I’m here in the home of Volvo, Göteborg, Sweden, to find out what the hell the big secret is behind that new global car brand, Lynk&Co. I did make a bit of time today to do my usual new-city routine: wander around, get very lost, pee on something, sob, and see what the carscape of this lovely old city is like. Mostly, it’s recent Volvo wagons. It’s like the parking lot of an NPR pledge drive out here.
I’ll admit, it’s not really the most exciting carscape I’ve ever encountered. I saw almost no classic or vintage cars being used as daily drivers, and the good people of Sweden’s second largest city seem to have the same aversion to color that Americans do. Even so, it was still interesting to me because Götenborg has all sorts of Euro-market cars that we never see in the U.S. So, if you’re from Europe, these likely will be no big thing for you, but for us Americans – well, specifically, geeky car-loving Americans – there’s interesting stuff here.
So, as always, you, yes you, my fuzzy, noble readers, were with me on this little car-tour of the city. Well, of a two-mile-or-so diameter circle of the city. Let’s see what I saw!
First, I want to be clear that the airport got my hopes up, because I saw these shirts in a gift shop when I landed. Vintage Volvos and Saabs! I thought for sure Götenborg, home of Volvo, would be crammed full of mint P1800s and PV544s and Duetts, with young, fresh-faced blond people hanging out of the windows, tossing meatballs into their mouths and yelling at one another with loud, bold umlauts while gently tickling each other with Allen wrenches. That wasn’t really the case, and, in hindsight, perhaps I was stereotyping things a bit.
Okay, I lied. I am going to show some Volvos in here, just not the innumerable V40 and V60 wagons. This 1969 Volvo 164 was by the baggage claim at the airport, and it’s just too handsome not to include. For all the restrained boxiness, those early 164s had a front that was sort of like British car design filtered through a screen of Bauhaus math. It’s very satisfying.
I just want to show this one because I believe that’s one of those Pep Boys-type stick-on vents. I had always thought stick-on-vent madness was a uniquely American issue. Looks like I was wrong.
Now that Alfa has officially come back to America, how about getting some of these great looking wagons over in the U.S.? I know FCA will argue that the market is too small to justify federalizing the car or whatever, but if I wanted to hear that kind of rational bullshit, I would have talked to a Certified Public Rationalizer. These are great-looking wagons, and I want Americans to buy them. So there.
Audi, why do you deny America your two-tone delights? This little Audi A1 is so crisp and taught looking, and I think the two-tone look is half the reason why.
We’ve never had any BMWs in America that had a face like this. I really like it, personally– the multiple round, flat-topped lights set into the body-colored front reminds me a bit of the old BMW 2000 CS, in a way. These were interesting BMWs, officially known as the 3 Series Compact. They were a little hatchback version of a BMW3, first based on the E36 platform (which we got in the US, with a more normal face), then the E46 like this one here, from 2000-2004. I never really knew about these!
This was the oldest car I saw in regular use: a 1987 or maybe ‘88 Porsche 944. Some paint chips, but overall in decent shape. I was really delighted to see it, and if, by chance, the owner happens to see this, let me just say congratulations, pal! In a city where hardly anyone seems to drive anything over 15 years old or so, you’re doing it right.
Sure, we have these Maseratis in the US, but they really are striking looking. Hey, I never noticed that they have three little vents in the side, just like a Buick! If I get one, remind me to re-badge it as a LeSabre Sport.
Is anybody as good with Avant-Garde-looking hatchbacks as Renault? I don’t think so. Look at the lines of this thing – crisp, origami-ish, and absolutely unlike anybody else. There’s even a bit of reverse-rake to that rear glass, I think. I love that. Reverse-raked rear-window cars are wonderful, rare things. Let’s name some: ‘50s Mercury and Lincolns, Citroën Ami, Ford Anglia, Toyota Will Vi, and, there’s not many more.
Holy shit– I was genuinely excited to see this. It’s a Citroën C3 Pluriel, and it’s one of my favorite car design ideas ever. The Pluriel wasn’t just some hatchback with an alternately-covered roof. That roof was like a Swiss Army Roof: it could open like a huge canvas sunroof, it could open all the way back into the rear window, it could drop away entirely into the trunk, you could remove both roof rails entirely to make a totally open car, you could flatten everything in back and make a kind of little truck– it’s the best kind of utilitarian madness.
Here, you can see some of what this thing could do in this instructional video. Take notes! Damn, I want one of these.
I think the last-gen Euro-market Civic was a fantastic design. Much more innovative and bold than what we got stuck with in the U.S. This feels like a little space pod, with an interesting triangular design theme and detailing that seemed to reference nothing before it, yet managed to still feel like what your idea of a Civic would be. It’s great.
If you know anyone who bought a big-ass SUV because it snows once or twice a year where they live, I want you to show them this picture. This is a Toyota Yaris with big, studded tires. I bet this little shitbox gets through snow and ice and cold slimes of all sorts that would leave most Yukon drivers calling in sick to work. This Yaris on studs is calling those SUVs candy-asses all the way from Sweden.
You know who’s not afraid of color? Peugeot. Peugeot is not afraid of color.
Skoda Yeti! Great name, great look, great color, great car. They should badge this as a VW Sasquatch and bring it to us Americans, already.
Oh, hot damn. Now we’re talking. This is something we absolutely do not get in America-land: a quadricycle. For those of you not down with the arcana of EU motor laws, the quadricycle class of cars are small, limited speed city cars that only require a moped license to drive. They’re sort of the modern equivalent of those French sans-permis cars.
This particular one is an Axiam, my favorite brand of these, because Axiam once made a supercar called the Mega-Track:
These Axiams look remarkably like stylish ‘real’ cars like the Opel Adam or the Fiat 500. They’re limited to 20 HP, I believe, and they’re more expensive than you’d think, but if you can’t get an actual driving license, they’re pretty damn close to a full-on car.
This one even has some rakish stripes! Fantastic.
The roof reminds me a lot of the Mini Coupé, and I think that orange triangle is probably a legal requirement. I bet the owner hates that thing.
I’m not sure if it’s the color skewing my judgement, but that is one striking and handsome-looking Iveco delivery van, right? That’s a good-looking van.
This is one of the main reasons why I never get invited to focus groups, but I really like this version of the Yaris! It’s called the Yaris Verso, and it’s a tall, wagon/van version of the Yaris. Proportionally, it’s like an upsized Kei car. It seems too freaking useful it makes me want to haul a bunch of awkward items like harps and sundials all the fuck over the place.
Dacia Duster! I think a bargain-basement-priced small SUV that looks as good as this could actually be viable in the U.S. Plus, Americans already equate Romania with quality cars, right? Right?
I forgot the last version of the Mercury Cougar was sold in Europe, as the Ford Cougar. It’s an oddly attractive car, I think. I just wanted to focus on the interesting way they met Euro amber-rear-indicator standards here. Look at that big multicolored sphere. It sort of looks like a Pokeball jammed in there.
I’ve never seen a handicapped spot indicated via a mosaic of cobblestones before.
These were the only Beetles I’ve seen so far.
I like that their streetcars tell you the way they’re feeling, emotionally. I’ll wait for the next one.
There you go– you’ve just undertaken a magical voyage with me! A magical voyage of mostly pretty common cars, and lots of people wondering who the idiot is taking pictures of Yaris tires. Maybe we should set up tours like this– come to a new city with me, and we’ll spend all day leering at people’s cars! Then we’ll go get drunk.