Vårmønstringen 2022: The first proper, post-pandemic spring car show in Bergen, Norway

Ascension Day is a public holiday in Norway, and oil Vikings of the west look forward to it for one particular reason: “Vårmønstringen”, the spring car show of the motor clubs in Bergen. It’s a small city of barely 300,000 people, plagued by 200 days of precipitation a year, a salty climate, and a regulatory environment that just isn’t geared towards the love of cars. Despite that, this gathering attracts thousands of people of all ages anyway, and, to many, it’s the first contact with the collector car world. This will be a little walk around introducing you to a selection of what’s hot in the cold, wet Norwegian west.

Ascension Day is a public holiday in Norway, and oil Vikings of the west look forward to it for one particular reason: “Vårmønstringen”, the spring car show of the motor clubs in Bergen. It’s a small city of barely 300,000 people, plagued by 200 days of precipitation a year, a salty climate and a regulatory environment that just isn’t geared towards the love of cars. Despite that, this gathering attracts thousands of people of all ages anyway, and, to many, it’s the first contact with the collector car world. This will be a little walkaround introducing you to a selection of what’s hot in the cold, wet Norwegian west.

Starting off with a 1951 Humber Pullman Imperial: It’s the first car at the entrance for its patriotic, local history. Fana municipality (now a part of Bergen) gave the car to HM Haakon VII and it was in service at the royal Bergen residency until the 1970s. This 2.2t seven-seater was donated to Bergen Veteranvogn Klubb in 2011.

The military vehicle club has secured spots nearby, it’s an active group showing off their often meticulously accessorized vehicles with admirable regularity. Here’s a 1943 GMC Cckw 352 (imported to Norway in 1997), followed by a bunch of Jeeps and a G-wagon – the latter still the typical service vehicle of the Norwegian army. There are some proper Willys Jeeps, and one made by Ford, too. My nine-year-old boy was fascinated by one of them having a max speed rating of 40 mph printed on the canvas top, while it says 45 mph inside. I can’t imagine the noise and discomfort in these at such speeds.

Small cars were curiously underrepresented at the show. This 1962 Fiat – even making its rear license plate look ridiculous large – was a notable exception.

This 1954 Ford Customline pickup stood out with its wooden bed cover. It is remarkable though that the car weighs 1500 kg, and can only carry a little over 400 kg in load. Not all pickups are trucks, I guess.

Opel was well represented. Next to Volvo and Ford, they were the European factory that carried American design trends in their European products for the longest time – at scale. Opel’s Kapitän, Admiral and Diplomat (“KAD”) were their higher-priced quality offerings, and this 1960 Kapitän was in ship shape indeed.

With a 2.8 litre I6 engine and at almost 5 meters in length, this 1969 Opel Admiral was pretty much regarded as an excessive vehicle in the European market – but they were also available with a 4.6 litre V8. Only 623 of them were made, compared to more than 22000 of the 2.8 I6. Production would end in 1976, one of many steps pushing Opel into the lower-priced segment, a decline that found its nadir in 2017 when the company was sold to PSA.

Mercedes, too, has less of a ring to it now than 50 years ago, but remains firmly planted as what once was “luxury” and now often just remains “premium”. This 1965 230 automatic – 20 cms shorter than the Admiral – stood out to me as having the eternally perfect colour combo: A dark green with a caramel-like, brown interior. A curiosity: With its 13-inch balloony tires, it has a smaller wheel size than both the Opel and the Fiat mentioned earlier.

The brand was very well represented, with many well-known designs. This 1956 190SL is one of the most recognizable car shapes of all time. It displayed its shades of red confidently in near immaculate shape.

Another obvious German to be well-represented was Volkswagen. Strangely, few quirky models made it here, except for an abundance of Beetles, Vanagons, and a few Kombis. This ’57 Beetle was one of a few modified cars, while the ’76 and ’78 Kombis in complementary colours looked neat and highly desirable to a lot of onlookers.

This 1969 Volkswagen kit car with Porsche badges left me baffled though and was a huge magnet for curious looks. The dash-“board” is one quirk among money, but the exhaust would probably not register as a feature…it’s one of the strangest designs we witnessed. The owner was in constant conversation, so we didn’t get to ask, but one reason for the apparently unplanned exhaust location could be local noise regulation upon import of the vehicle.

You can’t say Volkswagen without saying Tatra (try it – is really hard!). This 1974 Tatra T2-603 is a relatively recent import to Norway, but well-known among us fools who lust for the different nonetheless. Only 1400 kg over 5+ meters, but its 2.5 litre V8 barely produces a mere 106 hp anyway. These cars were made in Kopřivnice which you, avid reader, obviously know everything about.

