Have you ever seen small children drift, flip and hammer dents out of a DAF 66 sedan? Have you ever seen a bunch of BMW-swapped Volvos go toe-to-toe with a 1940s DeSoto and a BMW engine-swapped Toyota Supra on a giant frozen lake drift-course?
No? Okay, how about Swedes wrenching on a crap-ton of broken drivetrain parts in below-freezing weather? Multiple rocket cars ripping down two miles of frozen lake including one that was gunning for the world ice-speed record? A motorcycle with a saw-blade as a rear wheel?
If the answer is “no” to all of these, then you’re probably normal. Most of the people attending Speed Weekend on Ice in Sweden, however, were not.
(Full Disclosure: Volvo flew me to Sweden for the unveiling of the 2019 V60 and paid for my airfare and hotels. While I was there, I swung by this totally unrelated but awesome event. This is what I witnessed.)
The two-day event was held a couple hours north of Stockholm on top of Storsjön, the fifth largest lake in Sweden; it featured two drag strips shaped in a “V,” each disappearing as it stretched over two miles across the surface. Also carved out of the deep snow blanketing the lake was a race track (it’s off to the left in the image above), which was the location of some truly epic drifting.
I was out there for eight hours on a frozen lake in 20 degree weather with the wind blowing, and somehow I wasn’t cold. The cars, and the lunatics in them, warmed my heart.
The first vehicle I saw upon arriving at Speed Weekend was a Volvo P1800, which wasn’t sitting in a nice garage with a cover over its pristine paint, but instead mounted to a truck frame, plowing mounds of snow from the surface of the ice.
I had only been at the event for two minutes, but I knew then and there that things were going to get strange.
I found out early on that, despite the American expression saying otherwise, “the pits” was exactly where I wanted to be. For it is there where I found folks fixing up whatever they’d broken after their first few laps of drifting (the failures seemed to happen early in most cases). Check out the guy in the picture above wearing the left rear wheel-well of a Volvo 740 as a helmet.
He’s in there replacing his axle shaft, which broke off when he yanked the park brake while drifting. Here’s a look at the carnage:
Here’s another angle:
Also undergoing some repairs was this red Volvo 940 turbo sedan, jacked high in the air, with a rear axle sitting in the snow next to it.
Looking at the axle closely, it was clear what went wrong. One of the gears whose job it is to transfer power from the driveshaft to the wheels had blown to pieces and shot a hole into the differential cover.
Naturally, I asked the team if they wouldn’t mind opening the diff up, as I was curious to see the carnage within.
The team was also curious, so they popped the 10 bolts off, removed the cover, and revealed spider gears that had broken apart and banged around inside the differential, which became a disgusting mess of mangled steel.
Just look at those chewed up spider gears:
Here’s the hole in the cover from the inside:
Apparently the red sedan had hit a few bumps in the ice, and when landing, the shocks load to the differential blew up the spider gears, which the team had welded together to act as a “Lincoln Locker” for better traction. (“Lincoln” is a brand of welder. A “Lincoln Locker” is a cheap bastard’s way of turning an open differential that sends power to the wheel with the least traction into a “locked” differential that sends power to both wheels at all times. Because traction is good).
It turns out, that broken 940 belonged to a guy named Tomas Svensson, a test driver for Volvo who had spent much of his youth drifting on a lake near his house. Since the ice there hasn’t been getting thick enough lately, he and his family decided to drive up to Årsunda with two vehicles: the 940 (for which the team luckily had a spare axle—though they later found out second and third gears were also toast, and ultimately decided to park it after nearly impulse-buying another Volvo on the local “Craigslist,” called Blocket) and the beautiful Volvo 242 sedan in the picture above.
Tomas’s mom told me I absolutely had to let her son take me for a ride around the race course in his 242, which, it’s worth noting, wasn’t just your ordinary Volvo sedan. Just look at this:
Yes, that’s a BMW M60B30 V8 out of an E34 5 series shoved under the hood of the little boxy Volvo sedan. The German motor makes nearly three times as much power as the Volvo’s stock B20 motor (215 hp vs a measly 82), making this 242—which probably weighs somewhere around 3,000 pounds—feel downright quick. Perhaps just as important, that V8 makes makes the sound of angels as the Volvo drifts by, bouncing off the rev limiter.
But even that motor isn’t good enough for Tomas; he tells me he’s got a turbocharged BMW engine at home, waiting to be installed.
BMW engines were the most common swap I saw while at Speed Weekend (the small block Chevy was a close second). Just look at this Volvo PV64 with an M50B25 BMW inline-six, allegedly making 400 horsepower off of ethanol:
Now check out this 945 with a BMW M50 turbo:
That guy was absolutely tearing it up on the drift course:
Hell, there was even a Toyota Supra with a BMW engine swapped in. How does that make any sense? Wouldn’t the usual 2JZ be the logical motor, here?
Speaking of 2JZs, there was one in this Volvo 760 that was being towed around by a pickup.
Here’s a closer look
That BMW engine-swapped Supra was a monster on the drift course, too. But even its driver was no match for Tomas, who entered corners not just a little bit faster than I expected, but probably at three or four times the rate that I even thought was possible. How we didn’t crash is absolutely beyond me:
Actually, we did crash. Once.
