Motorsport fans in Europe are a different breed to those in the United States.
A couple of weeks before the Swedish round of the FIA World Rallycross Championship, I had a lot of fun infiltrating the endless stretch of campsites at the Nürburgring 24 Hour. After this experience I had to come to terms with the fact that America has nothing like these venues, fans, or atmosphere. NASCAR might come closest, but I digress.
It’s just a different environment across the Atlantic, and people seem to care a great deal more about racing. I didn’t think I would see another spectacle like that until next year’s N24, but weeks later I found myself in Europe again and our friends at BILSTEIN told Ben and me that we needed to check out Happy Street at World RX Höljes.
Covering a much smaller area than the camps at the wide-stretching Nürburgring, the rallycross fans here in Sweden made up for it by cramming in significantly more chaos per square meter, which is really saying something.
Once again, my mind was blown.
The drive into the venue featured a surprising number of muscle cars out on the road, driving the opposite direction. There had to be some sort of Ford or Mustang-themed show going on, but I was impressed to see so many American classics cars driving around on a random Friday afternoon on the other side of the planet.
Upon arriving at the Höljes circuit and making our way to Happy Street, I learned that Scandinavians have a deep love for Americana.
Hundreds of old muscle cars were strewn across Happy Street. I know the gut reaction might be to cry out that most of these cars have been destroyed, but I’d wager they were in fact saved from fields and junkyards by the mostly young camp-goers who attended the race.
Wading through a dense sea of fans and survivors from the golden age of the American automobile, I found that the Nordic people might be more American than Americans.
Regardless of the condition of the cars, their owners definitely have an appreciation for them. It was really cool to see, especially because classic American car enthusiasts were the last thing I expected to find at a World RX event in Sweden.
As we entered the actual campsites it just got more intense.
It was actually hilarious to see a lifted Dodge out in the forest, but it got even better when a man suddenly peeked over from the bed wearing a soldier’s helmet.
The more time I spent taking it in, the more clear it became that these cars represent something more to the Swedes (and others) who drove in with the old beaters.
Like the original hot rods and hot rodders in the States — who were associated with greasy hands and hairdos, controversial music (also known as rock ‘n’ roll), and driving loud and fast — this generation of Scandinavians is embracing the rebellious lifestyle that comes with these cars.
Outside the campsites things were quite nice, neat, and orderly, so it makes sense than these American icons might be a symbol for going against the grain. Maybe I’m reaching, or maybe there’s a lot more to unpack here, but either way it’s just cool to see a bunch of banged-up and patina-covered American land yachts getting love in a remote forest in Sweden.The European Contingency
Of course, this wouldn’t be Sweden without a giant mass of Volvos. But as with the American cars, I just didn’t expect their owners to be so crazy.
I mean really, really crazy…
It’s as if these cars in Sweden are the equivalent of a rusted-out Ford pickup in the States.
There was a load of cool stuff that I saw that we never got in the US, or at least there just aren’t many left. These campsites are a really weird microcosm of Swedish car culture, and I would’ve loved to have time to explore outside Höljes a bit.
But as far as bang for buck goes, I don’t think anywhere within 500 miles could have had such a dense population of interesting cars and interesting things going on — and that’s ignoring the actual race itself.
Speaking of bang for buck, this lad (the one in disbelief over Speedhunters’ 1.7M followers on Instagram) purchased his trailer for the weekend for 10 euros.
We walked a good two or three miles into the maze of campsites and saw a good bit of everything: custom camper paintwork, semi trucks (excuse me, lorries), dogs constructed of trash, and a quintuple-decker hamburger.
I told you the Swedes do America better than Americans.
But all good things must come to an end, and eventually we left the danger zone and ventured back to the track.The Road Home
A day later we found ourselves on the three-hour drive from Höljes to the Oslo airport (which is actually 50 kilometers from Oslo, Norway). Of course, we got stuck behind a caravanner.
Only, we weren’t actually stuck behind him. In fact, Henrik Skjerve actually passed us in his 2.4L turbo diesel-swapped Volvo at one point. We were able to eventually flag him down thanks to the fact that (somehow) Sara follows him on Instagram and we sent him a DM on the road, to which he replied: “Just take rolling picktures? :)”
In the end he pulled over with us for a chat and another pair of travelers he was road-tripping with stopped as well. Henrik told us he picked up the wagon as a winter beater, but once he started having some drivetrain troubles he did the only sensible thing and transplanted a six-cylinder D24TIC into it. Little did I know, this is actually a pretty popular thing to do.
The Volvo is now just too useful to leave sitting around, and Höljes RX was the perfect occasion to take the wagon out for a drive and use its newfound towing capability.
The rest of our journey back to Norway was beautiful, but uneventful, and I finally had a chance to sit back and reflect on the insane racing I witnessed alongside the insane fans that showed up.
But I’ll never forget our chance encounter with Henrik rolling coal on a highway from Sweden into Norway, towing a camper he picked up for who knows how cheap.
Europe, what a place to be a fan of motorsports.