V.I.S.I.T: An Icelandic Selection

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I was staggered, I tell you. Blown away. Awestruck, dumbfounded and hornswaggled. Iceland is a tiny island with a population less than a third of a million souls. I couldn’t possibly have imagined the sheer diversity of cars that I would find during my recent trip to this beautiful, fascinating country.
Click the jump below to get a flavour of what wheeled wonders await discovery in the land of fire and ice.

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This Sedan Deville lived just around the corner from our Reykjavik pied a terre, the SKUGGI hotel (highly recommended, by the way). Clearly a cherished car; I saw it being driven a couple of times during my stay. Looked pretty incongruous in the parking lot surrounded by Renault Clios and VW Sharans.
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Cars live hard, here. A LOT of cars I saw tooling around were fairly obviously entering their twilight years. Icelandic licence plates display whether the car has passed inspection for the current year; a car which has passed 2016 inspection will bear a “17” sticker. This Focus wore a “16”.
Cars typically seem to rust out at the rear rockers and then the tinworm works its way forwards….
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…until it ends up looking like it spends all its time parked in the sea. This Nissan Sunny was in daily use. Hey, it works. Iceland is a country refreshingly free of pretence.
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The late ’90s / early 2000’s Corolla Wagon is a popular tool and seems to see frequent employment as a workvan. This beat-to-hell-and-beyond example was being by a carpenter. When it does finally die he’ll probably just find another one and use that up.
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Of course, nothing lasts forever, as this terrifying looking Audi GT testifies. Those wheels are still lovely, though.
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Let’s check out some classics. This Mercury Comet was cool as ice, parked neatly in a leafy suburb (well, the leafiest what is a very lightly wooded city).  I liked it so much that I walked round to the other side, where I found…
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…Oops. Still, replacement rear fenders, bumpers and trunklids must be easy to find in Iceland, surely? I suspect that, in any other country, this machine would be toast.
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The European Granada would be a far easier car to keep on the road, this one parked near one of the out of town Bonus Supermarkets. Cool vehicle for use as a grocery-getter.
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Land Cruisers are core to the Icelandic psyche. They abound, and are mostly dressed up with arches capable of acommodating massive tyres all the better for dealing with the snow and ice that characterises central Iceland for much of the year. The famous ( and amazing) Arctic Trucks is based on this island, and their subtle emblem graces many of the SUVs that bulk out Reykjavik’s traffic.
Lets have a bit more 4×4 action.
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Heavily modified Land Rover Defenders are a popular choice, I’m guessing they’re pretty easy to modify as well as as easy to maintain and repair thanks to their naturally modular nature.
On our first journey on the island we were overtaken by a lifted, big-wheeled P38 Range Rover whose V8 sang in the crisp evening air. Sadly my camera was locked away.
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This beast got everywhere and we saw it all over, carrying glacier explorers from Central Reykjavik out into the wilds. Go-Anywhere Econoline. Cool as ice. Great noise, too. I’m guessing 6.5 V8 Diesel. That’s certainly how it sounded.
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‘Nother Econoline, this one fitted out for comfort but still with four driven wheels, albeit a little less extreme than the above.
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This was a cute little thing, an urban-parked UAZ 452, not the kind of thing you see every day in my neck of the woods….
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…Peering in through the windows proved this to be fitted out as an overnighter- stove, sink, foldaway beds all present and complete for a trip out into the big beyond.
Perfect.
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There were a couple of these knocking about, built on Chevy underframes and used as mobile catering trucks.
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I loved this seriously used E30, a 316 in Poverty White. Despite the wear, the dents, the rust, the missing components and the bare steel wheels, somehow this seemed like a car whose owner still loved it.
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Again, this was presumably daily driven, if the two-day old newspaper on the passenger’s seat was anything to go by.
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Heaven knows when I last saw a Renault 21 (nee Eagle Medallion (sedan)) in the UK; this one was in unexpectedly good fettle parked in an upmarket area of town.
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How’s this for a juxtaposition? Immaculate Wagoneer is dwarfed by Land Cruiser VX in a swanky residential area. What an awesome old crate.
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FJ Cruiser looks a bit, well, toytown when you put it in these environs. Better suited to Cali.
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You’re better off with something like this. Not very Sport, but very Utility.
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“Diplomatic Immunity”
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Parked outside the same house, which incidentally also had a Series Three Jaguar XJ on the driveway. In black, natch.
And speaking of collectors, let’s finish this little survey with this guy from Keflavik who, I think you’ll agree, is a bit of a hero.
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Triumph Dolomite 1500 and Rover P6 V8 sitting out back…
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XJ40 Jaaaaag and Peugeot 604 (with whitewalls!) out front, and…
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…early XJ6 waiting for its turn in the resto-shop. Something tells me it’ll turn out well.
(All images copyright Chris Haining / Hooniverse 2016, taken very quickly on DSLR or ‘phone without a huge amount of consideration towards composition)

