When she first saw a Trabant in 2002, Liz Cohen knew nothing about the East German relic, except that she wanted it for her next work of art. Now her Trabant stretches into the likeness of a 1973 Chevrolet El Camino at the push of a button. Here’s how Cohen went from novice to custom builder in thirty-three tenuous steps.
1. Buy a 1987 Trabant 601 Deluxe.
2. Measure length and wheelbase of the Trabant and a 1973 Chevy El Camino.
3. Strip the Trabant.
4. Cut the front end off a GM truck chassis to acquire engine mounts/cradle.
5. Fabricate expandable chassis to meet both Trabant and El Camino wheelbases.
6. Acquire a General Motors rear axle.
7. Fabricate framework to support hydraulic pumps, tanks, and battery box.
8. Add rear extension rails to achieve full El Camino length.
9. Acquire chrome wire wheels.
10. Fabricate four-link rear suspension.
11. Build provisions for and install suspension hydraulics.
12. Build provisions for and install dual-acting hydraulics in frame rails to achieve desired wheelbases.
13. Fabricate telescoping driveshaft.
14. Devise expandable brake and fuel lines.
15. Cut firewall and floor out of Trabant body.
16. Cut Trabant in half at extension point.
17. Convert to a two-seater.
18. Fabricate outriggers to support Trabant body over modified GM frame.
19. Build framework for floor, transmission tunnel, and firewall.
20. Build steering column and system.
21. Add floorboards and firewall.
22. Order custom radiator and fabricate radiator mounts.
23. Fabricate wheel wells.
24. Align fenders and quarter panels; attach wheel wells to frame.
25. Cut panels strategically for extension; fabricate aligning mechanism.
26. Fabricate dashboard.
27. Make expandable custom wiring harness.
28. Details, details, details.
29. Metal-finish chassis, suspension, and hydraulic components.
33. Final assembly.
“Building a car takes more than two hands. I learned that concessions have to be made to get to some kind of a finish line. And I learned that a custom car is never done. There is always more to do and more to perfect.” – Liz Cohen