Trabants: Two-Cylinder Symbols of Cold War The peculiar little automobiles manufactured in East Germany were once the subject of derision. Now, 50 years after the Trabant's first production, collectors cherish these relics on wheels. This week in Washington, D.C., collectors celebrated the Trabant and the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
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Trabants: Two-Cylinder Symbols of Cold War

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Trabants: Two-Cylinder Symbols of Cold War

Trabants: Two-Cylinder Symbols of Cold War

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LIANE HANSEN, Host:

This sound would worry any weekend mechanic.

(SOUNDBITE OF CAR ENGINE)

HANSEN: Mike Enin(ph) is a fan, though he acknowledges the limitations of the car.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MIKE ENIN: The weed whacker in cardboard box. That's about what it is.

HANSEN: You can really smell the oil.

ENIN: (unintelligible) not bad. All of them are pretty big.

HANSEN: Enin was in Washington to join in the parade of Trabants at the International Spy Museum.

PETER EARNEST: This was the people's car in East Germany during the Cold War.

HANSEN: Peter Earnest is the museum's executive director.

EARNEST: It was the car of the Stasi which was the secret police. And, of course, the Black Trabants were their car.

HANSEN: A police car that doesn't go very fast?

EARNEST: Well, remember that the cars they were chasing weren't going very fast either so...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

EARNEST: It was a fair standoff.

HANSEN: Spy Museum historian Thomas Bogart grew up in West Berlin and lived there during the fall of the Berlin Wall.

THOMAS BOGART: And when the wall came down which happened very precipitously, suddenly a lot of East Germans, East Berliners crossed the border between East and West Berlin, and they came by car. And the car that 99 percent of East German's head was the Trabant. So it very much became the symbol of reunification because of - say all the East German's could clearly see, okay, East German because he's using the Trabant.

HANSEN: But collector Mike Enin says the East Germans were in their Trabants only as long as they had to be.

ENIN: Unidentified Man: Ah, see this is a '79...

(SOUNDBITE OF CAR DOOR SLAMMING)

HANSEN: Oh, look at what you did.

(SOUNDBITE OF CAR ENGINE)

ENIN: Yeah, right. We're going to make a...

(SOUNDBITE OF CAR ENGINE)

HANSEN: Thanks for the ride.

ENIN: What is it?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

HANSEN: How do you get out?

ENIN: There you go.

HANSEN: This is NPR News.

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