Robur LO (3000? 3001? 2501?)

General Motors has basically spoiled me forever. I expect a single car model to change some aspect of its styling every year or so, making pinning down a specific car by make, model, and year to be an easy task. East Germany didn’t have to pay heed to that capitalist “planned obsolescence” swill, and their vehicles didn’t degrade themselves with regular facelifts or other nonfunctional garnishes to keep up demand. 


  There wasn’t really that much competition in the omnibus market in the DDR, as far as I can tell, and the state-run Industrial Association of Motor Vehicle Construction (IFA) supplied the whole country in terms of trucks, buses, and a good variety of other motor vehicles. Maybe IFA built their Robur trucks and buses the same way year in , year out because IFA had a completely captive market and no incentive to change regularly. Maybe it was because IFA saw that annual model changes were petty, shallow, and meaningless updates to vehicles and just kept to a single look because it didn’t need changing. However, the Robur might never have received a facelift because IFA didn’t have a huge budget and couldn’t have made regular styling changes even if it wanted to. It was probably because the DDR was doing everything right, all the time, always, and the whole rest of the Western world was made up by marketing-driven hacks. It’s an open question.

The IFA built this Robur LO bus sometime between 1968 and 1991, and it could have been built to carry a variable number of tons, or could have come with a a selection of medium-sized engines. On the outside they all looked almost exactly the same, and the differences didn’t break down chronologically, as it seems that differences in trim and window shape existed at the same time across the Robur lineup.

Henry Ford designed his Model T to be an ideal machine, like a tool, like a shovel. You buy one, it works, done. The automobile was, for Ford, something that could be perfected and sold as a long-lasting durable good. But people didn’t buy cars for their functionality and GM’s constantly fluctuating cars came to vastly outsell Ford and the ‘T’. The precedent was set for planned obsolescence and annual model change, and the kind of consternation that precedent gave me when I was trying to precisely identify this mystery bus was intense, great, and remarkably entertaining as well.

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3 Responses to Robur LO (3000? 3001? 2501?)

  1. Ben Orlove says:

    Great pictures and great discussion of model years. Your inclusion of b&w photos leads me to wonder whether they even had color in the DDR–or years.

    • Raphael Orlove says:

      There was a big firm that did all the film for the DDR and they offered color film, but it’s hard for me to tell when color film started becoming widespread, or when people started switching from B/W to color TV
      In fact, the company that became the DDR Filmfabrik invented multilayer color film back in 1932, preceding Kodachrome by 4 years:
      the previous article on wiki claims that the specific Afga film-making process was copied by Kodak after WWII.

      Here’s a 1960s ad for some Ossie color film, with an especially creepish grin from the man at around 1:17-1:21

  2. Pingback: Albtraum Auto: 1985 Buick Skyhawk | Autofrei

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