Despite production times from hell (the average Trabant owner waited nine years to get their lemon), the Trabi, as it was affectionately dubbed, is still one of the most common cars on the road in Eastern Germany.
Each Trabi took so long to build because its plastic pieces (most of the vehicle’s parts, aside from the frame, hood and other necessarily strong sections, were plastic) were molded by workers running hand-operated molding systems.
A plastic car, you say, with a two-stroke engine that you had to wait two years to own?
That reminds us of a little joke.
A Texas oil man heard that there were cars in East Germany so popular that buyers had to wait years to take delivery of one. He immediately sent a check to the Trabi factory.
The directors, sensing a propaganda coup in the making, arranged to send him the very next car off the line.
Two weeks later the oil man was in a bar, speaking with some friends.
“Ah ordered me one o’ them Trabis them folks over there in East Germany wait 12 years to get,” he drawled.
“And you know what? Them East Germans are so efficient. Wah, just last week they sent me over a little plastic model so I can know what to expect!”
This (minus the graphic) appears on page 250 of Lonely Planet’s Germany travel survival kit.