Finnish Hot Rods
by Steven Chupnick
The muscle car is truly an American icon… but we’re not the only country to admire a big block engine roar. Indeed, classic Detroit iron is very popular in Europe. So much so that our Over the Edge reporter Steven Chupnick found a group of fans in Finland who live and breathe American hot rods.
STEVEN CHUPNICK: That's the sound of pure American muscle. But, we're not remotely close to the US, but rather on the coast of the Baltic Sea - Helsinki, Finland...Over 4000 miles from North America is the small European country and the improbable home to the Finnish Hot Rod Association...from a small group of 100 at their inception, to now almost 1800 FHRA members or Rodders, as they’re called.
STEVEN CHUPNICK: With cars and bikes that look like these, it's no wonder the Finnish Hot Rod Association has been going strong for 40 years. And this 1928 Ford, it just scratches the surface of what these men and women get to drive everyday...at least in warmer weather.
STEVEN CHUPNICK: They’re all about Detroit iron from the 1920's all the way up to the 80's...largely imported by individual car enthusiasts, these beasts can be heard across the country - and seen loud and proud...
TAPIO VALJA: All the big American cars were, sort of, abundant, so people wanted to have them. They were cheap for the young guys and we started to buy them and really started to enjoy the big curves and the big fins and all the chrome the cars had.
STEVEN CHUPNICK: Each year, the FHRA clubs meet up and show off their rides...from customs to hot rods and more. Just driving around town is an event for everyone involved...and yes, they do head to the drag strip, but you want to talk about an event – the Chicken Run...these guys and gals show off what their cars can do – up hill and on the dirt. The FHRA is made up of a number of car clubs...one of them is the Road Pilots...despite a climate that is anything but friendly to driving, Jarkko Ojanen and his crew rebuild, restore and even race these hot rods...
JARKKO OJANEN: We like these cars shapes, what they looks, big engines, much horsepowers, and everything. It’s really good cars; that’s why we love these cars.
STEVEN CHUPNICK: Speed is the Rodder’s vice...but also bringing them back to their pristine condition...that’s where Timo Hersti comes into play...Timo began restoring and customizing muscle cars in 1980 at the age of 16 and 5 years ago, it became his full time career...
TIMO HERSTI: “It’s all about the design of the cars; it’s a much more prominent design there. And of course, the sound of the engine – big V8 engine. That’s a big part of the thrill.
STEVEN CHUPNICK: But where do they find the parts to fix them up? We headed to the Tomahawk Town car club for an answer.
ISA MIKKONEN: At the moment, it’s much more easier because of internet and so and so and you can read from there. But before, it’s very difficult because you ain’t got no photo or any technical things. You really had to go States or just write a letter.
STEVEN CHUPNICK: Tomahawk Town has big plans for this Merlin engine – a 572 cubic inch, 800 horsepower monster...they’ll be getting this bad boy ready to race in no time...like most FHRA car clubs, members of Tomahawk Town are as close as a real family.
TAPIO VALJA: Everybody seems to know each other and if you don’t know it, it’s easy to get to know the other guy.
STEVEN CHUPNICK: All this talk of exporting out of the States, I think I’m going to take one and import it back into the States...
STEVEN CHUPNICK: Any way you look at it, the American muscle car is a worldwide phenomenon – even if you’re halfway around the world...
TAPIO VALJA: Every car enthusiast, in the end, they will become a hot rodder.