Revell 1/24 Trabant 601 S

KIT #: 07256
PRICE:  20 € (~30 $ in Dec 2009)
DECALS: License plates for 7 cars from 5 countries
REVIEWER: Martin Sczepan
NOTES: New mold kit, not related to 1990 kit of the same car


Let us begin this in-box review with some questions:

Which car was the first to use a body made from recycled material?

Which car was so sought after that you had to wait ten years to get one?

Which car became a symbol first for the standing still in the country it produced and later for the reunification of a divided country?

And at last: Which car is the quietest on earth?

You guess it. After all this is an in-box review of the Revell Germany Trabant 601 kit. For the last question there is an explanation: If you are squeezed inside, it is so cramped, that your knees will cover your ears.

The Trabant was the emblematic car of East Germany. Even if it was not the only passenger car produced in the country, it was the most widespread car. About twice as many than of the other east German car – the medium sized “Wartburg” - were built. Every citizen of  former East Germany can tell at least one Trabant story (often involving adventures in acquiring spare parts) and for most of them this was the car in which they learned driving and the first car they owned. Due to its widespread nature, the car got many nicknames – the diminutive “Trabbi” or the less friendly “Pappe” (cardboard, referring to the appearance of the body panels before painting) were the most common. Nowadays, almost twenty years after the last Trabant rolled off the production line, it became an object of nostalgic memories. So much that the production of an electric driven retro-version of the car is considered.

The development of the Trabant started in the early 1950ies, when the East German car industry was looking for a substitute for the sheet metal used as the material for car bodies. This material (the type which could be shaped by pressing) was not produced locally and had to be imported. One of the materials investigated was a composite of recycled cotton fibers and phenolic resin. For the aircraft guys: think of a Spitfire seat and you will have a pretty good idea of what it looked like. After lengthy research the properties were good enough for use in a car body and a small scale production of a car was started at the Zwickau automobile works. Underneath its plastic skin this car, named P 70, was basically a a prewar DKW F8 sedan. A car of this size - based on the successor of the same F8 (the F9 and later the Wartburg 311) was already in production at the Eisenach motor works. What was really needed, was a small car - large enough to accommodate four people and some luggage, simple in construction and maintenance and with a price tag that allowed the average worker to afford it. So a smaller version of the car, using an air-cooled two cylinder two-stroke-engine with a dashing 500 cubic centimeter displacement, was developed. This car - named P 50 - entered series production in1957 in the newly founded Sachsenring-Werke (named after a famous race track near Zwickau and basically a conglomerate of the prewar Audi, Horch and DKW works).

A contest was held among the workers of this company to find a name for the new car.  Since it was 1957 it's not surprising, that the accepted name was a German equivalent of the Russian “Sputnik” and so the name “Trabant” was introduced.  Compared to contemporary small cars from western countries like the French Citroen 2CV, the Italian Fiat 500, the west German Lloyd cars or even the Volkswagen Beetle, the car was quite competitive in performance and passenger comfort. Some design features like the front engine/ front wheel drive were quiet modern. This early Trabant model was produced until 1963 when the engine was replaced with an enlarged version – now with 600 cc displacement and the designation changed to Trabant 600.  One year later the body styling was modernized and the car got a more modern trapezoid or “boxy” shape which resulted in a much roomier interior. This car was the Trabant 601 which should become the East German Volkswagen for the next 26 years. Originally it was planned to produce the car until around 1967 but due to political pressure and economical restrictions a successor never made it into series production. Several new cars were developed but each time the politburo decided that the 601was good enough and the engineers were relegated to do only minor improvements of the existing car.

The same thing happened to the other East German car. The Wartburg 353 was produced without major changes from 1965 to 1988. In the 1980ies the Trabant as well as the Wartburg had become symbols for the stall of the economical and political development of the country. The everyday sight of these cars was a constant reminder to the people that the socialist system of East Germany was beyond reformation. The two stroke engine was not only smelly and contributed to a large degree to the air pollution in East German cities but had also relatively poor fuel efficiency. Generally six or seven liters per 100 km is not a bad value but considering the modest 26 horsepower of the engine it was just to much. At the end of the decade even the political leaders realized this and purchased the license to produce a 1.1 liter and 1.3 liter four stroke engine from Volkswagen. The engine was installed into the Trabant with only minor modifications to the rest of the car. The sarcastic comment of the people to this was the bonmot that installing a VW engine into a Trabant is like implanting a pacemaker to a mummy. Actually the GDR was almost history when the series production of the Trabant 1.1 started in may 1990. With the monetary union between the two Germanys in July 1990 the car became practically unsaleable since east Germans preferred second hand western cars to new Trabants and so the last “Trabbi” left the production line on April, 30th 1991. Within the 34 years of production over three million Trabants were built - 2.8 million of them 601 models. The car was exported into several central and eastern European countries and thus was a common sight on the streets of Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland or Bulgaria as well.