FSO was represented with a Polonez, a kind of car you’ll always have to explain how and why you even recognize it. What’s particularly cool in this context is that it came with Polish plates. Norwegian car regulations are so strict and geared towards the expensive, that our law rules out one obvious loophole by disallowing Norwegian citizens to drive foreign-registered cars on Norwegian soil. So here we can assume that both the car and its driver are immigrants, and I do appreciate the sharing of cultural heritage.

Another European manufacturer, though American-owned, that was prominently displayed was Ford. Two of their most recognizable nameplates, Taunus and Capri – both discontinued – had captured orderly spots. A beige 1.5 litre 1961 Taunus two-door was a huge contrast to the black ’65 Taunus 20M or even the dark silver ’68 12M. The ’69 two-tone Capri stood out a little, but all of them were very well kept and a pleasure to inspect.

You may have spotted the 1962 Ford Anglia, not quite in its best condition, already. 742 kg and a 997 cc engine – it’s made to get work done. Slowly.

A work car of a very different kind: With three times the engine size and twice the Anglia’s weight, this beautiful 1941 De Soto business coupe is one of few of its kind on our shores. The attention to detail in its design was remarkable. Its fanny doesn’t need optical distortion to be displayed in focus, but, boy, I couldn’t resist it.

My kid’s American favourites were predictable – in a good way. Cars that confidently displayed style, power, and excess like few other vehicles ever did. A 1954 Cadillac Eldorado next to a 1959 Eldorado and a ’99 Dodge Viper were among the most recognizable vehicles on display overall. The brightwork on the Caddies did do its name justice and required a few extra rounds of small, excited feet, tripping around it.

More to my taste was this 1955 Chrysler Windsor. No less massive, with a five-litre engine providing 190 hp, but a design used in different varieties by Chrysler and quite surely an inspiration for the Volvo Amazon, too.

My inner cubist rejoiced over this 1978 Mercury Brougham with an even bigger engine, but, obviously, less power. Four plastic insignia stamped across the car brought some tension over what insignia are and what purpose they serve to the show. Today, we could flash something like that ironically – in 1978 though? Did it hit home, ever? A similar vintage Volvo 262 Bertone would flash similarly conflicted plastic crowns. Unfortunately, none was to be found for a battle of the misunderstood noble badges of rank.

This 1977 Chrysler Cordoba was back at the Windsor’s power rating, by bringing one-and-a-half Anglia engine displacements extra to the show at a total of 6555-cc. I still think these look absolutely lovely, but I’d consider Cordobas and similar perfect vehicles to electrify. While some may just have fallen off their office chairs, a heavy, spacious, intently comfortable car of this vintage with a boat anchor as an engine could really profit from a zippy, silent driveline to make them usable as often as possible. I might note that we are currently paying exactly 10 US$ per gallon of ROZ95 fuel here.

Even plusher, filling in their parking spots well, the well-represented van scene. A ’67 Wagoneer, a ’62 Continental – whose low profile wheels deride the entire vehicle’s concept and idea – and a ’95 Town Car rounded off the big’n’slow corner.

American cars are huge collector items in Norway, this little selection limits itself to some hot wheels, the only Ford A at the show, a 1971 DeTomaso Pantera – the first one I have ever seen in the flesh – and a 1932 Cadillac V8 that won best-of-show-awards in its class.

A fair number of motorbikes made it to Vårmønstringen this year, too. I’m like a fish on a bicycle here, but this 1954 Triumph Speed Twin stood out with its relative simplicity.

A few of the European brands were mostly displayed inside. My Italian favourite this Thursday was this 1960 Maserati 3500GT. Every detail simply looked amazing. It was hard to photograph as the car remained covered in wide-open eyes and drooling mouths.

Italy was represented less profusely than expected. This ’79 Fiat with the “hanging bosom”-hood covering up a mighty 87 hp 2.0 litre powerplant was accompanied by a bunch of sexy, but ultimately also kind of boring Ferraris. Exclusive cars, but no details remain surprising on these prancing horses that pretty much are cultural icons. I sometimes feel alone with that sentiment, but, here, they garnered surprisingly little attention.

Attention-by-defining feature was this BMW i8’s credo. Nearby, a sad little ’99 Seat Arosa had been reformed to crave a maximum amount of gaze by being transformed into an art car. It stood out for both being a rare small car, the only art car, the only Spanish car, and for being painted meticulously with great attention to detail – absolutely everywhere. Neat.

Next to Italy and Spain, France was strangely underrepresented, too. This 1971 Citroën SM with its 170 hp, 2.7 litre V6 almost made up for it. Dreaded spheres in focus. A 1994 BMW 850 with its fabulous 381 hp powerplant maybe my only representation of the Bavarian company.

