The Hunt for Magnificent Old-Timers in Sweden
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Sometimes there’s a reasonable price tag for classic cars hiding in Sweden’s barns — and often a good story.
Sweden is not only the country of thousands of red wooden houses, but also the land of many sheds and barns. Which makes it a paradise for vintage car enthusiasts: beautiful, well-preserved classics dwell there — if you know where to find them.
Sigvard Nyling’s yard is off the main road to Borlänge, a small town about a three-hour drive from Stockholm. His nephew, Lennart, wants to show us the old Opel that has been parked in his uncle’s barn since Lennart was a boy. After creaking open the barn door, the sun shines upon the rear of the 1958 Opel Rekord. Despite the layer of dust dulling the gray paint, the car is in great condition; it’s an untouched original — no comparison to the usual specimens found in Germany, most of which have been restored several times and in mediocre fashion. Inside, the Rekord P1 smells pleasantly old. The painted metal of the dashboard shines like new. The seats are firm. Behind the sun visor, there are papers from the time before the old Opel fell into its Sleeping Beauty-like slumber. But the owner doesn’t want to part with the fine car on the spot — if he ever does, he promises we’ll be the first people he contacts.
Starting at $1,900, he offers drivable classics, with rarities from all over Europe.
“Automotive rescue” is a worldwide phenomenon, says Tom Cotter, author of The Cobra in the Barn. “It’s the closest thing we can get to finding pirate’s treasure,” he says. Before reality TV shows spotlighted the practice, it was easier to make these deals, but now “everybody with a rusty old car in their backyard thinks they’re sitting on a gold mine,” he says.
Sweden boasts a large selection of German models such as Opel, Ford-Werke and Volkswagen, along with the Mercedes-Benz Ponton, fintail and 180 models. While well-preserved originals exist, there are also lemons — in so-called rockabilly style with dents and matte-black paint with brush marks. Some cars that look good at first glance are quite rusty underneath, like the seemingly swish Saab 99 in wonderful baby blue, with rusty patches that have only been glossed over. $3,800? No thanks.
Andreas Jaldebäck has been trading in a suburb of Malmö for almost 30 years now. His prices are reasonable. Starting at $1,900, Jaldebäck offers drivable, rare classics in his Bilmarknaden Abema office, with rarities from all over Europe: Fiats from the ’50s and ’60s, French models like the Renault R16, Peugeot 404 Coupés and station wagons in their original paint. The Swedish market also sometimes offers rare English specimens like a Wolseley 4/44 or a Ford Cortina Estate, all left-hand drives.
In Rättvick on the east bank of the Siljan lake, we find an even older Opel: a 1956 Olympia Rekord, slumbering between old American models. Hakan, the seller, trades in tools and garden machinery. The deal is quickly done, and the gray Opel in original paint, which the Swedes refer to as “Little Chevy,” is a real pearl.
What do the Swedes think when more and more classic car fans turn up from Germany and “buy up everything”? Stefan Johansson laughs, saying, “We look after everything here, and, of course, we are delighted to help like-minded people — even Germans and Norwegians.”
Home Page Photo: Thomas Geersing.