Having recently described my plan to take a 1986 Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser and boldly go where no GM B Body wagon has gone before, I thought that it would be a good time to describe the presence of these vehicles in one place overseas: Sweden, that European hotbed of the classic American car hobby.
Caprices, Roadmasters and other 1977-96 B Bodies are everyday sights in Stockholm, with numerous sedans and wagons on the streets regularly driven. The more glamorous 1950s and 1960s American cars receive all of the attention from observers of the classic American car scene in Sweden, but the workhorse B Bodies are an important part of it as well, providing everyday transportation exactly as they do in the U.S.
Some Caprices arrived in Europe as officially imported new cars. Amber rear turn signal lenses are the most obvious element of the export model. Also visible on the front bumper in the first photo is a headlight washer system, required on all cars sold new in Sweden.
The vast flow of classic American cars imported into Sweden has included numerous B Body wagons, including this white Caprice. Red taillight lenses identify it as a U.S.-market car originally.
The 1977-90 Caprice is clearly the most popular B Body sedan and wagon in Sweden, but the aerodynamic 1990s cars have a following there as well. This Buick Roadmaster Estate is one of several regularly seen on the street in Stockholm, along with Caprice wagons, Impala SS and “Shamu the whale” Caprice sedans, and Roadmaster sedans.
Why are these cars popular in Sweden and other foreign countries, when many (perhaps most) Americans regard them as oversized dinosaurs, and few regard them as classics yet? Part of their appeal is their spaciousness and comfort, utility in wagon form, and ease of maintenance and repair, and part comes from being foreign and somewhat exotic – the exact opposite of the image of these cars in the U.S.
Their owners are part of the club of American car owners, and everyone likes to be part of a special club. Even that most unpleasant of classic car experiences, being stranded by a mechanical breakdown, can be entertaining when you are rescued by a fellow American car enthusiast in a Mustang GT. On top of that, the driver of an American wagon has a car “just like in National Lampoon’s Vacation,” as the gentleman in the red shirt told me. Utility, exclusivity, and a Hollywood connection are a winning combination anywhere, and in Europe, a B Body wagon has all three.