For roughly a decade, I focused on the fabrication of a car. Originally a Trabant, the Trabantimino
transforms into an El Camino through hydraulics in its expanding chassis. The wheel‐base
expands 3 feet to the wheel‐base of the El Camino, and the rear of the car extends an additional
3 feet to match the length of a 1973 Chevrolet El Camino.
A series of events led me to purchase an East German Trabant in Berlin in 2002. The Trabant
was produced in East Germany from 1959-1991 during the socialist era. It embodied the East
German values of utility, simplicity and resourcefullness. It’s 2 stroke engine had only 7 moving
parts and as fiberglass was unavailable, the cars panels were made with waste products mixed
with resin—in the beginning shredded wool military uniforms and later paper waste.
I decided to bring it back to the US and turn it into an El Camino in order to become a fringe
member of American custom car culture. If the Trabant was the utopian East German car, the El
Camino was the utopian American car. Also produced during the Cold War period, the El
Camino was the one stop shopping car—it had the speed of a muscle car, the comfort of a
sedan, and the utility of a pick up truck. Like all things utopian, these cars also exposed the
pitfalls of what is lost in translation from big idea to tangible product. The Trabants were stinky and
slow. Although they were meant to be cheap to manufacture in the hopes that every East
German would have one, people waited on lists for years in order to get one. As for the El
Camino, you simply can’t have it all in one package. The car didn’t do any of the things it set out
to do well. A full load in the flat bed of an early El Camino could crack its frame.
I used the hydraulic technology that is used in lowriders to power the transformation of the car.
Lowriding is an immigrant subculture that blossomed during the same Cold War time period that
the Trabant and the El Camino were manufactured. What I love about lowriding is that is started
off as a culture of defiance. Rather than tune and perfect with the aim of hot rod speed.
Lowriders were meant to go low, slow and clown or call attention. They were a display of
creativity by a marginalized latino culture in East Los Angeles and around the southwest. The
Trabant can never be an El Camino, but it can’t be a Trabant anymore either. Through the
transition a space is created for a new vehicle. —The refusal to surrender to the impossible