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Sexy Volvo, clever Saab, and Swedish massage

The Local · 13 Mar 2012, 14:16

Published: 13 Mar 2012 14:16 GMT+01:00

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The Local: What do you think of when you think of Sweden?

James May: Hmm, the Swedish Chef from the Muppet show. Snow. Saunas. Saab and Volvo spring immediately to mind. Oh, and nice bread.

TL: How long are you here for?

JM: Only 4 days this time. We have to do Top Gear Live in Denmark too, so we have to prepare for that. I have been to Sweden previously but only working, so sadly it has generally been rather short stays.

TL: Anything special you are planning to do while here?

JM: I rather fancy trying some of that traditional Swedish massage. No rolling about in snow, mind, or being whipped. Just therapeutic deep tissue massage by someone with kind hands.

TL: Are Swedes really into Top Gear, you think?

JM: They seem to be. I always think the show might seem silly to Swedes, as we Brits think of them as very level-headed and serious people, but the show seems to appeal across the cultural divides – we are rather free-thinking and modern, I guess.

TL: Would you be surprised if you were recognized on the streets of Stockholm?

JM: I am still quite surprised when it happens in London, I am still not used to it. We’ve been to some remote places in Iraq, Japan and the South Americas with the show and we’ve been recognised everywhere we went – to me it feels remarkable wherever it happens.

TL: If you could meet one famous Swede of your choice, who would that be?

JM: Crikey. Well, there was that scientist, no hang on – he was Swiss. And then there’s Björk… no – she is Icelandic, isn’t she? There’s Abba, I guess. Oh, and Britt Ekland. And Greta Garbo.

TL: What’s the best thing to come out of Sweden car wise?

JM: I have always been rather impressed by the fact that Swedes changed over to right side driving overnight, sometime in the sixties. In the UK we often say ‘why can’t we do that’, forgetting that we have a lot more people and a lot more cars than Sweden in the sixties. In truth though, we’d mess it up.

TL: I hear Saab’s on offer on the cheap – you interested?

JM: It's funny, Jeremy (Clarkson) and I actually talked about this on Top Gear the other day. We reckoned we could buy Saab for £1 and we got quite excited about it until we realized we’d have to pump a lot of money into it to actually make cars. So we decided against it – we’ll buy a pub instead, Jeremy and I, when we retire.

TL: In Sweden, Saab is considered an iconic brand, would you agree?

JM: Saab is iconic – it is seen as such in Britain as well. Here it is driven mainly by the ‘intelligentia’, by architects, graphic designers and specialist doctors. It’s definitely driven by a special sort of person. In fact, there’s a bit of a cult of Saab in the UK. Saab owners wave to each other as they drive by. And you’ll never hear anyone say ‘look at that lunatic in the Saab’.

TL: Is it worth saving?

JM: In Britain, we are very sad about the demise of Saab and if there is a way to save the quirky design it should be done. Saab’s a great car enthusiast’s car. So much to talk about.

TL: Could a Volvo ever be described as a “sexy” car? What would it take?

JM: Volvos are sexy these days. When I was a boy they looked sort of square and were laughed at a bit, although still admired in their own way. Today they are practically Saabs. In the UK they are driven by public school yummy mummies picking up their offspring.

TL: The Stig – his name sounds vaguely Swedish to our ears - could it be that you are really here to visit him?

JM: Ah, well, you know I can’t reveal that. Stig does sound Swedish and he has sort of become this Father Christmas figure who may or may not be living in a North Pole cave – but I can say nothing more about it.

Story continues below…

TL: Here at The Local, we have an on-going feud regarding the word elk versus the word moose. If one of these critters were to hit your bumper during your stay in Sweden, would you say that you had an elk accident or a moose mishap?

JM: I would definitely say elk. But isn’t it the same animal anyway?

TL: Be that as it may - so you’re an elk man, then?

JM: Yes, you can definitely put me down in the elk camp.

Top Gear Live opens in the Stockholm Ericsson Globe Arena on Friday, March 16th.

