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.

IMG_0718 copy

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!

Trucks, the bro kind. 

Bro trucks
Bro, your truck, it’s so big. It’s like one of those country singer trucks. 

So I get that some people love big things. In America everything is larger. Supersize meals, triple venti mocha pumpkin spice lattes, 140″ television screens for a 1000 square foot apartment. The list goes on and on. 

It’s not surprising that vehicles seem to constantly grow in size. Larger for most equals safer. Is that always true? Not really, but it doesn’t stop Johny from going over to Bobs big truck outlet and spending three times his yearly income on semi-reliable transportation. At least it looks cool…

Appearances are everything or so I am told. When it comes to trucks, appearances are paramount to good sales. Dodge picked up on that when they initially refreshed their Ram line of pickups. The new look was similar to a mini big rig. Large chrome grill, stepped hood line all that was missing was the vertical smoke stack exhausts. The baby semi truck was born and all other manufacturers rushed to catch up. 
So many different customization styles exist each with a strong following. These days though, they all seem to equally coexist. The one trend which bothers me most…the bro truck. 

What’s a bro truck? Typically it all begins with a small…idea. Yes, we’ll go with a small idea, with large goals. Usually wrought with wasted money and little actual utility added to the truck. Where do I begin? 

Let’s begin with ten inch suspension lifts and 34″ tires on 24″ wheels, chromed at that. Oh, let me clarify, if it’s not a f250 and above or Ram/Chevy 2500 or higher you’re doing it wrong. Next on the list is the led light bar. Like everything else, the bigger the better. The more blinding it is to opposing traffic the better.

Next is a power programmer and deleting a multitude of emissions equipment. Who needs to breath clean air anyways…maybe children? You can’t conquer the urban trails unless you roll more coal than Robert Murray (I’ll wait while you google that name or click here I promise it’s not porn). I get that you want your truck to look like a 1960s 18 wheeler spewing particulate matter like it’s going out of style but, my clean air. 

Don’t get me wrong I love diesel, it can be clean and very economical, but these few examples are making it hard to defend diesel from the Prius driving(always speeding excessively), tree hugging bunch. Anywho….
So let’s recap, suspension lift check, lack of emissions equipment check, large tire with low profile sidewall on huge chrome rims check, blinding led light bar, yep got it. What’s missing? 
COWCATCHER FRONT BUMPER and an ever present 1/2″ tow hitch!
Whoa! I almost forgot what’s better for plowing through traffic when you’re too busy updating your Instagram with a new flat brim hat selfie? Two hundred pounds of front bumper, that’s what. 
What really kills me, is that while some of these trucks do get dirty, most never leave the pavement. Ever. Why. If a Subaru driving, love everything, 20 something college coed gets her outback more dirty than your truck what does that say about you. 

I’ll finish with something I overheard when a bro truck parked in front of the coffee shop I was at. The passenger falls out and says to the driver “brah, you need to get a bigger dick so you can get a smaller truck”. 

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

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