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November Rain: 1983 Austin Mini-Metro

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Here in rainy old Finland, seeing an Austin Metro makes you do a double-take and hit the brakes. At least that’s what happened to me, when I spotted this henna red hatchback parked next to a warehouse in my town. It’s not a common car, but more of an unicorn, as they were barely imported here. I think Suomen Autoteollisuus Oy (Finnish Automotive Industry) dipped their toe in the water and brought some Metros over in 1983-1984, but in the end they decided not to go through with it. We’re talking a handful of cars, and by now there cannot simply be too many left from the original ones. The car is so old, that running the plates notes it as a “Mini-Metro”, like the initial nomenclature was.

I originally saw this car on my street a couple years ago, and I talked to the owner then. Somehow the Metro looked to be in a bit sadder state now.

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Weekend Edition: A look at Eastern Europe, 1985-1989

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This Sunday is Father’s Day here in Finland. It seems fitting to contribute an article consisting of photographs taken by my dad way back in the mid-to-late 1980s, as he travelled to East Berlin, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and so on, with a group of other Finnish teachers. I got this stack of travel photos from him last weekend, and we leafed through them.

I cannot provide a point-to-point narrative for them, as some of them are out of sequence by now and even the chronological order is sketchy at best, but what they do is provide a look into countries that do not even exist anymore. After these photos were taken, Eastern Europe faced years of change never even thought possible, and even the next five years were a tumultuous time for those countries. Germany, separated for decades, became whole again and these street scenes captured from a tour bus would never be the same. Trabants, Wartburgs, Skodas fill the parking lots, almost the only bright spots in towns and cities consisting of grey and brown, the early wintertime having stripped the trees of leaves and the ageing photographs exaggerating the muted colour palette.

The Berlin shots are from December 1985, and the Hungarian scenes have been taken as late as 1989. Everything here falls in that time period beginning 30 years ago, as my dad was roughly the same age as I am now.

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BTTF II Weekend Edition: Down on the Hill Valley Street

Antti Kautonen October 25, 2015 Weekend Edition

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In addition to the concept cars, Back to the Future II featured a lot of regular everyday cars dressed up for the movie, as well as proper proppy props that were designed just to do their thing for five seconds and not much more. This post handles both.

The first one is the Foxbody droptop Mustang that has a similar retro-fitted hover car setup as Biff’s BMW 6-series choptop. It’s a 1987-1989 Mustang GT, and it has to be said current ’80s Mustangs are definitely lacking in the enormous rear spoiler department. Probably because they are grounded to the ground.

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BTTF II Weekend Edition: The Pontiac Pursuit Concept

Antti Kautonen October 25, 2015 Weekend Edition

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Another General Motors concept that can be seen down on a 2015 Hill Valley street is the Pontiac Pursuit from 1987. Unlike the Chevrolet Express, it’s not a gas turbine vehicle, but it still looks kind of trippy inside.

The Pursuit, its computer mouse styling aside, was quite believable in terms of tech, as it had a turbocharged 200-horsepower four banger up front. Sounds like a very 2015 engine.

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BTTF II Weekend Edition: The Chevrolet Express Concept

Antti Kautonen October 25, 2015 Weekend Edition

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In addition to the Saab EV-1, one of the more swoopy 1980s concept cars featured in Back to the Future II was the Chevrolet Express. Now, the Express name is more eagerly connected to the age-old Chevy vans, but the 1987 concept car was something else entirely.

Its wheels completely faired-in, and the taillight assembly circling the afterburner-like rear, the Express was what could be expected of 2015 sports cars.

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BTTF II Weekend Edition: The Saab EV-1 Concept

Antti Kautonen October 25, 2015 Weekend Edition

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The weekend posts from me will focus on the cars you could see in the background, watching Back to the Future II’s Courthouse Square scenes set in 2015. The filmmakers used contemporary concept cars along with dressing swoopy everyday cars to look more futuristic, and I’d say the result was somewhat believable.

The first one to go is the Saab EV-1 concept, which obviously would have been a popular car in 2015, had the company not gone under years earlier. Right?

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Back to the Present: On October 21st, 2015, 4:29 PM PST

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The minute this post goes live is the exact time the DeLorean DMC-12 converted to a time machine by E. Brown Industries comes into our time from 1985. Or to be more precise, the alternative timeline where everything is a pastel-coloured futuristic version of 1989/1990. I kinda like that idea.

Today’s been jammed full of everything Back to the Future related, and it sort of feels like a New Year’s celebration in October. It’s funny to think that in a way I’ve been waiting for this date for as long as I can remember, from the first time I saw the film on VHS after it was shown on Finnish television in the mid-1990s. I have been fascinated with DeLoreans ever since, and it’s likely that my hobbies, my career and my entire life have been steered into this exact direction after being so enormously inundated by 1980s nostalgia. I haven’t become that guy who fills his apartment with eBay movie memorabilia, but I do have a DeLorean brochure on a shelf somewhere.

The thought that has been with me the whole day is that if the kid I was at the time of seeing the film came here to visit me in 2015, would he like what he sees? Is this the future I thought it would be?

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Volga Weekend Edition: The 1956-1970 GAZ M-21

Antti Kautonen October 18, 2015 Weekend Edition

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Instead of dedicating an article to the Volga Siber, which is most likely the most modern Volga there is – because that is a Russian-built Chrysler Sebring with Volga badging – I’ll rather go right back to the start and show the first Volga there was, the M-21 series. It’s a lovely, rounded 1950s design and on the lead image you can see all three versions of the 21: the first, “Star” series, the second “Shark” series, and the third, “Baleen” series. All the nicknames come from the way the radiator grilles were designed, as they differed a little from each other.

There was also a wagon variant, which was referred to as the “Shed”. If there had been a wagon version of the Siber, it would probably have been called the “Shedbring”.

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Volga Weekend Edition: The 1998-2004 GAZ-3111

Antti Kautonen October 18, 2015 Weekend Edition

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The absolute weirdest-looking Volga saloon was the 1998 3111, which is almost science fiction -like in its appearance. It’s bulbous, it’s heavy-looking, it’s vulgar, it’s grotesque, it’s everything the GAZ-24 wasn’t.

The idea is for it to appear somewhat similar in detailing, but the 3111 looks like it’s been blown up at the factory and then painted and fitted with wheels.

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Volga Weekend Edition: The 1992-1996 GAZ-3105

Antti Kautonen October 18, 2015 Weekend Edition

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Now that the production cars are out of the way, we can get into wacky, wacky prototypes and small series cars. GAZ didn’t necessarily plan to just keep building the same car over and over again, as there were ideas and developments to do more with design and amenities. And as the Chaika was buried in history, there was a real need for a modern Russian luxury car in the mid-1990s.

Here’s what the short-lived 3105 series looked like. It’s not too far removed from what the Western carmakers were doing, even if the dimensions aren’t quite there.

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