Combining the elegance of a parking lot ticket booth with the speed and sex appeal of a Hoveround, the Norsjö Shopper comes from us via Sweden, a European country known for its high rate of alcohol consumption as well as its periods of darkness where the sun isn’t seen for days at a time, which would explain both the Shopper as well as the drinking. In 1962, here’s what your enterprising Swedish city slicker could have gotten for his hard-earned krona: three wheels, one headlight, one 47cc Fichtel & Sachs moped engine, one wiper for the colossal windshield, one thin vinyl seat presumably stolen from a Soviet army truck, and a shallow, trapezoidal shaped shopping basket from where the Shopper gets its name. And that’s about it, really. Be lucky that it comes in a color. If it were any more minimalistic, its driver would be naked. The giant fiberglass canopy, which juts upward like a knife stuck in an especially uncooperative fruitcake, offers some wind protection for the motivated driver, and, well…that’s about it for the bodywork, folks! The entire thing swings outward to the left like the front door on an Isetta, threatening to tip the entire car over. “For the last time, it IS finished,” the chief engineer must have said to the rest of his staff, as they asked him again to finish drawing the rest of the car already. He clearly took a line from Raul Julia: what is behind is not important. There is, for example, nothing to save you from climbing over the backrest after a few shots of Koskenkorva Viina—makes you wonder why they bothered with that swinging canopy in the first place—and tipping over the sides precariously like the ending to The Italian Job. There is also no weather protection for the precious cargo bungee-corded to the basket. You could buy a curious tent-like enclosure for the “cargo area” that resembles the world’s most uncomfortable motorcycle helmet, but that was about it. Want to keep the rain off your salmiakki? Drive faster: push the rain over the canopy and away from the groceries! But “faster” is relative, of course. With a twist of the moped-derived handlebars, the mid-mounted, single-cylinder moped engine, stolen from a Husqvarna Cornette, will eke out a top speed of 40mph. Not bad for an engine with the same amount of horsepower as an actual horse. A horse might be more practical, as a matter of fact: while the Shopper may not leave droppings in the driveway, a horse can be ridden to school without an elaborate disguise worthy of a Witness Protection Program.
In all fairness, I can’t say I’ve driven one before, unlike the teenagers and elderly who adopted the Shopper in droves. But I would imagine that pootling one of these down busy Stockholm streets would be an adult-diaper-wetting experience: dicing it up with actual cars with such modern technological advances as, oh I don’t know, side and rear panels. You could possibly achieve the same effect by cutting holes in the back of your trousers and walking through the New York Stock Exchange on your knees.
Despite its popularity with the same members of society that many believe shouldn’t be anywhere near motorized machinery, the Shopper sold well enough to be built well into the 1970s. Mercifully Alas, there aren’t many left. The sporty red example shown here is from the Microcar Museum, the world’s foremost treasure trove of straight-faced automotive hilarity next to a Pontiac dealership. How charming is the Norsjö Shopper? It takes real chutzpah to stand out in a building where the Brütsch Rollera exists.
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ec87NV7vr_I[/youtube] [Microcar Museum: 1972 Norsjö Shopper]