Trabant was an automobile manufacturer from former East Germany. Trabant cars have a bad reputation and are often regarded to be amongst the worst ever produced. They were however quite reliable and was the most popular vehicles in use in the area of former communist countries, and a sort of affection is still attributed to it by many users.
It was the first German small car with plastic body. The name of the material was Duroplast and contained resin, strengthened by wool. It was cheap to manufacture and helped the GDR to avoid expensive steel imports but on the other hand it did not provide real crash protection. The engine was a small two stroke engine with two cylinders endowing the vehicle with modest performance. At the end of production it delivered 25 horsepower out of about 600 cubic centimeter cylinder capacity.
The Trabant factories grew from the factories of other German manufacturers, closed after World War II. After producing cars under the name of AWZ (Auto-Werke Zwickau), the name Trabant was used for the first time in 1957, after launching the Trabant P 50 model. This was originally meant as a three wheeled covered motorbike. It was only converted to a car in its final design.
After the 1989 Wende and later unification of the two Germanies, the Trabant factories came into financial trouble, and closed in 1991. Trabants became known in the West after the fall of the Berlin Wall when many were abandoned by their eastern owners after migrating west. News reports inaccurately described them as having cardboard bodies.
In the 1990s, the Trabant became suddenly and indirectly famous when it upset the famous "Class A" by Mercedes-Benz while performing the common "elk test" (a sort of slalom with small obstacles on the course). The older, disregarded Trabant perfectly passed the test. Mercedes had consequently to deal with the embarrassment, while the Trabant received a unexpected praise.