The Trabant was built in three body styles: as a two door sedan (“Limousine”), as a station wagon (“Universal”) and in an open “Kübelwagen” style version. The Kübelwagen was reserved for armed forces, border police and forest management and not available for private customers. The sedan and station wagon came in different configurations: as a standard version, a more luxurious  “S” version and the most expansive “de luxe” version featuring chrome plated bumpers and two color trim. Color selection was no option. This is not surprising, considering that there was no way to tell which colors would be available on delivery – ten years or more after ordering the car. In the late 1980ies the typical Trabant colors were “Papyrus” (somewhere between off-white and light gray) and “Gletscherblau” (a pale, somewhat grayish blue) although other colors (mostly green, yellowish and gray tones) were also used. The official price of the car in the late eighties was about 12000 East German Marks which pretty much equaled the yearly income of a skilled worker. But on the private market prices for relatively new cars were even higher or in some cases paid in “blue tiles” (East German code word for West German D-Marks). Since the supply of cars never met the demand, waiting lists were very long and grew even longer by the fact that every East German citizen above the age of 18 (legal driving age) was on a waiting list, no matter if he really wanted a car or not. After all you could sell your position on the list for a considerable price to someone who was not so patient. It seems that even in a planned economy there is no escape from the rules of the market... Another result of the scarcity of cars was that the usual lifetime of a car could reach 25 to 30 years. This fueled the demand for spare parts and it is said that 30 percent of the produced parts were sold as spare parts. At the end it was impossible to put a new car into production for this reason alone. You could keep the factories busy buy producing replacement parts alone.


Length: 3560 mm

Width: 1510 mm

Height: 1450 mm

Empty weight: 620-660 kg (~1400 lbs)

Engine: air cooled 2 cylinder 2-stroke engine with 600 cubic centimeter displacement and 26 hp (18 kW)

Transmission: 4 speed manual

Max. speed: 108 km/h (67 miles/h)

Fuel consumption: 7l/100 km (34 miles/gallon)


When the Berlin wall fell and West German streets were flooded with Trabants from visiting East Germans, the people at Revell realized the potential for a kit of this car. The time factor was deciding and a kit was developed and rushed into production in 1990. Legend has it, that in order to gain information on the car, they just bought one which unfortunately turned out to be a car which was heavily rebuilt after an accident. So this kit had some unusual features like two different style of bumpers (early and late) on either end of the car. The shape of the body was somewhat off (too narrow with the front and rear windows too steep) and the kit had some simplifications which gave it a toy-like appearance. The front and rear lights came as solid chrome plated parts without clear inserts and of course it was a curbside kit. So when Revell announced a Trabant kit to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Wall earlier this year, the first thought was that this would be a reissue of the old kit. Fortunately Revell has not taken the easy road but developed a whole new kit. And what a kit it is!

When I first held the box in my hands it seemed to be to large for a car of the size of a Trabant. But actually the box is really full of parts. Besides the car body itself, it contains about 130 parts on six white and one clear sprue (separately bagged) and five vinyl tires. The parts are crisply molded but show a small amount of flash. Ejector pin marks are usually positioned in a way that the will be hidden on the completed model. Engine compartment and trunk can be displayed open, using movable hood and trunk lid assemblies. The hood has nice internal detail showing the soundproofing padding. A full engine and suspension is supplied although the engine is so tiny that - even in the small engine compartment of the Trabant - it looks somewhat lost. But then it was a 600 ccm engine - smaller than many motorcycle engines...

The trunk is not only boxed in but also contains a spare wheel. The roof is a separate part and can be left unglued if you want to have a better view on the interior of the car. A clear sprue holds not only the windows but also lenses and covers for all of the numerous headlamps, rear lights and turning indicators. The windows are separate parts which are to be installed from the outside. A small correction note in the instruction tells us that the kit does not come with a chrome plated sprue C as stated in the instructions. I'm not sure why Revell decided against chrome plating in the last moment but considering that most of the parts on this sprue (engine grill, C-pillar ventilation gills, body decoration strips) are actually dull anodized aluminum on the original car, it is not really a loss. The instruction sheet explains the construction sequence in 42 steps, providing coloring information for Revell paints. Additionally there is a small leaflet from a Trabants owners club which apparently helped Revell with the development of the kit.

Closer analysis of the parts shows that the car represented in this kit is a very late 601 S model, probably from 1988 or 1989 as it has the coil spring rear suspension which replaced the original leaf spring unit in 1988. Externally (if you leave the suspension detail aside) the car has all the signs of a post 1980 model: late style bumpers, head rests and steering wheel. It is also obvious that Revell plans two release a station wagon kit in the future since all parts specific to the sedan version (roof, internal side panels, trunk lid and insert) are on a separate sprue. I'm not so sure about the Kübelwagen but then this would be a not so difficult conversion project for the ambitious modeler...

The decal sheet has several license plates and country signs for central European countries as well as some instruments and “Trabant” and “Sachsenring” signs for the hood and rear of the car. Unfortunately the instructions are not clear which license plates belong to which country sign so here is a short list of what should belong together:

IMF 2-36 (East Berlin) and XK 10-89 (Chemnitz/Zwickau) are East German plates and use the DDR or alternatively the DDR with crossed out D and R.

PZF 1089 is a Polish license plate (PL), pre 1999 style from Poznan

AHT 42-16 is a Czechoslovakian plate (CS), from Prague

UI-11-89 is Hungarian (HUN), pre 1990 style

W W 4702 is Austrian (A), Vienna 1990-2002 style and

SK EC 91 is a new German (post 1994) style plate and does not require a dedicated country sign


 Finally we have a good kit of this important car. If it builds as good as it looks this will be a real winner. Revell is to be congratulated to the decision to develop a new kit instead of just re-releasing an old one of questionable quality.


English ( ) and German (, ) Wikipedia articles, kit instructions. For colors see also (Czech language).

Martin Sczepan

December 2009

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