Rebecca Martin

Follow Rebecca on Twitter here

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Your comments about this article

16:30 March 13, 2012 by Abe L
He didn't know about Koenigsegg? The only car Sweden can really be proud of?
17:27 March 13, 2012 by gpafledthis
VISIT AMERICA for cut rate hunting of our MELKS !! Be the first in your village to have a trophy American Melk !!
19:04 March 13, 2012 by Roccy
Jag är ledsen! This man is thought of as a complete buffoon in the UK too so please ignore his ignorant ramblings! Makes one apologetic to be a Brit!
19:19 March 13, 2012 by Lukestar1991

He may well be but there are thousands worse than him.
22:25 March 13, 2012 by Ballcocks
@ Roccy

James May is fantastic and certainly not regarded as a buffon by this Brit. There are plenty more Brits that we should be ashamed of before we come to James or any other Top Gear presenter for that matter.

James' series on Toys was the BBC at its best. Who else would make a full scale airfix spitfire or a Lego house that you could actually live in ?
22:50 March 13, 2012 by Opinionfool
@Abe L

As The Stig broke one of the Koenigseggs and it nearly killed him --- shot off the track at "The Follow Through" --- he suggested improvements that were then incororated into production models. But on Top Gear the original is known as Koenigsegggggggg and the later one as Koenigseggseggseggseggseggseggseggsegg... They are both up near the top of the Power Lap board.
08:07 March 14, 2012 by Flygger
@ Roccy

James May a bufoon ?? Perhaps you may think that but that doesn't qualify you to make comments on behalf of everyone in the UK.

James May is a great guy in my humble opinion and I doubt I am alone there.

I don't think they let buffoons drive Veyrons or fly in U2's.
12:31 March 14, 2012 by samson123
@ Roccy = Troll. THE END.
23:18 March 15, 2012 by BenC30
I'm glad he likes Volvo and can agree that they are sexy. I think mine is! I just wish he didn't stereotype Saab and Volvo drivers, they are not all the same. I too, like James, have always been impressed with the Swedish switch from left to right lane driving. He really should have brushed up on his famous Swedes though.
16:20 March 16, 2012 by Escort
The "cool 'n' sexy" image that Volvo have tried to cultivate since the mid-1990s hasn't done them any favours in the longer term and has led to the alienation of many loyal customers. They are simply trying to ape Audi and BMW and in so doing have lost much of their unique appeal. Maybe that's why so many people are now buying VWs, Skodas, Hondas and Fords instead of Volvos.
22:56 March 16, 2012 by dibble
James May is no buffoon and a great guy in my opinion also. Presents good programmes and I think he gets rather frrustrated at the antics of the other two presenters.

Not sure about the cool n sexy image of Volvo but they are still good. I have an Amazon and S60 and like them lots. And those who have gone from Volvo to the Fords, Hondas etc the majority will, I am sure at some stage, return to Volvo - safe, comfortable, reliable.
01:20 March 17, 2012 by Mgeorge733
I, and almost everyone I know thinks the Top Gear show has crashed big time. Like many of the BBC shows it has become a vehicle for the presenters to clown about and waste money on stupid tasks that are clearly staged but pretend not to be.

James May is the most likeable of the bunch, Clarkson's overpowering screeching voice annoys me no-end.

Rarely do they have a genuinely interesting story, and when they do they manage to make it OTT by staging ridiculous unrealistic tasks. However it does have amazing photography and great music!

I really like a few of Volvo's models, and always have since I was a child. Same goes for Saab too, shame they are no-more!
17:29 March 18, 2012 by jamesblish
Top Gear guys are the textbook definition of the word wan**r.
14:11 March 19, 2012 by svenscum
Lukestar1991 you are a well known knobjockey
16:27 March 21, 2012 by Escort

I suspect many of them will not return to Volvo as a lot of the competition is just as safe, comfortable and reliable (probably more reliable, in fact) and better value to boot.
10:19 March 27, 2012 by EtoileBrilliant

Crashed big time or not. The BBC won't drop it for as long is it makes the gobs of money that it does. Top Gear Magazine outsells every other magazine by a wide margin.

I don't like the program myself cos its emphasis on speed but I can appreciate why the masses may like the show.
11:52 April 8, 2012 by mikewhite
I always thought the Top Gear name Stig was a tribute to a famous Swedish racing driver anyhow.
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