1980s / Driven daily / East German / Trabant

Driven daily: Trabant 601 H

Broadly speaking, the Trabants you see on the streets of Budapest, Hungary, are rough, unrestored examples that are still being used on a daily basis. This 601 H is an exception to the rule; it looks like it rolled off the assembly line just a few short years ago.

The 601 H was built in limited numbers for disabled drivers. Outside, the only difference between the H and a garden-variety Trabant was a model-specific emblem on the rear fascia. Inside, there was an unusual shift lever that indicated the two-stroke, two-cylinder engine spun the front wheels through an automatic transmission. That’s right: a two-pedal Trabant.

Named Hycomat, the electro-hydraulic gearbox was comparable to Fiat’s Idroconvert transmission and Volkswagen’s Autostick. It certainly wasn’t the smoothest automatic on the market, but it got the job done.

The catch was that you couldn’t order one solely because you were too lazy to push in a clutch pedal. The 601 H was a special order-only model, and buyers had to prove that they were legitimately disabled in order to receive permission to buy one. We don’t have production figures on hand, but the H model was few and far between even back when Germany was still split in two.

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