About RoadworkUK

RoadworkUK is the online persona of Gianni Hirsch, a tall, awkward gentleman with a home office full of gently decomposing paper and a garage full of worthless scrap metal. He lives in the village of Moistly, which is a safe distance from London and is surrounded by enough water and scenery to be interesting. In another life, he has designed, sold, worked on and written about cars in exchange for small quantities of money.

0 Comments

  1. I visited Iceland over 25 years ago. I remember that Iceland seemed to have an eclectic mix of US and Euro spec cars. Back then, all cars were required to have headlamps on regardless of the time and many had brush guards (many streets were gravel). I loved the country. (beautiful women, 100% literacy rate, amazing topography. and all Icelandic people I encountered were nice and genuinely proud of their country)

    1. Having just come back from Iceland I can say that all of the above still applies 🙂

  2. My God. It’s as though all of my automotive tastes have converged on Iceland.
    If we visit, I am sorely tempted to return with the P6 just for being able to say, “yeah, brought it back from Iceland.”

  3. i like to think of the ratio of significance to culture vs population size of a place. Iceland has always stood out to me as a place whose share of my mind, though tiny, still waaaay outpaces its actual size. the collapse of Iceland’s financial system was worldwide news. i don’t think anyone would have noticed if Pittsburgh just disappeared one day.
    i used to live in Pittsburgh, whose city-proper population is ~300,000 – about the same as that of Iceland – but i feel like Iceland registers much more strongly as a thing with most people than Pittsburgh. i’d be curious to know what the rich and prosperous of Iceland drive, for example, but i really don’t give a shit about the wealthy of Pittsburgh, and i suspect nobody else would either.
    other places on the scale fall all along the spectrum. i grew up in Chicago, and maybe it’s the second-city chip on my shoulder, but it seems like Chicago occupies less mindspace than its population merits. or maybe i only feel that way because of the disproportionately large influence of New York and Los Angeles.

    1. I’m curious, is there a “Chicago of X” in every country? If i head north the next large-ish city is called “Suomen Chicago” or Chicago of Finland(Lahti), and in a a couple of months i’ll be in “Lietuvos Čikaga” or the Chicago of Lithuania(Panevėžys)..

      1. Berlin was known as “Chicago am Spree” during the early 20th century for its rapid growth

  4. My grandparents had a Caddy like that (except no vinyl roof, no fender skirts, different wheels and painted Light Driftwood) in my teenage years. I liked that car… nice on the highway with more than enough power from the 4.9L V8, easy to see out of, comfortable whether you were in the front seat or the back.

  5. Interesting group of pictures. Is the blue truck parked next to the MAN cabover a GAZ? A minor point – the Cadillac is a Fleetwood instead of a Sedan de Ville. The fender skirts are the clue.

  6. So, do they use a lot of salt on the roads there? The amount of rust, like on the Focus, is disconcerting.

    1. I believe it’s due to the saltiness of the air since most areas are close enough to the ocean to be affected.

        1. Volcanoes and geothermal activity belch out a lot of sulphur dioxide, and that is what gives the ‘rotten egg’ smell.
          It reacts with moisture in the air to form sulpurous and sulphuric acid which condenses and precipitates out as a corrosive film on everything.
          Add salty sea air and the chipping from semi- and un-sealed roads and you get the perfect environment for rust and alloy corrosion.
          In NZ, coins in Rotorua, in the heart of our geothermal region, quickly lose their shine and go black because of this.

  7. The baby Fleetwood…someone loves that car.
    The E30, though…that hurts to look at, and think about how much it looks like that, underneath.
    One day, they’re going to come back to it only to find a pile of iron oxide.

  8. The lifted Econoline and BFG-MT-wearing G-Wagen are seriously cool, but I’m a sucker for off-road stuff

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