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.
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.
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.