Let’s hit the open road!

Photo courtesy of AMCAR Lillestrøm

Norway’s fascination with American culture ranges from music and movies, fast food to the U.S. presidential race. But did you know there is an impressive collection of vintage American cars?

Christy Olsen Field

Managing Editor

In Lillestrøm, a suburb 20 minutes northwest of Oslo, American car enthusiasts formed AMCAR Lillestrøm, drawing participants and visitors from all over Norway and Sweden for their cruising events and more.

Edel Hagane, who serves as secretary of AMCAR Lillestrøm, shared her experience with the club and the popularity of American cars in Norway.

“There has always been great interest about U.S. States and American cars in our district. It grew when we started our 4th of July cruising at Lillestrøm Torv (square). For our first cruising in 1988, 150 American cars showed up in addition to the crowds of people from the town and surrounding district,” she said.

The event has grown ever since, and now more than 3,000 American cars participate in the 4th of July cruise, coming from all over Norway and neighboring Sweden. Approximately 10,000 people come out to watch the spectacle.

“This year there were some representatives from a Buick club in the U.S., just for our event. We will celebrate the 25th anniversary in 2013!” added Hagane.

Founded in 1988

AMCAR Lillestrøm was founded Nov. 13, 1988, with 17 charter members. Hagane said the group worked together to recruit new members with an interest in American cars, and membership grew quickly in the 1990s. Today, the club has around 250 members, as many families have joined the club.

Photo courtesy of AMCAR Lillestrøm

Members of AMCAR Lillestrøm range in age from 30 to 75 years old, with an average in the mid-50s. The majority are men, but in the recent past, there are several women who have joined the club with their own cars. The club has a wide range of brands, from Cadillac to Dodge. The oldest two cars in the group are a 1932 Cadillac 370B V12 and a 1932 Ford.

When asked why American cars appeal to Norwegians, Hagane replied, “First and foremost, it is the memories of American culture from a few decades back in time, as some members have experienced and younger members dream about. The size, shape and powerful engine noise are a big inspiration factor.”

Getting together

Photo courtesy of AMCAR Lillestrøm

AMCAR Lillestrøm members gather on a regular basis during the warm months of spring and summer, and occasionally in the winter.

“In mid-May, we celebrate that the cars are driven out of the garage after a long hibernation during the winter. We gather around 40 – 50 cars if the weather permits. The club sets up a barbeque with a big grill and participants bring their own food or a picnic basket,” said Hagane.

On the second Wednesday of the month from May to September, the group gathers for cruising the streets of Lillestrøm. In December, they come together for a Christmas cruising with the newer American cars in the club.

The most popular event of the year is the 4th of July Night Cruise. Over 3,000 American cars descend upon Lillestrøm, population of 14,000 residents. The event draws between 10,000 – 15,000 spectators, many of whom are dressed up in vintage clothing from the 1950s.

“In early September, we drive around Øyeren, a large lake that extends through several municipalities. We have about 60 participating cars, and we have a big barbeque at the end.

In February, AMCAR Lillestrøm holds its annual festival with an American-inspired menu, music and dancing.

Cruising Route 66

Extending from Chicago to Santa Monica, historic Route 66 evokes memories of the ultimate American road trip of a bygone era.  AMCAR Lillestrøm members are planning a trip for 2013 to share the experience together.

Photo courtesy of AMCAR Lillestrøm

“Some of us drove Route 66 in 2006 as a part of an 80th anniversary tour of the road organized by father-and-son duo Harry and Henning Kjensli from Lillestrøm. A total of 17 classic American cars were shipped from Norway to Chicago for a three-week-long tour of Route 66 all the way to Santa Monica, Calif. The experience was so unique and gratifying that they became determined to do a similar trip in the future,” said Hagane.

After some research they discovered that another great American highway would celebrate its centennial in 2013. The Lincoln Highway was America’s first transcontinental highway, traversing the country between New York and San Francisco. Built in 1913, there are a total of 14 states, 128 counties, and over 700 cities, towns and villages through which the highway passed at some time in its history.

AMCAR Lillestrøm decided to put together a centennial tour in 2013, with the ambition of bringing over 100 classic cars from mainly the Scandinavian countries.

“Today the tour has 84 confirmed cars signed up and the goal of 100 seems within reach. The tour will start from New York City’s Times Square on July 1, 2013, 100 years to the day since the founding of the Lincoln Highway Association. They will then spend 26 days on the road before arriving in San Francisco on July 26. The idea of bringing your own American car back to its native homeland and driving it for a month on a historic U.S highway seems to be the most alluring idea to participants. We also estimate that 15 – 20 percent of the participants have never been to the U.S before. This trip will enable them to experience the great variety of sights and people that America has to offer between its coasts,” said Hagane.

For more information about AMCAR Lillestrøm, visit their website at www.amcarlillestrom.no, or their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/amcarlillestrom. Information is all in Norwegian, with plenty of photos from the past few years.

This article originally appeared in the Sept. 21, 2012 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (800) 305-0271.

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