Warm German Welcome - Even for `Trabbis'
BREMEN, WEST GERMANY
AUSTRIA and West Germany thought of everything in preparing for the flood of East German refugees this week - including their unique cars. If you're an East German car owner, you are probably driving a Trabant, or ``Trabbi'' for short. Practically a symbol of East Germany, the little four-seater look-alikes have only a two-stroke engine, which is about as sophisticated as a lawnmower motor.
The two-stroke runs on a special fuel of oil and gas mixed together, which is not available in the West. That's why the West German auto club, ADAC, has set up two service points along the ``refugee route'' from Hungary to southern Germany. There, drivers can find out where to buy ``self-mixing'' oil (after you've poured that in, just add lead-free gas). ADAC is also offering free emergency repair service. On the border between Austria and West Germany, border patrol officers handed out free coupons for gas.
Meanwhile, the Austrian auto club, "OAMDC, is busy reuniting East Germans, who fled on foot, with cars they abandoned in Hungary.
The East Germans have a love-hate relationship with their Trabbis. Love, because after 12 to 15 years on a waiting list to buy a new one, you cherish it. Hate, because spare parts are few and far between. East German highway shoulders are dotted with broken-down Trabbis, hoods up, exasperated owners peering in. And trying to converse in a moving Trabbi is senseless - the engine noise is deafening.
According to the "OAMDC, at least 5,000 East German cars have come over from Hungary (not all are Trabbis). While the East Germans can keep their cars in West Germany, the cars have to meet stringent standards - a difficult, but not impossible task for a Trabbi. Far more likely to discourage owners is the German autobahn. For a car whose top speed is 68 to 74 m.p.h., it's hard to compete with the BMWs, Audis, and Volkswagons zooming by at nearly twice the pace.