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Notes From the Finnish Line

Antti Kautonen October 17, 2011 Finnish Line 40 Comments

A Finnish contributor joins the Hooniverse ranks, armed with a double team of Japanese metal.

 

Hey. This is apparently the bit where I introduce myself and vaguely sketch out my mindset; just so you know where I’m coming from. I’m Antti, I’m 26 and I’m a Finnish contributor to Hooniverse as of now.
A web/graphic designer by day, a car freak by any given free time, I habitually trawl used car websites, trying to hit friends up with screaming deals; it is not often that they appreciate me trying to hook them up with a Peugeot 505 when all they really need is a Passat. But what can a Passat do that a spotless 505 can’t?

 

My 1990 Sapporo. You can almost cut your finger on the sharp edges.

 

I also like to keep my eye out for something that stands above the endless Finnish parking lots full of Toyota Corollas, Volvo V70:s and Skoda Octavias. My choice of daily driver comes from one of those finds; some years ago I spotted this 1990 Mitsubishi Sapporo advertised for sale. Like those dodgy XXX knock-offs of blockbuster films, the Sapporo was pretty much a porn-tastic edition of the humble E15 Galant of the mid-’80s. With frameless windows and an overload of soft, blue velour, it also benefitted from the addition of absolutely every option Mitsubishi could find. Mine is a manual version, though; the automatic models came with ECS adjustable suspension, which has no chance of working after 20-odd years. The US version of the Sapporo, the Galant Sigma, had the 3.0 V6 under the bonnet. Sapporos had to do with the 2351cc 8-valve 4G64 inline four.

 

Looking square-jawed even next to a Challenger.

 

An unseasonably warm midsummer day.

 

The Sapporo in question had done something to the tune of 90 000 km and the seller asked three-four times what I ended up paying for it a couple of years after I first noticed it. In that time it had only done 20 000 km more in the hands of a couple of Mitsu guys; I found some repairs and fixes done and reported by them at the Finnish Mitsu forum. The car, as it stood in January, was straight and came with a good service history, but both sets of tires were useless, it ran a bit rough and it needed the A/C serviced. It also leaked oil so much it wouldn’t actually need oil changes as much as pouring new oil in; over one 8000km period I poured in five litres of Valvoline MaxLife. The rockers also had been slightly bitten by rust, even if it had spent most winters wrapped up snugly under a car cover.

So, nine months later it has flawless rockers with all rust sandblasted to hell, new belts and seals in the engine, the automatic aircon blows cold like it did new and it runs beautifully due to having correctly-timed balancer shafts. Right now, a CV joint is on its way out, an exhaust gasket blows and the windshield is still split along the bottom, but in the 20 000 kms I’ve done with it it’s proved itself to be a solid, comfortable car with no other just like it in the country. It also did an exhausting trip to Copenhagen and back in the summer, without missing a beat.

 My Sapporo also benefits from the addition of EA97 Galant turbine-style wheels and a modern CD player (which clashes terribly with the dashboard design. Anybody got a period-correct Nakamichi stereo hanging around?).

 

My Mazda: likes being polished, hates wet racetracks.

 

What used to be my daily driver has been turned into a project car; my near-flawless 1991 Mazda 323F ended up in a tire wall last month at a FinalGear forum meet. That’ll teach me to drive on a race track in pouring rain; that’ll also probably teach me how to swap two doors and a fender. Luckily, the car itself shouldn’t be too bent to not make it back on the street in good time. A one-owner car before I got it with 94k km:s on the clock in 2009, I’ve been extremely kind to it, washing and polishing it at every convenient hour. It’s given me zero trouble in the 55k kms I’ve had it, and it pains me I had to give it trouble.

The 323F sort of positioned itself as a watered-down, FWD Miata when it hit the streets; it also has a dose of Porsche 924 about it. While the slim-sided starter Porsche isn’t everybody’s idea of a cracking sports car, applying the same styling cues to a hatchback Mazda wasn’t a bad idea. And like every Eighties child knows, pop-up headlights make every single car at least 97% more awesome.

 The 1,6-litre 16-valve SOHC engine isn’t as gutsy as the comparable DOHC edition of the B6 engine in the Miata, but since the 323F weighs something in the ballpark of 1000kg, it’s peppy enough to get out of its way. And the light weight makes it a hoot on a twisty forest road.

 

Hey, that's me in the picture.

 

Between cleaning the Sapporo’s airvents with a brush and misering over the caved-in Mazda, I like to leaf through old music magazines and gather new old music. I’m also a good coffee advocate, having drank so much badly-brewed stale coffee in endless meetings that me and my AeroPress are now inseparable.

With Hooniverse, I hope to provide fresh content about this corner of the Baltic sea coastline. For some inexplicable reason, there’s even a considerable amount of American metal having been shipped over here; let me get my camera out and see what I can find. There’s good stuff coming up, and that’s not just the coffee.

Photos by author & Mika Suhonen & Joose Puustinen

 

  • Manic_King

    Hyvä homma! Tervetuloa, Antti

  • Scandinavian Flick

    Welcome, guy whose name pronunciation I would probably slaughter if I tried to pronounce it in person! (I'm American… I think it's a cultural obligation…) I look forward to your perspective and seeing what you bring to the site!

    • TurboBrick

      Funny thing, native Spanish speakers do pretty well with Finnish names. Just pretend he's South American, and if you come across any J's pronounce them as Y's and you'll be fine.

