A Picture for Sunday: An American in Sweden

A recent tour in the country between Gothenburg and Trollhättan, reminded me how much Sweden there is the NE of the US but also how easily American cars sit in the Swedish landscape.

1962 Buick Electra 225 hardtop coupe
1962 Buick Electra 225 hardtop coupe

The photo shows a Buick Electra 225 two door, four-window hardtop coupe (the 1961-1964 body). It also shows a 2005-2014 Saab 9-3 estate.  The image captures two enthusiasms of the Swedes: their own cars and the cars of the US.

Having driven in the relatively mild landscape around south-central Sweden I can see from where Volvos and Saabs drew their character. The Volvos focus on coping with the hazards of the winding roads and tricky weather conditions. The Saabs – early ones more than later ones – focus on safety too but also the pleasure of driving the very same roads. Saabs were always more sporting than the offerings from Volvo. What’s the Buick doing there?

The presence of the Buick can be read as a counter-reaction to the conformity of Swedish society (more so in the past than today). In the late 19th century, up to the 1930, 1.3 million Swedes left for the US. They brought something of their culture with them. And in response, Swedish leaders responded by deliberately importing aspects of the US that were attracting the emigrants: better employment prospects, improved education, better housing and universal male suffrage. Sweden ended up more social democratic than the US which has many good points but also leads to a general level of sameness that some might find stifling. An easy way to resist is to have a car utterly unlike Volvos and Saabs yet which can fit into the local conditions. And that is what the Buick does.

1962 Buick Electra 225 four window, two-door hard top
1962 Buick Electra 225 four-window, two-door hard top

The Buick above was 5.6 metres long (and doesn’t look it), weighed 2.1 tonnes (I had to check that, it’s true), had a 242 kW motor of 6.6 litres capacity but only a 76 litre fuel tank. You can read more about the Buick Electra 225 here.  The part that astonished me was that Buick had five versions of the Electra: this one plus a 4-door/6 window saloon, a two door convertible, a 4-door/six-window hardtop and a 4-door/four-window hardtop.

I like the detail that the cloth was “Calais” cloth. The reference to the French town is not based on the appearance of the cloth or any fabric production in the region. It is one of GM’s imaginative naming tropes.

Here is another look at the Bentley that can be made out in the top right of the second photo.

bentley
Photo: Niels Moesgaard Jörgensen

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

15 thoughts on “A Picture for Sunday: An American in Sweden”

  1. According to car.info, this beautiful electra has been imported to Sweden last year. It looks like a genuine low milage car in good condition, – but in urgent need of more air in the rear tyre…

    I wonder what the gray limo in the upper right corner of the second picture is? It looks british.

  2. Expanding the picture reveals an S series Bentley in the upper right corner probably with an extended body as its not standard.

  3. It is indeed a Bentley, although I dont think it was extended. I have a photo of it, but I’m not sure how to add it here.
    American cars are all over Sweden, the car hobby is diverse and there are everything from people driving wrecks to immaculate examples that look like they just left the factory.

    1. The Mk.VI front wings/fenders always curved or dipped downwards and the bonnet was higher in relation whereas the S series wings curved upwards in their downward progression to the sill. They were also higher in their relation to the bonnet compared to the Mk VI.
      Have previously owned a Mk VI
      and have always favored its design over the later models but a picture of the car in question would help in solving the question.

  4. Not a fan of black cars, nor of saloons, nor of 5 spoke alloys, but that Electra is lush. Did they offer it as an estate as well? The Saab is simply horrible.

  5. A Mulliner body, but for me it’s hard to tell whether it’s a later Mark VI or an earlier R Type.

    Do you just stand on any street corner in Denmark and snap these interesting cars, Richard?

  6. Instructive that the two cars should be sat side by side. The Buick appears almost impossibly decadent next to the austere Saab. What we have gained in fit and finish, we have lost in material richness.

    1. Nobody’s mentioned that Saab was under temporary occupation by GM for 20 years, and the second-last new Saab to go on sale was a Buick Rainier with a thin veneer of imagined Saab-ness, the last shared its platform with the Buick LaCrosse.

      Both are oddly appealing, the 9-7X more so. If you’re going to commit heresy, might as well do it with a 390bhp LS2 V8.

    1. So it’s a Mark VI. I’d also point out to Richard that, according to the bit of blurb I posted above “the upholstered armrest conceals a cigarette box”.

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