Vintage American Muscle Thrives in Modern-day Sweden
What first springs to mind when you think of Sweden? Meatballs, vodka, black metal, Bergman films, modernist design, polar-night-induced depression—Saab? Or maybe you’re more into Volvos, Husqvarnas, or Koenigseggs? With the exception of gothrock and a cultural tendency towards bleakness, I’m a fan of all these things, each in their own right cornerstones of modern Swedish convention. As a car-loving American, though, none of these wonderful things hold a candle to my favorite of all Norse values—their love of vintage American automobiles.
They call it “Raggare”, a lifestyle based around rockabilly, cheap beer, leather jackets, greased hair, and cubic inches—kind of a synonym for hooning, but with strong a strong whiff of The Fonz.
Contrary to the rest of Europe, much of Scandinavia is sparsely populated, particularly the areas approaching the arctic north, and to a slightly lesser degree, places removed from a large urban center. Many of the roads in these areas are unpaved and arrow-straight, and the small villages found along them unequipped to service European cars conventionally more sophisticated but less robust than their American counterparts. Add to this a tendency for Swedes to romantically view themselves as a kind of breed apart, as rugged, no-nonsense frontiersmen who value rural traditions, and it becomes quite easy to understand their predilection for vintage Americana.
And it’s not just the Arthur H. Fonzarelli clones who’re into this stuff. Far from some kind of cultural aberration or cult movement, by some estimates there are more restored 1950s American cars in Sweden than in America itself (Source)—this in a country with roughly 3% the population of ours. Additionally, with that figure growing each year by something like 5,000 cars, the Swede’s 21st-century taste for old V8 Detroit bruisers approaches 1970’s American appetites for ABBA records, the Swede’s 21st-century taste for old, V8 Detroit bruisers approaching 1970’s American appetites for ABBA records—an unfair trade policy if there ever was one.
The annual Mecca for bench seat and live axle loving Swedes takes place in Västerås, about 75 miles northeast of Stockholm. Billed as “The biggest and baddest American car show on the planet”, the Power Big Meet attracts over 20,000 cars every summer. All sub-genres are covered, from bone-stock cruisers and muscle cars to traditional hot rods, rat rods, pro-tourers, dragsters, fuelies, stock cars, and any others I’ve failed to recall, with machines of every era from the 1930s to modern day represented. This year’s event just ended last Saturday, and I can’t wait to see the forums explode with photos and videos of the event over the next few weeks.
There’s a huge list of places and events on my personal must-see-someday list, and although it lags a bit behind similarly automotive-themed holidays like Le Mans, the Belgian Grand Prix, and the Tokyo International Motor Show, the somewhat awkwardly/unintentionally hilariously named Swedish celebration of all things Motor City ranks pretty high up. The way I see it, I’ve got at least a decade to grow out a bitchin’ pompadour and cultivate a taste for filterless Luckies.