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Trabant Universal - Progress Report 11-23-14

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I have both versions of the Revell of Germany Trabant. The earlier release is the 2 door sedan, called the Limousine. This is not the old ROG Trabant of 1990 or so. That was a nice kit, but was curbside with a closed hood. This is a new full detail kit. Then they pulled a second version out of the mold, coming out with the Trabant Universal. I remember that a modeler did convert the old sedan kit into a wagon, but hey, procrastination is my friend. I win again!


I went looking on the Internet for some reference photos for my painting and detailing. I found several shots of the above vehicle that is restored and in a museum. So the wheels in my head started turning and I decided to build this light commercial variety.


And here we are today. I've been working on it a few hours a day, and have all the parts off the trees and mostly painted at this point. There was minimal if any clean up and the kit is so well engineered that there won't be an ejector pin visible, and I didn't sand any away. The funky part is that the body is this tan plastic, but all the parts that attach to it are molded in grey. So there is no way anyone could build it without painting the body. I filled in the side window panels by copying the glass onto Evergreen sheet plastic.

One thing that I don't like about the kit is that the fender top trim is all separate pieces. Spindley little crooked pieces that don't have any sure fit. The kit engineers expect you to paint everything, paint these bits silver and them glue them in place. Well, ain't gonna work that way! I went through the torture of gluing them all in place prior to paint, and yes I did have some glue smears to sand. I asked Erik, The Creative Emperor, who previously built one and showed it here on the board how he handled them. He solved the problem by leaving them off. He suggested ditching the parts and using some Evergreen rod to make the trim. I had already glued it in place by the time I saw the reply, so I did sand it all down a bit since it is a bit large.

If I was in charge I would've just molded that trim in place on the body like ROG did on the earlier 1990s Trabant kit. I found it much easier to glue it in place, and I'll Bare Metal Foil it once the body is done.


The other issue I had was the fit of the rear hatch. The kit gives you two sets of the gas struts, one extended to position the hatch up and one short to position the hatch closed. My kit had the two hinge pieces broken at the top of the body, so I made new ones from brass. The roof isn't glued on, that's why it appears high in the photo. As I'm doing the van, I am not using the rear seat and made myself a deck from ribbed Evergreen sheet, the same sheet I used in my Caravan CV build.


Here's the hinge up close. They are model ship building supplies. I bought a pack of these tiny brass eyelets that are used for sailing ship rigging. The hinge on the hatch fits in here fine, when I do my final assembly I'll squeeze these in a bit around the plastic hatch hinges to keep them in place.


One last shot of the hinge for Erik since he was curious as to how I was going to work out this problem.

Edited by Tom Geiger
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Here's the interior, a platform that sits nicely on the chassis. The factory bucket seats are very nicely done and sit on separate bases. Again you can see my van floor. The van interior gets the spare tire standing up against the left side close to the hatch.


Wheels and tires are very nice. Here they are all ready to go on the car, I added my tire valves as I always do.


Engine is a cool little 2 stroke and has a lot of details that match the photos I found on the Trabant board... yea there is one! A guy in New Zealand did a complete restoration and took photos every step of the way. His thread is my bible for color and detail. The unfortunate part is that the engine is pretty much crammed into that engine compartment and a lot of this detail will be barely visible in the finished model. For instance, this side is the back of the engine that sits facing the firewall.


I've gone as far with the build that I could without having the body color paint. Today I drove to a distant hobby shop and bought the four cans you see here, I had the Tamiya Suface Primer. My own 50 Shades of Grey! I did my color test on the bottoms of small bathroom cups that I use for a bunch of things in the model room. I'm letting them dry overnight. Tomorrow morning I will check them against my photos and choose the color. Anyone else buy 4-6 cans of paint to choose one color?

Honestly I don't mind buying all the greys since I use them extensively in interiors, and it's good to have different tones in stock. Once I get the body panels all painted, I can just rush through the assembly.


I already have created the decals. One quick Google search for "Deutsche Post" gave me all I needed. Then I used the Word font "Stencil" to do the serial number. As a stamp collector, I do like creating the postal vehicle. In fact that recent Revell of Germany VW Beetle will be perfect to paint bright yellow to create the West German "Bundespost" vehicle to sit next to it. And I was wondering what to do with that low end Euro version of the Beetle!

This is a fun project since I'm creating something unique and the kit nearly builds itself. I have been on vacation from work this week, a stay-cation, so this is my early morning and evening project. I'm hoping to get it done before I go back to work next Tuesday.

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That should be a cool one when finished. Just remember, not too shiny, All he Trabants I've seen look like they have been regularly washed with Comet!

Some years ago I followed a couple of friends to a car show in my Mini, unfortunately the first car was a two stroke Trabant the second a two stroke Saab (running Castrol R two stroke racing oil). My poor little Mini was maximumly lubricated from bumper to bumper! All three of us spent the first couple of hours degreasing the Mini. It was a warm day so I had the cloth sunroof open, almost ten years later I find a slight oily residue on the inside of the back window from the two stroke oil trapped in the window seal!

Two stroke cars are cool, they are different enough that a lot of people, even a few knowledgeable car people too have little or no idea they existed. I worked with a guy a couple of years ago who had a Trabant and a two stroke DKW which resembled a Morris Minor, he had a whole bunch of spare motors for the DKW my favorite one was a really nasty sounding "race" ported three cylinder with expansion chambers.

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You can also go all out..

Yes you can. Just Google "Trabant" for images and all kinds of customs and stuff comes right up. There is a whole cult following of Trabbies and the supply must've increased dramatically when everyone in East Germany suddenly had access to western cars and dumped them all,.

