Hooniverse Goes To Baltia – Random Cars of Estonia

Endla Theatre and Pärnu Central Library, Estonia. And a Nissan Murano.
With compliments to commenter Manic_King for his excellent write-up on buying cars in the times of the USSR, I felt it apt to share some photos of my recent trip to Estonia. As the Baltic Sea country regained independence in 1991, the gates opened for economic growth to come rumbling in – and the daily drivers improved similarly. Between enjoying excellent Hanseatic food and hearty Yuletide glühwein, I snapped away at the wide variety of cars ranging from trusty beaters to brand new metal. Some architecture can also be seen. Disclaimer: My photos might not focus on the most common cars, or the best, but on the cars that caught my eye. So, Estonian readers, I hope you like the article anyway. : ) Old Volkswagens like this Mk2 Golf are often seen around. Since a lion’s share of used cars in Estonia have been imported used from Germany, Volkswagen Group cars along with Opel Omegas and Ford Scorpios are popular – and driven to the very end. Everything that is rear-wheel-drive is often hooned around, and Omegas and Scorpios with slightly sagging rear ends can be seen going sideways in the slush in wintertime – with dark, dark tints on the windows. The train-fronted ’80s Passat wagon is a popular car in the Baltic countries, with well-used examples racking up the mileage. As they are slowly getting too clunky, they are naturally replaced by other capable wagons like the A6 seen ahead of this VW. Quirkier cars, some that are absolutely never seen in Finland, can be spotted as well. This Rover 216 GTi three-door is a rare sight up north, but since these were available in Central Europe, some have been imported to Estonia. These still have the Honda DNA clearly visible in the design. Somebody might remember the 216 GTi from one of the first (and best) Cheap Car Challenges in Top Gear. Another Rover sighting is this 800-series coupé. Again still a Honda-related car, it’s interesting to compare the detailing on this Coupé with the 75 saloon posted yesterday. Despite sharing the colour and having similar wheels, the designs are a world away. The powertrain, as with the Sterling, is probably a Honda V6 shared with the Legend, or Rover’s own K-series V6. Pick your poison. Another interesting import is this Opel Monterey V6, an Isuzu Trooper by any other name. Main roads in Estonia are these days mainly excellent, but some streets and country roads can be bumpy enough to necessitate a SUV. There are also a bunch of US cars roaming the roads of Estonia. Here’s a Lincoln Continental from the ’90s. Handsome car. The add-on blinkers do not exactly fit, but neither does the driver’s side rear door. From this angle, the Continental really does look like a Sebring from a couple of years ago. Anyone with a Continental – I’m sorry for the comparison. Judging by the advertisements I’ve seen for used Saab 9000:s in Estonia, a large number are Swiss imports. I suspect Swiss Saab buyers have specified theirs with the punchiest turbo engines and most optioned Aero or Griffin packages, so they’re powerful enough for the hoonage-hungry Estonians to grab up. If I was after a 9000 Aero, it would be convenient to go over to Estonia and see the stock available there; it’s closer than Switzerland. I really think a fast Saab has to have three-spoke wheels, by the way. This one looks great. Another useable SUV is this turbo diesel 4-Runner. It looks like it could deal with anything thrown up at its face, with the heavy-set bull bar and balloon tires. Here’s another SUV, an Escalade with the badge pried off the front grille. Despite large US cars seen driving around, it still stands out like Optimus Prime in shades. Another example of the newer kind of machinery seen is this C-Class Coupé. In white with a black/glass roof, it looks excellent. On Boxing Day, we walked around a nice neighbourhood with houses either being built anew, being restored or kept in their original state. The contrast between flashier houses and more traditional ones on the same street continued down to the cars. Due to the weather having been a bit stormy around the Baltic Sea, there was water almost everywhere nearby. Here’s a ZAZ, a Soviet car often mentioned on Hooniverse. It’s a classic, rear-engined smallish runabout. Next door, there is a huge S-Class in the driveway. But thinking maintenance-wise, I’d almost rather drive around town in the ZAZ. And the W221 didn’t come with a hole in the floor for ice fishing, remember. We also took the time to sneak into Latvia. To be honest, there’s not much sneaking – in keeping with the Schengen Agreement, there’s no need for any border controls in this corner of the earth either. The route down that we took went along the coastline, and at the border we were greeted by a couple of signs and border posts. A Latvian edition of the Auto Bild car magazine, complete with a weird frozen pig head article. Not necessarily related to the Camaro. Latvia’s own Arizona Country Bar in Ainazi. Driving back, there was the old border control station still to be seen… But border patrol duties were taken care of by this huge McDonald’s billboard. In closing, I heartily recommend visiting Estonia, especially the southern coastal town of Pärnu. I repeat: the food in the numerous restaurants is great, the beer is even better and there’s a lot of beautiful buildings to look at, and the beach is beautiful even in January. As we flew back home and I had to deal with the decidedly grimmer Ostrobothnian Finland in the all-encompassing post-Christmas darkness, I wished I could’ve stayed in Estonia. And due to travelling only with hand luggage, I didn’t even bring any beer back with me.

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