Tomas came into one of the turns a bit too hot, and we slammed sideways into an icy snow-mound. But the Volvo’s thick Swedish steel held up well, and—after being towed out by a Suzuki Jimny—Tomas continued drifting like a madman.
That’s the beauty of racing on ice; with snow-mounds as the only barriers, drivers can push their limits hard to improve their skills without worry of getting their shit wrecked. And of all people out there pushing their boundaries, Tomas appeared to be the one pushing them the hardest, drifting on those studded WRC-spec tires at insane angles with incredible skill:
It’s probably important to address the other vehicles shown in the video above; yes, that is a 1979 Chevrolet Caprice Coupé:
And yes that is a 1948 DeSoto four-door with a “swamp cooler” AC unit sticking out of its rear window. In Sweden. Drifting.
And the DeSoto wasn’t even just out there to kick its tail out. Its driver even tore it up on the drag strip:
I’m not entirely sure what was under the hood of that thing, but it appears to be some sort of small block Chevy motor:
Also getting in some oppo were two kids in a DAF 66 (which later became the Volvo 66), a dutch car from the ’70s that sends all of its 60-ish measly horsepower through a belt-driven “Variomatic” CVT transmission, which was known to allow the car to drive as fast in reverse as in drive.
Here’s a look at that transmission from behind, with the two drive belts pointed out with arrows:
Behind the wheel of the mighty DAF 66 was a 13-year-old kid, though he was accompanied by an older chaperone. Who was 14.
Yes, as if the whole weekend couldn’t get any stranger, a 13 and a 14 year old kid drifted an obscure Dutch sedan around a frozen lake. And they even rolled it over!
Here’s another look at the damage:
Notice the missing windshield, and the dent in the top right edge of the windshield surround—a dent that the kids banged out with a hammer. Asked where their windshield went, one of the kids pointed to the vast, snow-covered frozen lake, and told me: “Out there, somewhere.”
Speaking of rollovers, things got pretty scary for Martin Kock, who took his Chevy NASCAR racer not just on the drag strip (see above), but also on the drift course.
After the accident, he told Tomas that his steering wheel had detached, apparently causing him to crashed into a mound, break his suspension, and wind up upside down submerged in ice-cold water. Luckily, he made it out without injury:
Here’s a look at the broken suspension bits:
Also at Speed Weekend was American drag racer Kurt Anderson and his “Artic Arrow,” which was gunning for an ice-speed world record on Saturday.
Here’s a look at the record attempt:
Sadly, Anderson wasn’t able to keep the vehicle on course; he wiped out into a snow bank, but walked out unscathed.
Speaking of jet-powered vehicles, this “pulse-jet scooter” ripped down the drag strip and nearly deafened me with its loudness. Just listen to how long its motor is still audible after it passes by:
That rocket “scooter” was far from the only fast or ridiculously loud vehicle tearing up the drag strip. Sitting on the start line were dozens of heavily-modified cars lined up to have a go, including this 1,200 horsepower, 200+ mph Opel Kadett, whose custom-built chassis houses a 408 cubic-inch supercharged GM smallblock V8. Here I am talking with its owner, Ola Andersson, who’s actually an Årsunda local:
Like the NASCAR Chevy, Ola also ended up finding a snow mound on the drift course, but luckily he didn’t flip:
I later spotted Ola removing his valve covers to let his engine ventilate, which is something I’ve never seen before (the milky look to the oil is apparently normal when using ethanol fuel, he told me):
The number of wacky vehicles out there was staggering. Check out this incredible Camaro with a giant blower sticking through the hood:
Here’s a shot of it on the icy drag-strip:
Apparently that big V8 was being fed from the bottle, as the team posed for this shot after the event:
Also: take a look at this incredible matte-black Volvo Amazon:
I found the owners in the pits working on a stalling issue with the turbocharged four-pot:
Speaking of old Volvos with giant, turbocharged four-cylinder engines, have a gander at this 142 with a boosted B20 engine:
Lord that turbo is enormous:
Most of the cars out there were older, and many of them were “aesthetically special” (i.e. built for speed, not looks), but there was a gorgeous green Porsche 997 Turbo in the mix:
I will say, the Porsche was incredibly quick on the drag strip:
Also, check out this Harley Davidson with a V8:
A closer look at that motor:
Here’s a custom motorcycle with a saw blade as the powered wheel!:
Oh, and there were boats! Check out this hydrocopter:
And of course, it also got to have a run on the drag strip:
There were also hovercrafts in attendance:
Speaking of strange vehicles on the drag strip, one gentleman was piloting a tiny, green sled powered by an electric motor spinning a rear-mounted propellor. It was actually way faster than I expected:
Here’s another look:
Between the drifting DeSoto, the kids in the DAF, the Volvo test driver who blew my mind with a test drive, the deafening rocket car, the world-record attempt, the boats, the hovercrafts, the BMW engine-swapped Supra and old Volvos, the lifted Volvo P1800, and all the carnage—the broken axle, grenade diff, and flipped NASCAR racer—the whole event was a display of pure, ethanol-fueled madness.
And my god, do I want to go again next year.