Finland's Bizarre F-Body Camaromino Infatuation

Less seats in the back simply means more room for Koskenkorva.

Six months of constant sunshine, followed by a plunge into near blackness, can give a man some strange ideas. Like, say, importing an American muscle car to the land of the ice and snow, to do battle against 24-inch annual snowfall, rumors of clinical insanity, and some of the highest driving taxes on Earth. Time to achieve maximum hoonage potential! Maljanne!

If it breaks down, you can use it as a wheelbarrow!

In the 1980s, desperate Finns looking to get their hands on some RWD Yank Tank goodness could skirt around the notoriously expensive Finnish taxes by registering their cars as “commercial vehicles.” By ripping out the back seats, ditching the window and its assorted louvers, and replacing the Whitesnake cassettes with Tony Robbins “Unlimited Power: The New Science of Personal Achievement,” enterprising F-Body enthusiasts could convincingly register their cars up as commercial vans and pickup trucks.
To attain commercial vehicle registration, these cars also had their rooflines were raised, suspensions fitted with blocks to meet height classes, underbodies and door panels lined with lead or wet sand to meet weight regulations, and rear hatches Sawzalled into rudimentary pickup beds and fitted with either a canvas top akin to Boy Scout surplus tenting or, in line with the Camaro owner’s “screw this!” credo, left exposed to the elements. Of course, the minimum bed length for pickup trucks was 1750mm, or 5.7 feet—this also applied to Finnish-imported Subaru BRATs (which shall henceforth replace “hen’s teeth” in analogies related to rareness). So to gain that vaunted tax break, importers swapped out the stock rear body panels and slapped an entire foot of fiberglass bodywork, usually installed by a boat manufacturer.
The result is strangely captivating, reminiscent of GM’s experimental “aero” prototypes like the Oldsmobile Aerotech, Buick Wildcat and the Corvette CERV-III and Indy twins, if they had all been built in sheds. Naturally, build quality varied wildly, depending on how many Karjalas have been consumed. And the eerie combination of terrible handling modifications on an already finicky V8-powered sports car, in the land of the ice and snow, meant that this was merely an elaborate scheme to write oneself off from the gene pool—a RWD suicide booth, if you will. Rube Goldberg would be both pleased and horrified.
Russian novelist Vladimir Nabokov (he of Lolita fame) once said, “Life is a great surprise. I do not see why death should not be an even greater one.” He must have been talking about the experience of driving a Corvair Finnish Camaro. Why not invest untold dollars and man-hours into building a machine that could, at any instant, fall apart, kill you, or both? Clearly, Finnish Camaro enthusiasts are a dedicated lot, stopping just short of registering their vehicles as heavy-goods vehicles or low-income housing in order to enjoy their “imported” cars. If Jeremy Clarkson considers all Camaro owners to be murderers, he would probably decry these enthusiasts as psychopaths. Yet their dedication should be admired, as equally as their rationality should be questioned. It’s an attitude that crops up often in this strange, bizarre, world of car culture we exist in. Maximum hoonage potential: consider it achieved.
Road noise isn't as much of a concern when you've oversteered into a ditch.

Thanks to Antti Kautonen for enlightening me upon this story, and convincing me that Finland is truly the greatest country on Earth.

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21 responses to “Finland's Bizarre F-Body Camaromino Infatuation”

    1. Ambersand Avatar

      Good GOD what does that thing look like AFTER it molts…

  1. lilwillie Avatar

    So you camino it so you can add weight in the snow, for traction. Hell, I would just throw a big girl in the passenger seat and call it done.

  2. Syrax Avatar

    After all those changes it was still cheaper than paying the taxes?

    1. TurboBrick Avatar

      Import duty was 100% + VAT on the whole amount + BS and etc. which came out to…. I believe 140% of wholesale price back then. So, yes.

      1. Syrax Avatar

        At least you can cheat. Here if it's imported you're paying, unless it's made in Mexico or Mercosur.

  3. Matti Avatar

    Great article! It really shows how taxes affects the cars evolution over here, and explained by someone not living in Finland. Hooniverse rules!

  4. Manic_King Avatar

    If Citroen BX was ugly POS then Finnish tax dodging high-roof version was double-ugly:
    <img src=""&gt;

    1. Manic_King Avatar

      Also, SUV could have been registered as truck (in European meaning) without this 100% tax if it had power out-take for machinery until 1990's I think. Reasoning was something like that: when next war inevitably comes, those SUVs could have been useful as agri or military vehicles. New LandCruisers, Patrols etc. had those systems still in Finland 15 years ago and were relatively cheap.
      Denmark is even worse I think, taxation-wise, what kind of cars they could have…..

      1. TurboBrick Avatar

        Emergency towing and transport equipment, that was the logic. Didn't they all get a plate starting with "N" to indicate this?
        I liked the 2000's tax dodge revival for Hiace vans and Skoda wagons with the critter cage separating the driver from the "temporary seating".

  5. CJinSD Avatar

    The Firebird pictured at the top looks remarkably like a Nissan 300ZX in its awkwardness.

    1. bzr Avatar

      I can just imagine the fake "TTTTTTTTURBO" stickers on the doorsills.

  6. Feds_II Avatar

    Wow, so Finnish Camaro owners made their cars short in the front and long in the back to match their haircuts. Well played Finland, well played.

  7. Alff Avatar

    I like the Firebird up top. I'll take mine in black and call it "Kitt and Kaboodle".

  8. Alff Avatar

    That's a hardbody to like.

  9. TurboBrick Avatar

    Now, this same "pickup and van" loophole created a huge demand for GM's diesel powered B-body wagons, many of which are still clattering around the country. The definition of a "van" was a vehicle that had a flat floor in the back, only temporary seating in the second row and weighed over 1800kg. These landbarges were heavy enough, and had a cargo compartment in the back. The seating issue was solved by swapping the backseat cushions for a foam rubber pad that was no thicker than 2 inches. And by magic, you had an import duty free vehicle that ALSO qualified for a 67% discount on your annual diesel vehicle taxes. Only other downside was a mandatory 80km/h limit imposed to all heavy vehicles which meant you had to affix an "80" sticker on the back of the vehicle and if you ever got caught or wanted to put the original backseat in you'd end up owing the entire import duty amount that was exempted.
    I wish I had taken screencaps of that ad I saw where someone was selling their Trans Am Pickup that had a swapped in Mercedes OM617 diesel. I've heard of B-Bodies with Nissan diesels as well.

  10. JeepyJayhawk Avatar

    Looks a bit droopy and sad…

    1. CptSevere Avatar

      Hey, the Concorde kinda looked like that, and it looked awesome!

  11. Smells_Homeless Avatar

    Those F-bodies may be the very definition of "awefulsome."

  12. dr zero Avatar
    dr zero

    It was much easier to do in Norway. All you needed was no back seats and a cage separating the rest of the cabin from the front seats and you were a "commercial" vehicle. Saw plenty of these in my time over there.

  13. Formula&S/E pickups Avatar
    Formula&S/E pickups

    That blue -87 Firebird Formula was modified in Florida 1989.
    Owner used car few years in fl and take it finland when moved back.
    Group of finish guys modified 143 camaros and firebirds in florida at 1989.
    I like this pickup more than normal bird. In these days there are only few
    pickup birds in good condition. 2 Trans Am GTA were also modified pick up's.