Embracing a Kerouacian fantasy
Norway is “Living the American Dream” in classic cars from this side of the Atlantic
Few things inspire the imagination and epitomize the romance of America better than the iconic image of an open road, experienced in a sexy convertible sporting sleek tail fins. This Kerouacian fantasy has been realized in many parts of Norway, where Classic American Car Clubs thrive. Many of these AmCar club members travel from all over the country to attend the annual American Festival in Vanse, held on the last weekend in June, and share the great lines of their well-kept beauties.
The cars are the hit of the festival’s two parades and serve to heighten its fun. There is always a sighting of Elvis and Priscilla in the back of a convertible. One time I saw JFK and Jackie sitting in another with a rocket ship between them.
AmCar club organizations are prevalent throughout Norway. According to Wikipedia, “The club was founded in 1975 and currently has 98 affiliated local clubs, 15 national teams, and about 17,000 members nationwide.” It is an active group that has promoted events like drag racing and even troubleshoots for those Norwegians who wish to purchase and import an American car; the group also boasts the publication of a magazine geared for their interests. They have even been instrumental in creating legislative changes such as eliminating the high Norwegian taxes for importing new cars. Now cars 30 years or older do not have to pay that fee.
The Vanse area has its own club, worthy of bragging rights. The Lista AmCar Club is led by president Jan Vere Jorgensen and is amazing. Repurposed from a former mink farm, it includes a huge room to store and protect these very sleek machines. Vroom! Vroom!
I had a chance to speak with president and long time member Jan Jorgensen.
Victoria Hofmo: When and how did the Lista AmCar Club begin?
Jan Vere Jorgensen: It began in 1992, when a few guys were sitting in a pub called 8th Ave [on Brooklyn Square] and two of the guys had been at car meets and said, “we have to start our own club.” So they took money out from their own pockets and started in the fall of 1992. We are going to be 25 years old next year.
VH: Did the club have the mink farm when you began or was it acquired after you established the club?
JVJ: The club bought the mink farm in 1994 after looking for two years for a place to establish the club. We put in a few thousand hours dugnad—volunteer. Mink farm buildings are very low buildings. What we did is we jacked it up with the Donald Duck method.
VH: What is the Donald Duck method?
JVJ: That is what he (Donald Duck) does when he lifts buildings. When you put 10 jacks on each side and take it easy, easy up. We lifted the building three feet. No windows were broken. The original building was built in 1986. The mink business went down, so the owner had to sell.
VH: I think what so impresses me is the way the members roll up their sleeves and dig in to get things done. Can you speak a little about that quality?
JVJ: The quality is Norwegian soul—dugnad—voluntary work. [Note: I looked up the etymology of this Norse word “dugnad,” and it dates back to the 14th or 15th centuries as a collective community effort.]
VH: Can you tell our readers about the Route 8 Drive in the Lista area, since it is usually toured in a vehicle?
JVJ: That’s a wonderful ride to see: the landscape, all the American houses, go to the Lighthouse, go to the AmCar Club, to Trunken (store with American goods), and you can go to 8th Avenue Diner. The American houses were made from blueprints probably from a Sears Catalogue or some other, and the fine details were picked up from houses around Long Island and Staten Island.
VH: Is it true that the American Festival’s Parade held on Saturday had the largest participation of AmCars to date?
JVJ: That is definitely a yes. Just think that about 2,300 live in Vanse and during the parade there were close to 10,500 people. During the four days of the festival, the total numbers were 25,000 people in and out. There were close to 250 American cars. A lot of people want to see the parade.
VH: Can you speak a little about how and when the AmCar Club began to be part of the festival?
JVJ: It started out in 2005. In 2004, we got a letter from WPC Club (Chrysler Club) that they wanted to come and take a look at The American Lista with a bunch of cars, for the following summer. And we did a big line up, a car meet on Brooklyn Square with 60 or 70 American cars and Harley bikes—about 116. And we drove of course around Route 8. And the man who should have the credit for starting the parade is Svein Skardal, who said, “We are going to have a parade next year [at the American Festival].”
VH: Can you name some highlights of the club’s participation in the festival?
JVJ: Yes, when I took the American Ambassador to Norway, Bobby B. White, on a cruise of Route 8 with the Mayor of Farsund Kommune, with all of his body guards and guests. I lined up five Cadillac convertibles and we dressed for the occasion, like we do in the parade. When he, (White) came out in a nice suit, he said, “Hi guys, you look more American than I do.”
Another highlight was taking one of the directors of the Disney studios in California on the route. He was told through a friend that he had to come and see Lista. And when I took him to the top of Route 8, where you can see the landscape overlooking the fjord, he said, “I’ll be back here to make a film.”
I joked that maybe that film was Frozen, as the animation uses a compilation of Norwegian towns and landscapes.
VH: And let’s not forget the line dancers that are part of your club. I’ve seen them performing at the festival for years. Has the group grown?
JVJ: That’s a lovely story. The club figured out in 2009 that it would be nice to have the line dancers in Lista join the club. There were about nine girls. We thought it would be nice if they grew to be 15 or 20. It took only a few months and they passed over 60 girls. That was more than we could handle.
We advised Joanne, the president of the line dancers, to make a business out of this. Joanne started a company for line dancing known as Laces and Boots Line Dancers. She’s an American. We located a nice big hall at the former Military Camp nearby. So she’s been working with the dancers there for a year or two.
This spring, Joanne and her companion bought a restaurant in the area for a very good price and now they have extended the rooms downstairs for the bar and on top there is line dancing two nights a week. On July 4 we had a big party at Joanne’s place. We filled the parking lot with American cars and some others. Joanne arranged a plate for $25 and the place was packed.
VH: What are some future plans for the club?
JVJ: Our main focus is American cars and American culture. So we are going to dig into the culture more and all the things that come with that.
And we’re going to build an AmCar Museum. That was my goal since I came in. I have the drawings for it—plans I drew. I am a graphic designer and illustrator. Not only cars, but also exhibits and things Norwegian Americans brought back home—tools, clothes, instruments. Whatever.
VH: Is there anything you’d like to add?
JVJ: The research council of Norway has put their eye on The American Lista, as it is so unique… They’re going to do a three-year study to advertise Lista to the world. They have a committee that includes the County Research Council. I am representing AmCar Club, others are Christina from Trunken, etc.
Also, the slogan of the AmCar Club is “Living the American Dream.”
This article originally appeared in the July 29, 2016, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.