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Sweden's Power Big Meet: hub caps, hair grease, and 'Happy Days'

10 Jul 2012, 10:26

Published: 10 Jul 2012 10:26 GMT+02:00

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The Power Big Meet is the biggest American car show in the world - and it takes place in Västerås, a small town in central Sweden.

The three-day event attracts 17,000 American car owners from across Sweden and from around the world.

They gather to swap, admire and drive cars.

Clich here to view the 2012 Power Big Meet photo essay

The event is tied to the "raggar" subculture, which emerged in Sweden in the 1950s and was inspired by the American greasers.

"Raggare" are mostly small-town gangs known for their love of rockabilly music, leather vests, pomade and, of course, cars - the raggare's mode of transport, sleeping place, chick magnet and party venue.

Thanks to the raggar culture, there are more restored 1950s American cars in Sweden than in the entire US.

At Power Big Meet you'll find Street Rods, Customs, 50s cruisers, 60s muscle cars, Corvettes, Mustangs, Camaros - you name it.

The sometimes surreal scene feels like a throw back from the era depicted in the US television show "Happy Days" or the film "American Graffiti".

For 28-year-old Niklas Berggren, the event is a time to wax nostalgic about the good old times.

"I would rather have lived back then. Everything seemed so easy. You just took life as it came. Finding work was not a problem," he tells The Local.

Story continues below…

67-year-old Beril Johansson makes 1950s-inspired bird nesting boxes and drives a Fiat 500 with a trailer attached comes here every year to get a taste of genuine vintage car handicraft.

"I've been interested in cars since I was born. But today all the cars look the same. They're all plasticy and awful. And you have to take your car to the workshop for every little thing," he says.

See more from scenes and descriptions from the 2012 Power Big Meet by clicking on the photo gallery link below.

Nathalie Rothschild is a freelance journalist. Follow her on her website www.nathalierothschild.com and on Twitter

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Your comments about this article

12:22 July 10, 2012 by Dazzler
"Thanks to the raggar culture, there are more restored 1950s American cars in Sweden than in the entire US."

This is borderline criminally false. Never understood the need to try and one up a different country with lies. It seems to be an accepted norm here.
12:52 July 10, 2012 by Åskar

Prove your claim, please!
17:43 July 10, 2012 by Carbarrister
I am not offended by the exaggerations in the story that perhaps stretch the truth. It is playful.

I have worked directly or indirectly with the auto industry and been involved with the old car hobby for 48 years. I currently advise a company involved in the promotion of these shows and motor sports events. So I have spent more time with this than anyone probably should.

At an early age I was amazed that Swedes had a passion for older American cars when I spent the summer with my Uncle in Karlskoga in 1966. It was when I first heard the word "Raggare" when spoken with disapproval by my aunt.

Over the years I have been to at least 20 car shows in Sweden not limited to American cars. The passion is very much alive. The Västerås Show is the largest American car event outside of the US. Not as big as the Woodward Dream Cruise but probably second to it. Who cares if it is second or fourth.

I found the photos amusing. I suspect they were carefully selected to make fun of the participants. Nevertheless, they all appear to be having fun.

Clearly, the show is not a snooty show intended for the rich like Pebble Beach in California or Villa d'Este in Italy.

It represents a hobby that ordinary people can enjoy.
21:53 July 10, 2012 by bow290
check out this site...


car show for the aussie rev head, its pretty big
10:49 July 13, 2012 by skogsbo
Raggeres aren't just about the cars, many live their whole lives in that era, clothes, hair, music... Some have everything in their house appliances etc.. other won't even have modern things like a bank card.. they possess a certain mentality, but overall they are harmless!
15:43 July 13, 2012 by planethero
great post car barrister
21:33 July 13, 2012 by eltechno
This article and photo essay mostly misses the whole point-which is how much time and sheer skill it requires to keep an old car running. The last time I was In Sweden, I met a man who had almost completed a frame-up restoration of a '57 DeSoto. It was flawless-no DeSoto was ever that perfect when new. As I tried not to drool on his wonderful car, we discussed the finer points of 4-barrel Carter carburetors which was his final project. Even though I had worked on the things in the 1960s, I knew almost nothing compared to him.

These people are not a bunch of goof-offs-they are a throwback to when Sweden had such an advanced industrial culture, these incredible mechanical skills were harnessed to make Sweden VERY rich. Too bad this power mostly manifests itself in outbreaks of nostalgia.
17:21 July 16, 2012 by feathernoodle
It looks like what we call the "Rockabilly" culture here. How much does this hobby cost (buying the car, getting it shipped to Sweden, restoring it)? While I like seeing these old cars restored (they're VERY popular in the U.S., don't let anyone tell you differently), what I like more is looking at these photos and realizing the "fat , spoiled American" myth isn't true. People are fat everywhere. Except, of course, where they are starving to death.
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