Words alone cannot do justice to this spectacular annual event in Sweden. Europe’s largest meet for classic American cars ran for three days at the Johannisberg Airfield, with plenty of camping, carousing and especially cruising. Swedes, Danes, Finns, Germans and people from many other nations from far and wide gathered from July 6 through 8, 2017 to celebrate the start of the largest automobile party in the northern hemisphere – and we were there in the thick of it. This time not with the full Osram team but incognito in a 1969 Cadillac DeVille. And we didn’t look out of place in that cool sedan among the wild Vikings.
The “Power Big Meet” has been taking place since 1978, with the cruisers descending on the small town west of Stockholm like a swarm of locusts, but last year it was decided it had become too large for its traditional venue so it moved this year to Lidköping. Not that it made much difference to most of the die-hard fans – they still flocked to Västerås, and the event is now called the Summer Meet. If, after driving a thousand kilometers or so, you managed to get a coveted place on one of the ferries and bagged a patch of grassy real estate near the venue you could witness a procession of classic American cars as far as the eye could see. Many car-mad Swedes live the whole year just for this weekend, and the party atmosphere is high-spirited, to say the least. There are probably more classic gas guzzlers concentrated in one place than anywhere else, even in the USA itself.
The daytime program was the usual mix of live rockabilly music, presentations for the best cars, a Lifestyle Corner with fun hairstyles that beamed you straight back to the 1950s, a Swap Meet for spare parts, a Car Care Corner to add the final polish, and a cruising competition for the 200 most attractive vehicles.
The Hälla shopping mall, a few kilometers away, was the place to be in the evening. In addition to music, food and drink (remembering that in Sweden the alcohol limit for driving is zero, and this is rigorously monitored by the police and taken very seriously) there was the total madness of the Legal Burnout. On a cordoned-off track with safety barriers in place, anyone who fancied putting the pedal to the metal and testing their brakes could put their treasured vehicles through their paces. With engines screaming into the red zone on the rev counter, the smell of burning rubber, the sight of smoke pouring out of exhausts and the noise of cheering fans along the route, the excitement for drivers and spectators alike could hardly be greater.
After a long day living on the edge the return journey to the tented village was a gentle night-time cruise through the illuminated streets of Västerås, to the applause of hundreds of people lining the sidewalks. With a cacophony of drum‘n’bass, Swedish country music and Finnish children’s songs ringing out from the cars, party-goers sat in trunks, on roofs and on hoods enjoying the balmy night in great company. V8 engines and automatic transmissions took the brightly lit cruise liners of the road back to the port of tents. Lights are a major factor here. On the cars, under the cars and in the cars. Perhaps it has something to do with offsetting almost six months of darkness in these parts. Quite a sight, with rolling discos, hopping high jackers and ground-scraping low riders. And everywhere you look there are the “raggare”, a subculture fond of driving completely stripped down rust buckets and known for their love of hot rod cars and 1950s American pop culture. We spent the three hours crawling back, chilling out on the flatbed of a pickup truck and enjoying visits from Swedes, Finns, Norwegians and others of the horned helmet variety. Hop on, hop off.
You get little sleep, three days in a row, but if retro American cars and wild parties are your thing then book your ferries now for 2018!