A country obviously very well-represented was our neighbour Sweden. Volvos of all flavours remain the absolutely lowest threshold entry into the hobby, and someone even brought an Amazon that looked like they were once supposed to: Tired, with mismatched panels, but certainly eager to start at the twist of a key. After all, Volvo themselves claimed that abusing their cars would be okay, and “cheaper than psychiatry“.

This 1969 SAAB 95 V4 seating seven is probably one of the most rational transport applications of its time. Forgoing safety, comfort, and speed, it would be a most efficient people mover. These SAABs always looked to me as having the face of an overstuffed chipmunk, but they are highly appreciated today. Curiously, no one brought the iconic 99, 900 or 9000. I didn’t even notice until I scanned my 500 photos – the brand may be dead, but its following should be alive.

Of Japanese cars, Supras and MR2s were represented, but my favourite may have been this 1968 Mazda 1500 Deluxe. Designed by Giugiaro, it brought Italian chique with great details and an airy cabin combined with trustworthy Japanese moving parts. 78 hp from a 1500 cc engine was perfectly fine in its time, but it certainly never was a sports car in this configuration.

Neither was this ’77 Toyota Corolla Liftback. Yet, it is the kind of Corolla that I’d consider a real head-turner. Its simple, pleasant, well-proportioned design and the very cool yellow colour – matched in this show by only the Ferrari 308 and a Volkswagen Kombi – stood out. An unexpected collectible. Another Corolla that didn’t say “Toyota” in its grille was a blue ’82 with some beefy wheels

Nissan’s GT-R was represented in a number of colours and years, a more iconic design thanks to good exposure in gaming and television.

This 37 hp 1966 BMC Mini pickup might be able to carry four-by-fours, but you’d be well advised to pick a length that matches the width of your lumber…Minis were shown in all colours, but only one size.

A 1931 Singer Junior displaying its literal trunk stood out as one of the oldest cars at the show. A 1934 Rolls-Royce 20, with a flattened exhaust similar to the Taunus 20 above, was among the most “classic” of the classic cars and just so incomprehensibly bigger in every aspect than the Singer.

Another Brit to appease Jeff, who has to put into place all these photos: A 1969 Jaguar XJ 4.2. Nice and shiny and placed prominently among a bunch of later XJ models.

Next to the Jaguars, with 37 hp just like the BMC Mini, were the only two Norwegian-made cars. The obnoxiously named Th!nk, plastic EVs, a first attempt to get oil Vikings swayed to zip zap zoom cars. It failed, or rather, the company did. Today, we buy about 90% of EVs as new cars, but Th!nk was too early, too un-sexy, and too impractical. Its batteries required quite a bit of maintenance and its heaters were almost non-existent – strange for a Scandinavian car, but reminiscent of Volvo’s choice of a first car, the ÖV4, a convertible.

To flush out these thoughts: One of the racing cars shown is a Ford Escort sporting a Volvo 2.3 redblock with 240 hp. Thanks for taking the walk with me!

8 Comments

  1. “I can’t imagine the noise and discomfort in these at such speeds.”

    I’ve driven a WWII-era Jeep over uneven gravel at 25 mph and can very well imagine what it must be like at 40 to 45 mph. The stencils wouldn’t be the only things arguing against higher speeds.

  2. Great pics, enjoyable read.

    That lovely looking Corolla without a Toyota badge is a TE71 Levin Coupe, which makes it a JDM import. It’s the predecessor to the non pop up headlight version of the AE86 also known as the Levin (and sold in Europe as the Corolla GT coupe) while the pop up version was the Trueno. Trueno means “thunder” and Levin “Ligntning”

  3. Thanks for the tour, as they say in Norwegian!
    I looked up the “Mazda Mazda 1500 De Luxe” (as registered…) and boy is that a large car: 4.37m long, and 1.1to without driver – that’s 50cm and ~400lg more than a Sonett!
    In addition, according to the registration, this car was ordered from and delivered to Norway in 1968, and the current owner has it since 1985!
    Gorgeous car, in many ways.

  4. i’m so intrigued by American car collectors in Norway. in one of those last shots i see a burgundy Olds Cutlass Ciera, a completely unremarkable car here but that must be a rare sight anywhere in Europe. i guess i’d be super stoked to see a Peugeot 406 cruising around in the USA, so it’s not a completely alien idea, but it’s a trip to see it.

    1. That’s spot on. Cars that are not just unremarkable, but, rather, derided, still have an aura of American style about them – and they’re collected in all seriousness.

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