops them all. The smoke-belching auto — affectionately known as the “Trabi” to people who never had to drive one — debuted in East Germany in November 1957. Initially, the car had some enviable attributes for its era. Its much-mocked duroplast body was an innovation at the time of its introduction, while the vehicle’s front-wheel drive transmission and independent suspension were also modern advancements. That, however, is where the vehicle’s virtues stop and its problems begin. Not only did it have a weak 2-stroke engine that was basically made of recycled waste and topped out at 60mph smoking like a Iraqi oil fire, the basic amenities were missing. There was no tachometer, no turn signal, no seat belts, no fuel gauge, no trunk liner, and it used an oil and gas mix. Perhaps the biggest shock was that it was listed for $1,862 ($18,179 today) in 1960. The average monthly income at that time in East Germany was $300, which means a Trabant cost half of an entire year’s wages. When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, the Trabant almost immediately became obsolete. Some were sold for next to nothing, while others were simply abandoned.