The car in your photos is a Borgward Isabella... still an unusually cool subject for street rod treatment!

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The Trabant van progresses... This is a very interesting kit. It has tons of teeny tiny little parts, and most of them go together very well. There have been a few questions as the instruction sheet will point a part to a location... the washer fluid container shows as sitting on the inner fender well. The area it sits is a square, the bottom of the unit has a round hole. Then I realize if it sat up there, the hood wouldn't close. So I went to my Internet reference photos and saw that it sits down low in front of the inner fender. That's when I noticed a notch on the back side of the unit that fits the square peg.


This is one tight little engine compartment! And Revell of Germany very accurately copied every friggin bit of it! Some of the parts will be barely visible in the finished model, but each piece was tooled like it was a model all unto itself! Here's where I am right now. I have just placed the body over the chassis to get an idea of how it all sits, and what will be visible in the final piece.

From this vantage point you can see the mount point for the washer bottle in front of the shock tower. Yea, it sits down in that hole, pretty much obscuring the view of anything below it. See the perfectly manufactured master cylinder? The battery mounts directly above it. Probably not a good position in the real car as I'd be concerned that battery muck on that assembly.


In this view you can see the steering assembly. It perfectly matches up to the suspension assembly, but again it will be buried way down outta sight! The big thick gray rod next to it is the shifter assembly that again, perfectly attaches to the firewall and the transmission. Such details! On the right side, we have the coils, and I've drilled out the spark plugs on the engine cover. Note that there is no distributor, the wire from each coil goes directly to a spark plug. Easiest wiring job ever! And that's the fuel tank on the firewall as well.


One last view.. I can see some little paint things I can correct. One of the big reasons I take a lot of progress shots. I see things in the photo I don't with my own eyes. ROG gives an extensive list of colors and such, but some of the colors listed are taking two different colors and mixing them. So you have to figure out what that color would be. I've also noticed that Revell's color instructions differ a bit from my 1:1 reference photos. Obviously I'll go with the 1:1 in those cases. One that got by me, was the shock towers, as you see ROG said to paint them flat black, with a silver nut on each. In every 1:1 shot, they are body color (argh!) and too late to change. You can see the detail on the back of the engine in this shot. I don't know if you'll be able to see it once the hood is hinged.


Here's a reference shot of the 1:1 car. Busy under there isn't it?


And a second reference pic of a different car. Overall, ROG did an excellent job of modeling this engine bay! I am not even going to attempt all that wire! I think I'll settle for the spark wires and I believe I'll do the battery cables as well. The only thing that's not in the kit, is the cylinder thing next to the fuel tank on the firewall. It does leave an empty spot under my hood so I'd like to add it. Would you say that's a wiper motor?

What could ROG have done better? Not much. Note that this engine bay isn't even done yet. There's more pieces! And that should pretty much fill up the entire thing. You can see the European modeling mindset here, it reminds me of those Airfix 1/32 full detail kits. Yea, they had all these fiddly little parts too! The one thing they could've done is list the names of the parts. There is a chart that shows every part, and it's part number. There is a color chart in multiple languages. I would've liked to know the part names, especially since some of it is so out of our norm, and I had to figure it all out from the pictures.

Once I finish up the engine bay, it will be onward to the suspension. I do want to get it up on wheels. Then I can concentrate on the body and interior. I have the interior panels and seats all painted and ready to go. The door / side panels were a triple mask to get them to match my 1:1 photos. I did paint both seats, although I'm pretty sure there is only one. I don't have an interior shot but I can only see one head rest in my reference photos. So I'm assuming there is some sort of mail sorting tray where the passenger seat would be. At least that's how a lot of US mail vehicles were set up. I have put the question out on the Trabant Forum, so I've been holding off on making final interior decisions.

This is coming together well. I'll bet I have her finished at my club meeting next Saturday. I can see myself slowing down to make a load of mail. Yea, life is in the details.

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Go, Tom, go! Very impressive kit and a very impressive build going on. Now that DSC and NNLE are on different weekends, you'll have to bring that one out to AZ next April for our special Trabant class! B)

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I've gotten some nice positive response on the Trabant Forums. One of the fellows there from Germany says he lives near the car museum that has MY Trabant postal van in it. That is the postal vehicle number 125946 I am modeling. He says he will go there this week and get me a bunch more photos. He knows I'm most interested in the front seat set up and any postal trays.

Ain't the Internet just grand! :lol: Hurrah!

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  • 2 weeks later...


I have been treading water on this one since I'm waiting for photos of the 1:1 to arrive from Germany. Those pictures will give me interior details so I figure I could finish the engine bay. So here it is all finished and purdy! There's a ton of stuff under that hood, and things crammed in on top of perfectly detailed parts you can hardly see anymore. I should've put the chassis into the body for another shot since you won't even see the front of this engine once it's assembled. Anyway, I enjoyed building this and all the tiny precise parts that went together very well.

So it's onward to building the chassis. It's a mess of little parts and I should have it done shortly. I want it up on wheels.

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that's a lot of nice work in a small space. :)

the reference photos make it look like you forgot to remove the mold lines on the coils...unless that is an option not shown in the pix. ;)

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the reference photos make it look like you forgot to remove the mold lines on the coils...unless that is an option not shown in the pix. ;)

I didn't see that until the photos myself! I got complacent since there was no flash or mold lines anywhere! Oh, I don't want to pull it out and start over, but the voices in my head...

There are a few little things under that hood that are bothering me, but I'm trying to say "good enuf" and move forward!

Edited by Tom Geiger
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