Very good book, with text in both German and English. The only Trabant book I know of which is not, solely written in German.
This book briefly outlines the history of the Trabi and the factory in Zwickau where they were produced. It also features a very good newspaper article that was published by a German newspaper in April 1991, just days before production of the 'Trabant' ceased forever.
The rest of the book is made of of the stark, yet brilliant photography of Martin Roemers who visited the Trabant factory in 1990 and 91 to photograph production. One of the most evident things the pictures show, is the look of despondency on the faces of the workers, who know their factory, livelihood and life as they know it is coming to an end soon. Also poignant is the lack of youth amongst the workers and the pictures of elderly women operating powertools on the assembly line. Another shot, shows a male worker on his break, his clothes so poor, the crotch of his trousers has clearly been patched over. Black and white imagery gives a much more bleak and perhaps, depressing picture than the same images in colour would. Nevertheless, the pictures show a factory that was archaic by modern production standards and the cars built there were as hand crafted as cars could possibly be. The images would not look out of place from the 1950's and this factory probably changed little from then to 1991. To say, Car manufacture here was extremely labour intensive, would be an understatement.
But the fact that this factory produced cars at all is largely due to the ingenuity and determination of the East German people. In the aftermath of the Second world War, the Russians confiscated all major tooling and machinery. Practically anything of any industrial value in the Gdr was stripped, crated and sent to Russia. Imports from the West were now a thing of the past and there was obviously no industrial help forthcoming from Russia. The Sachsenring factory in Zwickau ( like the Wartburg factory in Eisenach) had to start from scratch and practically make their own tooling applications and overcome countless production problems, using their own ingenuity, stubbornness and the extremely meagre financial investment from the Gdr government. ( which the Soviets had ultimate control over) To combat steel shortages, the Germans invented a new material for body panels which was called 'Duroplast'. This flexible and strong material was made from Plastic resin mixed with cotton waste. The body panels made from this were then mounted onto a unitary steel frame. This enabled the Germans to build cars, using a bare minimum of steel compared to other contemporary cars.
Production of cars started with the introduction of the P70 in 1958. This was followed by the P50, P60, 600 and then the P601 followed in 1964 and continued with few visual changes until 1990. The 601 was only meant to be produced for a few years and engineers wanted to replace it as early as 1968. Many prototypes would be rejected by the Government who insisted they only build the 601, many times over. There were also repeatedly refused permission to switch from Two stroke power to a more modern and more environmentally friendly, four stroke engine.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the demand for the Trabant virtually ceased. East Germans now had easy access to Western cars and wanted them as human nature generally hankers for what's never been had, or has been denied. The final Trabants (90-91) made were given a four-stroke Volkswagen engine from the Polo, which the Zwickau factory had been producing under license for Volkswagen. This was a last ditch attempt to save the Trabant from extinction and somehow make it appealing to East Germans, despite the car looking largely the same apart from a new powertrain and transmission. It failed. Prior to this, waiting lists were between twelve and fourteen years to get a new Trabant.
In the immediate aftermath of the 'Wall' falling, Trabants were literally given away or abandoned on roadsides as their owners saw them as symbols and reminders of the oppression they'd been forced to live by. Nowadays, the Trabant is fast becoming evermore scarce and an object of desire by classic car enthusiasts and is seen at many car shows.
The final pictures of the book, taken in 1992, are as poignant as they are telling. They show hundreds of Trabants piled up,waiting to be stripped for parts and then crushed as the factory is now owned by Volkswagen and now producing for their own interests. This is a very good and enjoyable book for anyone interested in Trabants and Gdr history.