That time I drove through Berlin

This is the one. This is the one I’ve been planning to write for a long, long time.

Almost a rental car round up but so much more.

Once, not so long ago, I drove a vehicle I had hoped to drive since the moment I learned of its existence. When I was a boy of no more than six I dreamt of driving a #Beetle and when I finally got the opportunity to purchase one I did. I loved that car, a 1974 standard with an aftermarket ragtop, and owned it longer than any other car. I eventually sold it as my family grew. This is NOT the vehicle I am writing about.

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My 1974 Beetle 1600

As young boy, I also loved the movie Back to the Future and subsequently the DeLorean. I haven’t driven one – yet – and so naturally this is not the car I’m writing about.


Photo Credit: Universal

In fact the car I’m writing about is derived, so heinous that its mere existence is appalling on a level most car aficionados would put the #Pontiac #Aztek in. A car which I also happen to love but for different reasons.

The car I’m writing about is called the #Trabant… or #Trabi for short. Most Americans know nothing of it. In fact its only claim to fame being that of #U2 album cover or maybe the first car to made out of cotton. You see, the Trabi was the Eastern German version of the people’s car, the volks wagen which mean… well people’s car.


Photo Credit:

Limited production capabilities, materials and skilled labor lead to… ingenious(?) solutions. I first learned of this car in 2006 during my introductory German language class. I was instantly hooked. My German teacher found it rather hilarious that an American could become so infatuated with a car he’s never seen, heard, nor touched. It’s very existence intrigued me. I had to know more.

Whenever projects came about mine were always Trabi focused. I loaded one into Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. I drew them on my notebooks next to doodles of #VW Beetles, it was like I had fallen in love with German twins separated at birth. I HAD to drive this car.


After my stint at college I was lucky enough to land a job in Germany. My wife and I had just married and we were prime to explore the continent. I scoured the German version of Autotrader for Trabants and while they were present I couldn’t bring myself to get one. The two-stroke engine, horrible exhaust and poor build quality didn’t scream daily driver. Did I mention it was made of cotton? These cars put American “coal rolling” to shame. Sorry #Texas.

Time moved on and we had our first child thus completely closing the door to cruising the autobahn in a cotton-fiber bodied, snowmobile engine powered sub-subcompact. But alas I still kept looking. My sister-in-law was coming to visit and she wanted to see Berlin, the walls with the murals. Go to Europe, spend some Euros.

My wife, amazing and devoted as she is, happened across a Berlin auto tour website called Trabi-Safari. When she realized what vehicle it was she just about dropped her #Macbook. You could rent a Trabi, drive in a convoy, and get a tour of the city all in one go! I repeat DRIVE A TRABI. My sister-in-law was onboard and the car was booked. Now I may have been a little withholding about the actual amenities of the vehicle  and needless to say they were a little surprised at the car that appeared before them. Add to that my son was with us as well.


We strapped him into the baby bjorn, my wife climbed in the back with my sister-in-law riding shotgun. There was a brief instructional seminar in broken English and we were off.


This car was just as promised. Horrible. And I LOVED every second of it. Whenever my father says, “well, you’ve never driven a car with a stick shift on the column” I can reply, “Oh yes I have and it was Eastern German and it was nothing like anything ever.”


Let me clarify. The gas pedal is less of a pedal and more of a nub. The shift pattern is absolutely baffling. If you don’t keep the car moving the engine will flood (yes, flood like a lawn mower) and you’d be stuck in the middle of a Berlin intersection hearing things like “Wunderbar” and “Kugelschrieber!” Well maybe not those words, but you get the picture.

Ours was a leopard print and there was a line of about 10 or 12 of these exhaust monsters trouting through downtown Berlin. People stopped, took pictures and waved. It was all jovial and fun… and nerve racking keeping the car going. It was worth it. The ride was shoddy and the guy in front of me had never driven stick before, let alone an Eastern German one, and he was hesitant to venture into traffic which made keeping my car from stalling even more of a challenge. Again, I loved it!


It was good fun. Everyone enjoyed themselves including the toddler strapped to my wife. In fact, we were laughing and almost giddy… perhaps because of fumes or perhaps because of this little car. A car that never meant to be charming, never meant to be anything but the workhorse for the downtrodden soviet satellite of Eastern Germany.

The waiting list for these cars new drove up the premium on used cars which could retail for almost four times as much. People would buy them ten years or more out, make payments, and eventually receive their car. After the fall of the Berlin wall many were abandoned. If they caught fire, they would melt. Some who had purchased one just never received theirs. They are still waiting today.


And I, well I’m still waiting for the second time I get to drive one…

Hoon, Kill, Collect for 12 June 17

I typically try and knock out a theme for these… but tonight I don’t have much. I had some chicken with BBQ sauce for dinner… nothing there. I’m drinking water… nothing there.

I’m going to go after something near and dear to my heart: Volkswagen do Brasil! Translated that just mean Volkswagen of Brasil… but if you read Jalopnik and/or follow Jason Torchinsky (the unofficial VW historian of the world) you would know that Volkswagen do Brasil, due to importation restrictions, produced some of the most offbeat and awesome Volkswagen’s ever!