  • Vavon

    Welcome on Hooniverse! I hope you bring us a lot of "sisu"!

    Great to see those weird opening Sapporo windows again, I remeber that detail from when I was a Kid!

  • tonyola

    Welcome! Sadly, we never saw that 323F here in the US, though our version of the 323 (called Protege beginning in 1990) was a quite good car, almost a match for the class-leading Civic. If only it had that racy-looking hidden-headlight styling. What you call the Sapporo was sold here as the Sigma. The US-market Sapporo was a Mitsubishi coupe sold in the late 1970s and early 1980s under the Plymouth name.
    <img src="http://www.msapporo.com/Plymouth/Plymouth.jpg&quot; width=500>

    • Manic_King

      Next 323F was even more funky….yes, bloated if compared to the one above, but styling was just so different from main competitors in VW Golf class, And it was available as V6.

      <img src="http://img140.imageshack.us/img140/6829/71171614he9.jpg&quot; width="555">

    • dukeisduke

      And the Dodge version was the Challenger. I can remember going to the local dealers with a friend who wanted one or the other. He bought neither, and ended up in a '78 Cutlass Supreme, which later got t-boned by a city bus (Ow!).

  • Welcome to the fray, we shall be requiring more posts on the Mazda please….

    Hooniverse is all growing up and stuff.

  • Always liked those Sapporros, but I've suddenly realised how much they look like the Renault 21 saloon / Eagle Medallion in silhouette.

    Welcome, Antti.

  • OA5599

    <img src="http://hooniverse.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/191631_720.jpg&quot; width=500>

    You do realize that not all of Europe is RHD, right?

    Anyway, welcome aboard.

    • vwminispeedster

      someone stole his steering wheel!!

    • julkinen

      That photo is after the visit to the rainy racetrack. There is a reason I'm going in via the passenger side. 🙂 -Antti

  • smokyburnout

    Were the Sapporo and Challenger photographed together intentionally?
    <img src="http://www.allmotormanuals.com/media/catalog/product/cache/1/image/275x/9df78eab33525d08d6e5fb8d27136e95/H/3/H30012_3.jpg"/&gt;
    [youtube T28NxWtTeEM http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T28NxWtTeEM youtube]
    Badge-engineered cars marketed together. Ballsy!

    IMG from AllMotorManuals

    • johnf1979

      It's the special 11.9% financing that sold me.

  • Lastsoul

    Yay, red pop-up Mazdas ftw! 🙂

  • mudmonster

    Now I really want a Gallant Sigma after reading…

    Welcome Antti

  • dukeisduke

    Is rust an issue in Finland?

    • pj134

      Isn't rust an issue anywhere that has a climate?

      • Scandinavian Flick

        Define: "climate"

        • pj134

          Place with weather.

          • Scandinavian Flick

            Define "weather"

            • pj134

              A thing that changes near daily and includes, but is not limited to, heat, cold, precipitation and wind.

              • Scandinavian Flick

                We kinda get those. We has no rust problems.

                • pj134

                  No… you live in a constant fog.

    • julkinen

      Finnish roads are heavily salted in wintertime, though it's less severe the farther north you get.

  • Welcome! Does this mean we'll finally get some coverage of the Saab-Lancia 600? After all, they were sold near Finland.

    • julkinen

      I think I saw one being advertised around three-four years ago. It's about as rare here as the Geo Prizm.

    • Manic_King

      I had Lancia Prisma once for nearly a year or so. Basically same as Saab-Lancia, only in sedan form. Just awful. After new front shocks handling was sublime but all the other things…they just kept breaking, unbelievable what parts, eg door handles which had some gear type parts inside which were made of really soft plastic so when you didn't pay attention and pulled the wrong way (too fast), they lost teeth and you couldn't open that door from outside anymore. I think I bought 5-7 door handles during the ownership of that car. Electric problems, heater worries during winter, gear lever linkage problems, you name it.
      Lancia Delta Integrale is very cool car but every time I see one I remember that it has same door handles and same interior quality with cheap plastic, ugly and brittle feeling stalks and buttons and probably long list of things which will break in very short time.

  • So where's the part where we find out you're great at Rally Stage races, Karting and Formula One? I mean, that stuff comes automatically with being Finnish, right?

  • TurboBrick

    Terve! Resident Finn-expatriate here… Those 323F's were hot cars way back then, and the flip up headlights were a really attention getting detail in a sea of gray Corollas and green Sunnys. I can think of tons of good topics to write about over there. Go shoot some picture of a summer time cruise night in Helsinki next year. I like to think of Finland and Sweden as a "retirement colony" for old Detroit Iron where even a lowly Caprice will be taken care of, instead of getting beat to death as a ghetto hooptie.

    • FuzzyPlushroom

      I love that Sweden and Finland cherish our old cars, given that I have the same reaction to old Volvos. I know you understand.

  • Armand4

    "But what can a Passat do that a spotless 505 can’t?"

    I like this guy already. I dig the Sapporo, too.

    • FЯeeMan

      When you've been driving a minivan, and have too much on your plate to wrench on a 505, there's a lot a Passat can do!

  • SSurfer321

    Welcome to the Hive!

  • FuzzyPlushroom

    Howdy. I've got a couple of rear-drive Volvos, dated a half-Finnish guy for a while, and am hardly opposed to alcohol, so I expect I'll enjoy your writing wholeheartedly!