Shake, rattle and roll in Västerås

This weekend over 10,000 classic cars will converge on Västerås at the Power Big Meet as car enthusiasts from Sweden, Europe and as far afield as Russia, Israel and Australia make their annual pilgrimage to the biggest Classic car event in the world.

Shake, rattle and roll in Västerås

For Sweden’s Raggare, the Power Big Meet is more than just a car show – it’s a celebration of a way of life that is peculiarly Swedish, despite being entrenched in the fashions, music and motor cars of Americana. Since the 1950s, a version of the American Dream has been embraced with an enthusiasm that has endured for half a century.

Big Meet organizer Bibi Gustafsson is expecting three generations of Raggare at this year’s event. “This is our 30th anniversary and the lifestyle has survived. The original Raggare are now grandparents and they are bringing their whole families.”

The festival, which has grown from a meeting of less than a hundred cars in 1977, takes place on July 5th, 6th and 7th just outside Västerås. The high point is the cruising, when the streets of the central Swedish town are transformed into scenes reminiscent of American Graffiti or Happy Days.

The cars will range from Street Rods to Cruisers to Muscle cars and the roar of the engine and smell of gasoline is accompanied by the rock and roll beat. The cruising is a chance to admire other cars and show off a year of dedicated work in the garage.

Raggare once held a fearsome reputation for loose morals and violence, but nowadays they are seen more with curious affection than gang affiliation. In Sweden there are around a hundred clubs with names like Betty Boop, Double Deuce Cruisers and Road Rebels that all evoke an America of the past.

In a barn in Östergötland, at the Street Pack club, Håkan Johansson and Sten Nilsson are giving their 1966 Chevrolet Bel Air a final polish as they prepare to drive in convoy up to the Power Big Meet. This club alone is sending 70 cars, which will join up with other groups en route. This pair of enthusists can’t wait to see the sheer numbers of classic cars, the kilometre long parts and memorabilia market and, of course, the parties.

“The whole thing is one huge party,” says Håkan, “The Power Big Meet is like a dividing line in the year – there’s only before and after.”

Sten insists the bad old days of the Raggare, which included clashing with punks and an infamous dust up with the Sex Pistols, are in the past. Leaning on the wing of his prized Chevvie, he says that the Power Big Meet is for everybody.

“Members of Street Pack include police and lawyers, we have everyone from young guys to 75 year old men who are still driving the cars they imported 50 years ago” he says, as we are joined by a man in a leather waistcoat with enormous sideburns and four inch quiff.

Music plays an important part in Raggare culture. The Big Meet even has its own theme tune: “Go To The Power Meet” by The Go Getters, and Rockabilly group The Boppers are set to headline in Västerås.

Just how important is this weekend in the world of the Raggare?

Sten, a large man with tattooed arms and middle-aged spread draws on his cigarette, “Put it this way. Little kids dream of Father Christmas all year round. We dream of the annual Power Big Meet”.

For Håkan and Sten, it’ll be Christmas in July as they shake, rattle and roll up the E18 to Västerås.


Ben Kersley


This is the Swedes’ favourite car model (hint: it’s not a Volvo)

Sales of new cars in Sweden rose 7.9 percent last year, according to fresh figures. And for the first time in more than five decades, the car topping the list of most-sold models is not a Volvo.

This is the Swedes' favourite car model (hint: it's not a Volvo)
A Volkswagen Golf Alltrack. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

A total of 372,296 new cars were registered in 2016, said Swedish automakers' association Bil Sweden. Truck sales rose by a whopping 15.3 percent, with 58,174 new trucks sold last year.

Perhaps surprisingly, the most popular model was not the iconic Swedish car Volvo, but rather a German Volkswagen. Its Golf model was Sweden's most sold car, racking up 22,084 sales.

It is the first time in 54 years a brand other than Volvo tops the list in Volvo's birth country. In 1962 Volkswagen's famous 'Beetle' was the most sold car in Sweden.

The last of the Volvo V70, Sweden's best-selling car for two decades prior to last year, rolled off the conveyor belt earlier this year and it seems the newer V90 has not yet found its place in Swedish hearts.

READ ALSO: Volvo bids farewell to Sweden's favourite car

However, it was not far behind. Volvo sold 21,321 of its V70/XC70/S90/V90, which are counted as one model in Bil Sweden's statistics, in 2016, second behind Volkswagen Golf. The company, which is owned by Chinese Geely, also held on to the largest market share, with four of its models in the top-ten.

The sale of so called 'super green cars' – vehicles with less than 50g/km carbon dioxide emissions – rose by 51 percent last year compared to 2015.

“Our forecast is that around 18,000 new super green cars will be registered in 2017, which represents a share of five percent of the total market,” said Bil Sweden's CEO Bertil Moldén.

In France meanwhile, sales of new cars breached the symbolic two-million threshold for the first time since 2011, according to the French automakers' association CCFA.

The most popular car models in 2016 (Bil Sweden)

1. VW Golf
2. Volvo V70II, S/V90N
3. Volvo S/V60
4. Volvo XC60
5. VW Passat
6. Volvo V40N
7. Toyota Auris
8. VW Polo
9. Kia Cee'd
10. Skoda Octavia