I am from Hungary, and when I was growing up my family always had a Trabant. It wasn't easy to purchase one. My Grandparents signed up for one, then after paying payments for 4-6 years they finally received the car! As I remember in East Germany the waiting time was up to 15 years...so when a baby was born the parents went ahead and "requested" a car. When my Grandpa's car was 6 years old it would be passed down to my Dad. We had all kind of Trabants. At one time we had two of them. One limusine, and one combi (station wagon). I remember going on long road trips to Yugoslavia to the beach. It was before the war. We had cold winters in Hungary, and the 6volt system had hard time cranking many times, but no problem, we push started regularly. We experimented with after market voltage regulators, but none worked. We eventually changed all of them back to the original mechanical units. In Hungary at that time you could buy mixed gas at the gas stations! My mechanical training started when I was 13 years old. We lived in an 11 story grey color block house. My Dad sent me down to the parking lot to change piston rings. He told me which nuts to take off, and general directions on what to do, then went back to the apartment because it was damn cold..... so I, with a couple of 13,17,19mm wrenches pulled off the cylinders, changed the rings, and reassembled the whole thing. The poor Trabi was coughing hard...and suddenly stopped with a loud bang! As I pulled it apart again, I found the lost piston pin ring lodged inside the piston wall. Plus apparently I put the cylinders in the sand, and did not clean them before putting them back on...lesson learned... So this was the first car that I drove, and the first car I fixed... this is why I ended up buying this one. An old couple owned it in a small country village called Jaszapati. They only used it if the weather was good. All other times it was sleeping in the tiny garage. She only has 30 000kms.
My trip to Germany: After I bought it, we returned the license plates, and removed it from traffic. It was neccesary for exporting it out of Hungary. Then I had to translate all the documents to English, and request a temporary plate and insurance to be able to drive it for 30 days. It took a lots of money and standing in line at different offices....I had to come back home since I had to go to work. I left the Trabi with my friend who fixed Trabis for a long time. He did some repaires on it. Then a month went by, I was able to go back. I flew from Houston to Amsterdam, then to Budapest. I slept for 5 hours, then started on the 1570km journey. I drove through old Budapest, it was very nice. I was the only car in the whole town. It was 4 am, and the sun was about to come up. All this time the charging light was on... As I got through the town the car started to sputter, and slow down. I stopped on a hill so I can push her in... One of the generator cable (6V) was disconnected. I pushed it back on but the light was still not totally extinguished, but it was running now. I stopped in Gyor (the last large city in Hungary) and got a car electrician to look at it. He washed out the carbon brush holder plate. It fixed it. Five miles down the road the light would go out only if the RPM was very high. I was able to drive through Austria, and just got into Germany where I stopped at a hardware store. I wanted to buy a screw driver, a 13mm and 8mm wrench. Then I stopped in a Parking area on the freeway, and pulled the generator off. As it turns out one of the brush wires was touching the house of the generator. New brushes! After putting it back together it was working fine, until I stopped the car to buy dinner. Then the light came back, and was going off and on... so I stopped again, and changed the voltage regulator (I fortunately had one...original mechanical voltage regulator from Germany). This finally fixed it! Then I remembered the trouble my Dad went through with the after market electrical regulators... The rest of the trip went without any problem. I was driving not more then 90Km/h even when at the end of the trip she wanted to go 100km/h but I carefully held her back. Can you imagine the Autobahn in my Trabant getting passed buy a new BMW going at least 190km/h? It was 2 days of fun. Finally got to Emden into the VW factory shipyard where I left her for shipping. She is in good company, all new Porsches, and Audis waiting for the trip to the US. I should receive her by August 1st.
UPDATE: February 2012, Peter writes:
You might like this wierd looking van. It is the latest addition to my small collection. It's called Barkas and has a supped up Wartburg engine in it. Please add it next to my name on the club website.. I've sold the Trabi what I had, but got a new one in Hungary. This time it's a kombi. I'm planing to drive it from Hungary to Aarau Switzerland for a Trabi meet in August then will put it on the boat in Germany. Will send you update on that jurney.