Sweden. What comes to mind when it’s mentioned for you? Are there images of unspoiled nature and virgin forests dancing through your head? Or perhaps a glitzy disco song from Abba is playing? It could be that you think of the furniture mega-retailer IKEA, or the clothing giant H&M. You might have a more edgy view of this northern region, and associate it with Stieg Larsson’s Millenium series of books including The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, or contemporary fashion brands such as ACNE, Nudie or COS.
But do you think of Sweden as a leader of car culture? The answer is probably not. Until recently, Sweden had two mainstream car companies operating within its borders: the aggressively practical Volvo and the slightly more left-field and now rather defunct Saab. Both of these companies could be directly associated with the stereotypical Swedish mindset: practical and cheerfully functional but not particularly evocative. They would be better described as transportation appliances than anything else.
However there is a flip side to the endless practicalities and perfectionism of the Swedish mindset. Some flickering remainder of the Viking warrior spirit still lurks in the background, and every so often rises from the depths to make itself known. This more primal instinct laughs in the face of conformity, wages war against boundaries and sees horizons as objects only to be reached and sailed past.
Think Koenigsegg, rather than Volvo.
I’ve been living in Sweden for two years now, but have yet to fully wrap my head around the local automotive scene.
I’ve jumped across the border to take in the anarchy of Norway’s Gatebil festival a few times now but until recently, had not yet been to a Swedish event.
Perhaps this has been a mistake though, as I am coming to realize that Swedish car builders have something pretty special going on.
Here, the same kind of crazy, smash-all-rules mentality rules shared by their Norwegian neighbours prevails, but there’s also a real focus on presentation and detailing too.
So without further ado I’d like to quickly showcase for you my first, and without a doubt not my last, completely crazy experience at a Swedish car event: the Bilsport Elmia Performance and Custom Show.
My main motivation for attending the Elmia Show was to discover new feature cars. More often than not, these are the most popular types of stories on Speedhunters. You know as well as I that the Gatebil events have been a great source of amazing car feature stories, so my aim was to find some fully mentalist Scandinavian builds, but with a Swedish twist.
Upon entering the event, the first car to catch my eye was Rasmus Alexandersson’s ultra clean 190E. It’s a fantastic street car – an interesting chassis to get a modern stance look. If this was my first taste of the Elmia Show then things were looking good!
A few cars down I found this tastefully styled Honda Civic Shuttle, care of Björn Enghed. Yes those fenders have been customized to fit around those deeply offset BBS rims.
The car’s spec sheet stated that Björn has the goal to reach 180hp with the build, so I can only assume that work has not started yet on the engine set-up. One to check back on then, once the build is fully realized.
Now I was really starting to get excited. Here we have a pretty wild Mercedes 190E build.
You can see that it’s not finished yet, but Alex Lindquist’s vehicle has the potential to be a truly great Speedhunters feature car. The shaved engine bay, full cage and a rear radiator set-up points towards a street-drift focus for the build. Wow.
Sitting next to the Mercedes was this incredible Mk1 Golf. More feature car fodder.
Rather than take the low and slow route we normally see with fully blown Mk1 builds, Patrik Höglund has gone down a different, more performance oriented route. Berg Cup style anyone?
Needless to say, I have made contact with Patrik to make friends and get a Feature Shoot organized.
The goodness keeps on coming… here we have an absolutely mental and utterly immaculate 1975 Volvo 242.
Inside a rather smooth and tidy engine bay beats a different sort of heart: the car is powered by a turbocharged BMW M50B25 powerplant.
I don’t think I need to ask if you want to see a feature shoot of this car. The builder, Patrik Lindgren, has done an amazing job with this car.
As for me, I was fast becoming a believer in Swedish car style. These machines are taking cues from the USDM-led stance scene, but the detailing and crazy specs are taking car builds into uncharted territory. Best of all, they’re not necessarily just show cars, as the owners all have plans to take them out to the Swedish Gatebil event this June.
You might have noticed by now the presence of a large, imposing display behind these cars. They were all part of the OijOij-Society display; a Swedish car forum community. I wasn’t familiar with the name previously, but they certainly are a group to pay careful attention to!
Also repping the OijOij-Society crew was this rather tasty 2JZ-swapped R34 drift build.
Yes, you’re seeing that correctly. It’s been converted over to LHD with the use of a Volvo dashboard. Apparently it’s a perfect fit to the Skyline’s cockpit dimensions.
We shall see how this build progresses to completion, but there’s definitely plenty of interesting details going on.
Leaving the OijOij Society area, I started to wander around the show and came across this amazing red AE86. It’s a car that was part of the Speedhunters Gatebil Rudskogen display last year, and sadly a machine that we didn’t manage to shoot. Mental note made to arrange feature photography session with the owner next time around!
Moving on to the Club JDM display we were greeted by this minty fresh R34 GT-R. I am resisting the urge to overuse the word clean as this seems to be a given with Swedish car builds.
We inspected the Club JDM machines but the thing that really impressed me…
… was the design of the booth itself. It was more akin to a trendy clothing boutique than a temporary car club display. Club JDM were proudly touting their collaboration with Downforce Clothing, who I understand designed the set-up. Note the Speedhunters Volume One book on the shelf there.
