How Trabants and Wartburgs were made
Car manufacturing the Comecon way.
Most of us have seen these videos already. More than once, actually. But that is no reason to leave the young ones out in the cold. This time we not only bring you the videos, but even compare them with one another to give you a chance to decide whether the Zwickau or the Eisenach factory was more outdated.
We even highlight a few scenes to make sure you won’t miss any of the rather bizarre moments typical in the Comecon. Please marvel at the following:
At 5:08 – The finished car rolls out of the factory through a 2x2.1 m garage door which looks as if it was made of crumpled corrugated cardboard. It was probably made of wood, actually.
At 9:17 – A dozen of empty and uncoated (!) bodies are packed on an IFA semi-trailer to be transported to another factory unit.
12:03 – Using a crude template of the rear fender the tailor workman creates the raw part from cotton quilt.
13:24-13:47 – Long and somewhat embarrassing seconds of showing the factory’s recycling methods and their efficiency.
20:20 – The crankshaft previously made by precision milling, using automatic machinery is fine-tuned by a laser-eyed colleague using an analogue clock and a hammer.
22:50 – Workers noticeably not wearing ear-protectors check the two-stroke engines shrieking at around 2-3000 rpm all day long.
24:21 – It turns out that the approx. 10-minute baking time of each body part did little to make production more economic.
25:24 – Wearing a T-shirt and a pair of gloves, Udo and Karsten are trimming the body parts by a free-standing band saw. As you do.
28:27 – The skilled worker is adjusting the door. Using an angle grinder.
28:39 – The highly qualified comrade from fraternal Vietnam prepares the body for the paintjob wiping the surface with a cloth soaked in thinner.
28:50 – The work of the robots doing the paintjob is finished by manpower.
29:46 – The workers provided with standard protective clothing and customized protective equipment painting Trabants. It kind of explains why so few polishers had a moustache.
30:32 – Here comes the icon of economic logistics, the IFA.
32:16 – Kamerad Nguyen Weißesocken, in high feather thanks to the presence of the camera bounces the wheel (next to the newly painted, brand new car!), then presents the LVL 9000 version wheel fitment, and the only reason he does not slick his tresses back Udo Brinkmann-style is that they spring back by themselves, as they bloody well should.
34:13 – The irrigation machine. No need for further explanation if you’ve ever sat in a Trabant while it was raining.
34:44 – Their body painted an impossible shade of green and their top blue, the Trabant 601S cars roll onto the loading ramp cornering on three wheels.
7:00 – The Arsch Schweissern (Ass Welders) sculpting the backside of the Wartburgs.
7:14 – The logistics worker passes on one third of a car using manpower all the way to the line.
7:44 – The body is lifted up to the upper level. See, the factory could not expand horizontally, only vertically, so the work stages take place on top of each other as well.
2:37 – The assembled chassis are unloaded from the train by a forklift in snowfall, then loaded onto the trailer of a tractor by a crane, six at a time.
3:35 – The tractor lets a pedestrian pass, then jumps a red light towing trailers fully loaded with semi-finished Wartburgs.
3:59 – Another crane gets the chassis down one by one, then an electric trolley tows them into the hall. Yes, one by one.
5:28 – The service stool of the cable wizard wearing a chequered shirt.
0:20 –’I’m on Camera’ Klaus is playing a car simulator game during work hours.
0:39 – Feast your eyes on the heaps of unsold Wartburgs.
2:46 – The words of Wolfram Liedtke, the commercial manager of the factory brings tears to the eyes of a young worker.
4:10 – The workers with a stern look in their eyes.
5:11 – The sign made by a sign-painter, forgotten in the factory in the ‘50s. It basically epitomizes why the whole Automobilwerke Eisenacht needed to be shut down.
What do you think, dear reader? Has there ever been a car factory as naff as these?
(Please note that the author is a huge Trabant and Wartburg fan, owned several Trabis before and owns one even today.)