Two of these are a no brainers. The Volkswagen SP2 was developed to replace the discontinued Karmann Ghia and its failed successor the Ghia TC. The Brasilia was ironically developed to replace the Beetle… using most of the Beetle’s parts but adding more doors. It looks brilliant, like a mini 411/412, and I love every bit of it.

Finally, and everyone will laugh, is the VW Gol (yes Gol and not Golf). The Gol came up to ‘Merica as the watercooled VW Fox later in life but originally sported the same familiar aircooled engine in every pre-1980’s VW. Growing up in the 90’s, in central PA, VW’s were pretty few and far between. My older brother had a 1978 Rabbit LS that I absolutely adored so anything boxy with a VW badge that I stumbled across I wanted. The Fox was the only one that ever popped up in my price range and while I never got one I love them all the same.

Without further commercial interruption… which would you Hoon, Kill or Collect?

A 1976 VW Brasilia, a 1973 VW SP2, or a 1993 VW Fox


Hoon, Kill, Collect – May 29err 30th, 2017

Yesterday was Memorial Day and rightly so. Our great nation is built upon the sacrifice of great men and women who gave everything and more for freedom. In honor or Memorial Day I pushed our weekly column till Tuesday… and I can do that cause I’m the boss around here.

Speaking of freedom and America… I smell a theme coming on. ‘Merica

Which would you hoon, kill or collect… a 1919 Model T, a 1943 MB or a 1964.5 Mustang?

Hoon, Kill, Collect 22 May 17

Last week introduced you to our first daily feature called “Hoon, Kill, Collect” an automotive take on F**k, kill, marry.

While it wasn’t a big success we here at Soap Box Racer are mostly dedicated and without further adieu here is your second installment. Adieu… that’s French, I smell a theme coming on!

You choose!

F**k, Kill, Marry


If you’re an adult and live on planet earth there is a 67.667, repeating of course, chance you are aware of the game “Fuck, Kill, Marry.”

In the same vein of Cards Against Humanity, it is best played intoxicated and in large groups so that the revelations spouted from your foul, both figurative and literal, mouth are made aware to your friends… and their pets… and maybe their mother if your crowd is that rowdy. The premise is simple, the opposing party lists off three individuals. Said individuals are ugly, disgusting or horrible – maybe even a mix of all three – which you must then decide which one you will sleep with, you will kill and you mill marry.

For example, of the following three which one would you fuck, kill or marry:

Courtney Love, Lizzie Borden, Eva Braun

It never works out and often calls into question your moral ineptitude, but damn is it fun. But it doesn’t really count… ya know because you’re drunk.

I’d like to welcome you to our new Monday reoccurring feature: Hoon, Kill, Collect.

We give you three cars and you must choose which one you’d hoon, which one you’d destroy immediately and which one you are stuck with forever. Without further ado here is the first trio and I’ll make it easy. This time.

The Hamburger Pacer from Good Burger, a K-Car, The Stout Scarab

Comments… GO!


Do cars have spiritual successors?

Are cars alive? Do they have spiritually successors? When I was growing up I made a habit of gravitating toward the obscure. Well, more like I would gravitate toward things that my Dad and one brother didn’t like. It worked so well I ended up with a lifelong love of all things oddity, a concussion, and an eight-hour shift at a pretzel stand.


Confused? Allow me to elaborate. It was the mid 90’s and as I’ve talked about before jelly bean was all the rage in the automotive design world. My Dad was a Pontiac guy so by law my brothers and I were as well. Now don’t get me wrong, I loved my 89 Grand Am and my 95 Bonneville but when something funky rolled out I was all about it. Enter the first-generation Hyundai Tiburon.



I still recall the commercials… “Tiburon, it’s something in another language for shark.”

Our local mall would host a rather large gala of local car dealerships, nestled in the heart of rural central PA, that would show off new cars they had in stock. This was my chance, I would get to sit in this funky little coupe and tout its awesome to all that would lend an ear. Being a Bonneville family I was unfamiliar with the concept of small cars. The last compact my family owned was my oldest brothers’ 78 VW Rabbit when I was 5 and I loved it. Why wouldn’t I love this?


Because it gave me a fucking concussion.


As I swung open the door that clearly resembled melted plastic I was eager to board. The roofline, however, had other ideas. I smacked my head right along mid ear hard into the roof. Why was I in such a hurry? Who knows. Being central PA there no one else but myself wanted to sit in this car, but still I was committed.

The concussion stayed with me till the closing of my shift at Bavarian, that’s the other pretzel stand. No amount of Advil granted reprieve and the American public granted no reprieve to the malformed Tiburon. A car that my father once claimed “looks like a tapered turd.” Yes, he was right but I still respected its funkiness even if it did give me a traumatic brain injury.

That isn’t what this post is about. I started by talking about spiritually successors. When I saw the first-gen Tiburon it seemed so familiar and alien at the same time. It didn’t hit me until today while browsing the Book of Faces. I follow a page called “Obscure Cars for Sale” and a great many followers of said page would kill me for this assessment. But the Hyundai Tiburon… it’s the spiritual successor to the AMC Javelin.

Honestly, besides the story there isn’t much to this article… but just look at the pictures and tell me I’m wrong. They are both ungainly and unnecessarily curvy in all the wrong places.

Hideously glorious. Two cars that represent both the height and rock bottom of design style in their age.