I took a moment to take in this fully built-out Supra adorned with a Top Secret outer layer. It was looking pretty interesting, but I had to get away from all the pounding bass bin cars.
Now here we go again… more Scandinavian mentalism.
Yes this car once was a Volvo P1800. It’s now been rather thoroughly reinvented for the purpose of drag racing though.
There’s no V8 swap here ladies and gentlemen. The powerplant is a still an all-Volvo affair… but it’s now forcefed with a 76mm Schwtizer turbo. Power is claimed to be 850hp from the 1.8L unit.
And yes I got the owner’s phone number. Must. Shoot. Car.
Now what’s going on here? We have a 2006 Mitsubishi Evo 9 sporting a rear radiator set-up.
Walking the around the car it was obvious to see this is a full-on build. So is this a time attack machine…?
No it isn’t, not by any means. This is a drift car. A Lexus V8-powered drift car. With a turbo. Madness.
By this stage my brain was starting to hurt from all the craziness on display at Elmia. But there was no let up in sight though as evidenced by this white MkII. A look at the Audi engine cover and wheels gives the first hints as to what you’re witnessing.
Yes this Golf has a full Audi Quattro drivetrain conversion. Crazy. This is definitely car feature material here.
Close by I spotted a former Speedhunters feature car on display. This is Börje Hanssen’s Quattro, a subject of Sean Klingelhoefer’s lens last month. I took a moment to take in the details of the car but already my attention was being pulled across the hall…
… to what must be the hottest new build on the planet right now.
I showed shots of this car on the Speedhunters Instagram Feed last week, to a rather enthusiastic response. Since then, the car has quite literally blown up across the interwebs.
Several international magazines have already contacted the owner Viktor Mårtensson to arrange shoots. Speedhunters will definitely be right in the mix too with a plans for a full feature production coming together very quickly.
There’s a lot going on here with a 1JZ engine shoehorned into a venerable VW Caddy chassis. Rather than talk too much about details now, I’d prefer for us to wait for a full feature shoot with this ‘Mad Hatter’ Caddy.
I walked past this car a few times at the show without taking much notice. I just assumed that Olsbergs had taken possession of one of Ken Block’s Fiesta chassis but this turned out not to be the case.
This is, in fact, a hand-built Ken Block replica car.
It’s a faithful reproduction of the original, complete with AWD conversion, but with one major (and rather apt considering our location) difference: that’s a Volvo engine you are looking at right there.
My poor brain…
I remember experiencing this same feeling of overwhelmingness at the Gatebil festival last year. Scandinavian car builders are completely mental!
Moving onto the subject of what a Nordic Pro Touring build should look like, this full-on second generation Camaro track car was a perfect example.
The website shows that this car is from Norway… another to add to the ever-growing list that we must track down.
So where to next? How about the hot rod themed hall?
Heading in there you could instantly recognise that this was an entirely different type of automotive tribe.
It’s interesting to note here that the lifestyle element was pretty strong in Elmia compared to other scenes I have dipped into on my travels over the years. For many of the show’s attendees you could see that people’s personal style was as important an element as the cars themselves.
It’s also worth noting that a huge amount of thought was put into many of the car displays themselves, especially when it came to the clubs and crews.
Repping the Flying Grinders crew, this 1930 Model A pickup was my favourite of the traditionally styled rods from Elmia.
Another future feature car methinks!
I also had to take a moment to admire the purity of Metallica guitarist James Hetfield’s Lincoln Zephr. It was dubbed as one of the stars of the show, having been shipped in from the US especially for the occasion.
While I’m not sure if we could source this car for a feature shoot (what do you say Keith Charvonia?), I have to say that this is one of the most beautiful customs I’ve ever seen in the flesh.
Just look at those lines! Even if you aren’t a custom car fan, I’m sure you can appreciate this display of design mastery.
I was also digging this Bellflower-style Olds Cutlass. This is one of those builds which bridges the gap between lowrider and custom; a style that feels quite ‘now’. I’ll see if I can’t get in contact with the owner of this car for a feature.
A hot rod with a bit of dish? Hell yes. I took a moment to check out this very cool rat-styled machine, but I soon found myself distracted again as I was drawn to the other side of the Larsson Customs booth…
… to oogle this monstrosity. It’s a Volvo Amazon that’s been transformed into something between a Gasser, Altered and a Rat Fink cartoon.
Look at the size of that engine! In chatting to the builder, Henrik Larsson, the build started out with the purchase of a complete 1950s vintage drag Hemi.
The rest of the build was simply created around it for maximum dramatic effect.
There are details aplenty here, including obvious metal decay, but presented without any sign of oxidization. That’s a new way to show ‘ratness’ without resorting to rusted surfaces.
Never fear – a shoot has been booked and plans are being made to feature this car as soon as possible.
So that’s it for me, with this quick, and definitely unhinged, toe-in-the-water dip into Swedish car culture. It’s been great to see that my local car scene is not only healthy but also exploring new ground, just like the country’s reputation for international creativity and design. We’ll definitely extend our coverage of the show for 2014, but at the very least we now have a bulging collection of wild feature cars to track down. Now I need to go for a lie-down.