There are several videos showing the production of Trabants on youtube, but my favorite ones are those which show the duroplast plant.

If you appreciate cars at all, you’re probably vaguely aware of the Trabant 601 - East Germany’s “people’s car” which was produced (infamously) without any major changes from 1964 through 1990. There are many interesting tidbits of trivia about the Trabant, but one of the major ones is that the external body panels were made out of a material called Duroplast. Duroplast could be likened to fiberglass, except that instead of glass fiber, cotton fiber was used. Also the resin was “cured” by heat during the forming process. Duroplast could be stamped into shape somewhat like steel which was another advantage - it also won’t rust, or biodegrade and it’s not recyclable. But enough about that.

The video shows most of the process of creating duroplast and part of the process of turning it into a car shape. It’s interesting because no other car factory in the world had a production line quite like this, and we can safely assume no other car factory in history will either. It looks like a factory right out of 1984, dreary, dim, vaguely oppressive - but somehow immensely captivating (it does also look like the sort of place you might meet Freddy in a nightmare). All this alien machinery and process - it’s astonishing to watch and hear.

Another youtuber has uploaded the entirety of this film, in case you needed to see nearly 40 minutes of Trabants being made. If you’re a big enough car nerd you won’t be able to resist this. I’m still amazed that the guys cutting the fenders out with a band saw don’t lose any fingers considering how quickly they move.

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On a personal note, one thing that I’ve found curious about the film is how many of the factory workers were Asian. Having distant, but direct ancestry from Central Asia, I can’t help but wonder if these are workers who were sent to Germany from Kazakhstan or other Asian countries under Soviet rule at the time.

credit for the image scan goes to John Lloyd on flickr.