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Trabant 601 Jon (Metxa). Tribute to the RS racing versions

With about 2800 kilometers between connecting and timed sections the 1980 Acropolis Rally was presented as one of the toughest of that season of the World Championship. So much so that many came to qualify it as the most African of all those celebrated in Europe. Clear allusion to Safari Rally, played a month and a half earlier in Kenya over 5.441 kilometers. Undoubtedly the most demanding of all the scoring tests that year, thus making the comparison exaggerated a priori.

However, the truth is that of the 173 vehicles registered on the Acropolis in 1980, only 37 managed to finish. Demonstration of the competitiveness of those four days, of which Ari Vatanen came out champion with a Ford Escort RS1800. One of the most effective rally models of the moment. Next to which are the FIAT 131 Abarth driven by Walter Röhrl -5º- or the Datsun 160J by Timo Salonen -2º-. In addition, as we go down the ranking, models such as a Lancia Stratos and even a Peugeot 504 V6 co-piloted by Jean Todt himself appear. A list where predictable cars are succeeding in this test until reaching a Trabant 601.

Surprising. Because although it is in the penultimate position, the simple fact of seeing it there is still striking. Having stood a test with dignity with almost an 80% dropout rate. Surprise that increases seeing classifications of other years; always staying in very low positions but ending the test on a recurring basis. The demonstration that the presence of the model in competition was not a simple anecdote. But the hard work of the brand's competition program, which was in operation for more than three decades.

Trabant of the official team at the exit of the Acropolis in 1977. Wolfang Kiessling Archive

A story as unexpected as it is addictive, making the Trabant 601 a cult model for those collectors with a taste for the unsuspected. Reason that seduced Jon (Metxa) in order to get a unit of this popular German. Using it as the basis of a restoration project with the intention of paying tribute to the RS racing versions.

Trabant 601 restored by Jon (Metxa) in a shot last July


Searching the archives, the first sporting participation of a Trabant 601 with media coverage beyond the socialist bloc took place in Monte Carlo in 1970. Year in which they managed to win the victory in their class. Achieving a relevance that few cars from Eastern Europe came to have in the West. Nevertheless, the sports whims of the brand came from when its sports department was constituted around 1960. In principle linked to the test at the Sachsenring factory, but increasingly autonomous according to its eleven employees they were fine-tuning models P50, P60 and 600/601.

Poster commemorating the 50th anniversary of Trabant 601 at Montecaro 1970. Horch Museum

Thus, in 1961 came the first major victory outside the Iron Curtain thanks to a double at the Hanseat Rally between Hamburg and the Nürburgring. From here the Trabant 601s were not only visible in the Soviet races of the Cup for Peace and Friendship, but also in various events of the European Rally Championship. A moment of expansion, in which some private teams appeared registering Trabant 601 units in all kinds of rallies. However, the truth is that the main role has always been those of the brand's official team.

Members of the Trabant Sports Department in the early XNUMXs. GDR Museum (Berlin)

Brand that, seeing the progression of his small utility on the dirt tracks, decided to build the RS versions. Designed for competition, its increase in displacement from 600cc of the 600 version to 750-771cc of the 800 version benefited the Trabant with a power of up to 65CV for about 600 kilos. This is when class wins are chained in the Finnish Thousand Lakes rally. Undoubtedly the international test to which the Trabant Sports Department owes its happiest moments before dissolving in 1990 together with the German Democratic Republic itself. A historic moment that Trabant survived less than two years, using VW engines thanks to the reunification between West and East Germany.


Like the 2CV for France, the Mini for England or the 600 for Spain, the Trabant is one of those utility vehicles that has transcended from the automobile industry to popular culture. In this way, more than thirty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Trabant 601 is the symbol of a time and a place. Counting on a growing legion of fans who even keep signing him up in rallies. In addition, its simple and effective mechanics make it a perfect model for any hobbyist of workshop work at home.

Just the case of Jon (Metxa). A hobbyist who had always liked the Trabant, though "Not enough to have one". However, was seduced by the irrational charms of an RS version as he watched it in action at the Rallye Costa Daurada. Moment in which he began to be more than receptive to the idea of ​​carrying out the restoration of one of these little Germans. A fact that could almost have materialized when he received news of the discovery of one in the Basque Country during construction work.

Unfortunately, that first possibility was not dealt with. Although curiously this same car came into the hands of our fan years later, using it as a donor of parts for which he has finally restored. A unit from Romania, from where it was imported with the deregistered documentation to be sold among collectors. A more difficult acquisition process than it might seem. Since as Jon himself tells us "There are more Trabant than meets the eye", thus running the risk of getting one in bad condition for not adequate price. Fact that worsens as the price of the Trabant increases.


With the car already in his name, he begins a process of updating and bureaucracy with the aim of putting it into circulation. A first step that he took about six years ago. But that never made him lose the true objective for which he had acquired the Trabant 601: make the visual replica of an RS version. Also with the value of craftsmanship, since he himself has done the painting and vinyl work. Work to achieve an appearance homologous to the RS. Leaving everything else in its original state except for a few kinder seats for the suffering back of the passenger.

Regarding the mechanics, the only thing that has changed significantly has been the camber angle of the wheels on both axles. Giving a bit of a negative angle to them -in the manner of an R8 Gordini or Alpine A108-, to improve stability thus forgetting their desire to overturn. For the rest, this visual replica It is a unit very faithful to the factory specifications of the Trabant 601. Of course, contemplating for the future a change of engine for another 750cc assembled to parts since, fortunately, both the supply of original RDA spare parts and current custom-made parts is huge. An improvement that, together with a good carburetion, could solve the problems that this example has on the slopes today due to its 26CV.

Be that as it may, we will be attentive to the evolution of this unit. Without a doubt one of the most interesting Trabants we've seen in a long time. Both for the careful restoration by its owner and for the idea of vinyl it this way, paying tribute to the Trabant Sports Department and its 601 RS versions. Magnificent.

Photographs Trabant replica RS: Jon (Metxa)

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Miguel Sánchez

Written by Miguel Sánchez

Through the news from La Escudería, we will travel the winding roads of Maranello listening to the roar of the Italian V12; We will travel Route66 in search of the power of the great American engines; we will get lost in the narrow English lanes tracking the elegance of their sports cars; We will speed up the braking in the curves of the Monte Carlo Rally and we will even get dusty in a garage while rescuing lost jewels.


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