VBOA Matters- The Swedish International Rally Ian Coomber, VBOA Chairman
Special Report on the International Vauxhall & Bedford Meeting, May 19th to 22nd 2006
The Swenska Vauxhall Registret played host this year to the annual international rally and over 100 people and 52 vehicles gathered at the Scandic hotel in Mölndal, a suburb of Gothenburg. Participants came from Switzerland, Germany, Norway, Holland, Denmark, Sweden and the UK. The UK contingent of 16 cars was complemented by the Vauxhall “works” 1903 four-seater, transported to the event by Andrew Duerden in its bespoke trailer behind a very fine product of Luton in the form of a Vivaro van.
Ferry maintenance schedules sent the Brits via Denmark instead of the intended direct crossing to Gothenburg, but this proved to be a blessing to many as we got a “bonus country” on the tour and Danish traffic was pretty light compared to the UK. However, the weather was decidedly British, if not Nordic, and most of the rally including the run through Denmark was blessed with rain. After an overnight stop in Frederikshavn, it was onto a high speed ferry for the short hop to Sweden, again hounded by wet weather.
We soon found that classic cars were not hard to find in Gothenburg as organiser Kay Mordza had organised the rally to coincide with British Car Week. This comprised a number of runs and events, one of which, the classic car show at Tjolöholm Castle, was on the Vauxhall/Bedford agenda for the Sunday. If only the weather would improve, but it would take more than a bit of water to deter Vauxhall fans and soon old and new friendships were being explored at the welcome dinner on Friday in the excellent Scandic Hotel. Also welcome was the comprehensive goody bag provided by the event sponsors and the rally plates courtesy of Total Vauxhall.
Saturday dawned dull as the group headed north for the Saab Museum at Trollhättan. An early stop in the Gamla Torget square at picturesque Kungälv gave everyone the first chance to see all the cars together. It also gave most the first chance to get lost, a passing British Car Week marshal going out of their way to rescue us. Saab and General Motors of Sweden did the group proud by providing an interesting visit to the well laid out Saab Museum and a much appreciated lunch. With heavy rain between brief bright spots, only the hardy few made it down to the canal locks in Trollhättan, but they were rewarded with an interesting walk across some of the largest locks with the greatest level change most of us had ever seen. Then it was back to Mölndal to prepare for an evening meal and trip to the Liseberg Pleasure Gardens in Gothenburg. These comprised an appealing mixture of Disney and a botanical garden, with rides as diverse as the largest wooden roller coaster in the world and the very latest in high tech thrill seeking. Unfortunately the weather still refused to cooperate so the indoor events became very well attended and we had the surreal experience of listening to a German “oompa” band in Sweden!
Sunday saw an early start (and more rain!) to ensure we were all in place on the Vauxhall club stand for the big show at Tjolöholm. Over 1500 cars attend and by any standards the cars and commercial vehicles on display were of high quality, many being unusual to UK eyes. Much Americana was on show and of course lots of Volvos. The 1903 was displayed under a domestic gazebo bought by Andrew at a local garden shop, which at least allowed the crowds to see the car despite the weather. Meanwhile its trailer was put to good use as a covered “clubhouse” for the Vauxhall stand. And with over 50 vehicles on display, including the oldest car in the show, the Vauxhall stand was undoubtedly the one to visit. I think Kay actually managed to assemble more Vauxhalls and Bedfords than there were Volvos! After lunch the sun at last came out and it was a pleasure to walk around, visit the castle or enjoy the beautiful sea shore next to the show ground. There were a lot of high quality Opels at the show, many of which were models we rarely get the chance to see in the UK. At the end of the show Kay’s efforts were rewarded when the Vauxhall club won the cup for best stand.
Back at the hotel Kay provided more entertainment in the form of a jazz band which drove between gigs in Heinkel bubble cars! A very generous draw was then held, my wife managing to win the latest in VXR umbrellas which would come in handy as the next ferry to the UK didn’t leave until Wednesday morning. Marlyse Haefliger gave everyone information on next year’s event in Switzerland (see “events” on the VBOA website at www.vboa.org.uk) and the evening was rounded off by some Vauxhall films that even the old Vauxhall employees in the audience had never seen.
The rally officially ended on the Monday morning after breakfast and people started to say their goodbyes and plan for future meetings. Many were heading off to Norway or elsewhere in Sweden to enjoy an extended holiday. The remaining UK contingent headed for Gothenburg on the excellent tram service and brightened up many a Gothenburger’s day by taking a harbour boat ride during a monsoon while dressed in yellow plastic ponchos which gave a chicken-like appearance to the unfortunate wearer.
On Tuesday Kay very kindly invited the survivors to his delightful house out in the country for lunch and a chance to see his magnificent collection of Vauxhall and Bedford models. It also gave us a chance to sample a typical Swedish back road. It may have been un-metalled, but it still had a better surface that most UK roads, although stopping distances in the wet were interesting. Kay had arranged for the local press to be there and also gave us copies of the Gothenburg daily paper from Monday which featured a picture spread on the Tjolöholm show.
On Wednesday we joined the ferry for Newcastle in company with drag racers heading for Santa Pod and a Bradford van off to the Jowett centenary in Yorkshire. At the brief stop in Kristiansand we picked up some 30 classics from Norway, presumably on their way to a UK event. The classic car world is indeed a small one.
Everyone agreed that it was a great event and our thanks go to Kay and his team from the Swedish Vauxhall Register for looking after all the visitors so well. See you next year in Switzerland? Pictures are posted on the gallery section of the VBOA website