Museum Classics: The Eclectic Vehicles Of The Skógar Museum

(first posted 10/10/2017)        Skógar, a little town in southern Iceland, is famous for its superb waterfall, but also for having one of the oldest museums in the country (opened in 1949). The museum’s main goal is to depict daily life in previous decades and centuries. They have anything from old turf houses and antique furniture to cameras, rifles and 1980s “cinderblock” cell phones. Surprisingly for me, they also have a pretty large collection of vehicles used in Iceland over the last century.

I must reveal that the mustard-coloured Moskvich 412 I wrote about in my last post was to be found outside this museum, as CCommenter Dimos correctly guessed. It was such a great find that I could not resist from making a stand-alone piece on it.

Just next to the 412 was this almost pristine 1964 Vauxhall Viva, which I also photographed extensively.

However, the Viva did not stir up my enthusiasm so much that I wanted to feature it in a stand-alone CC post. Besides, this model was expertly written up for this website by Roger Carr in this excellent post – why re-invent the wheel?

Still, it’s a nice little car, if a bit on the bland side. But there were other vehicles outside the museum, including a couple of tractors (not really my cuppa) and a few trucks.

I was most impressed by this Volvo Viking 485 from the early ‘60s. These were not seen much in the more southern parts of Europe I grew up in, making this thing pretty exotic to my eyes, though looking a lot like old Berliets one sees in French films. The gray and red colour scheme is to die for, too.

Right next to the Viking was a Ford Model AA flatbed that had been restored to its former glory, as well as two other old trucks, doubtless remnants of the wartime US activities on the island.

The two war rigs were a yellow 1942 Diamond T and a grey truck I’m ashamed to confess I cannot identify for sure. Looks kinda like a Studebaker, but I’m really out of my depth here. Someone will let me know, I’m sure.

Moving indoors, some exhibits seemed to have been restored extensively – others not. This 1930 Model AA belonged to the first category. The colour came out weird on my camera for some reason: it was more of a bright red than this awful pinkish hue. This was the first motorized vehicle to be used by the Icelandic post.

Now this one’s a Dodge for sure – circa 1945, if I remember correctly. Just on a tightrope between desirably patina’ed and scrapyard beauty. Love the simplicity of the license plate, too – “Z 2”…

This is an Elcar 8-81 from the early ‘20s – one of two ever imported in Iceland. This once-nice large open car was powered by a 4.2 litre Lycoming straight-8. Never seen one prior to this museum exhibit. This Indiana marque was  in business from 1915 to 1931. Another victim of the Depression, it seems.

A complete restoration would perhaps not be amiss on this type of car, but I suppose one can make a case for it being left as is. This one seems to be stuck in between, unfortunately.

Here we have something I’m a little more familiar with, at least in reading about them. This 1930 Citroën-Kégresse P15, one of four imported in Iceland at the time, was based on a Citroën C6 chassis and modified at the factory by engineer Adolphe Kégresse to use his half-track system, as well as skis for the front wheels.

Nearly all RWD Citroëns could receive this modification, but this one is based on a 6-cyl. chassis and has an Icelandic-built body, making it somewhat unique.

Kégresse invented and patented this system while in Russia, where he was the Czar’s driver and chief mechanic before the First World War. He became a close collaborator of André Citroën in 1919, and Citroën organized three legendary endurance races across Africa, Asia and the Arctic to show off both his cars’ durability and the half-track’s versatility over all types of terrain.

Staying with snowmobiles for a bit, here’s a 1942 Studebaker M29C Weasel. Perhaps the earliest vehicle purpose-built for snow, these were powered by a Studebaker Champion 6-cyl. engine. They were also amphibious, as they were designed to land on the beaches of German-occupied Norway. The Norway landings never did happen, but some of these were used in Italy in 1943, Normandy in 1944 and in the Pacific. This is a re-bodied “civilianized” version for use by the Icelandic Road and Coast Administration, who donated quite a few of their vehicles to this museum.

Beautiful 1945 Ford V8 1-ton pick-up truck – very nicely restored in a tasteful dark green hue.

Late ‘50s Dodge “Power Wagon” 4×4 truck – this one looks like it worked for a living until pretty recently…

We’re now entering the final “smaller 4x4s” section of the museum. Jeeps and Landies aplenty, for sure, but also a few surprises.

This Willys Jeep was given a locally-made closed body. Quite crude, but in an attractive sort of way. Hard for me to date these – the squared-off fenders look a bit like Mitsubishi Jeeps, which I highly doubt it is. Bizarre…

This long-wheelbase 1968 Land Rover Mk III fire engine was originally used in Denmark and was imported to Iceland three years later. Looks ready to be used in a movie or something. “When Hellu Freezes Over”, coming to a theater near you.

Here’s something I never knew existed: a 1981 Volvo C202 Laplander. These are derived from an army transport and over 3000 of these were built for civilian use in Hungary, of all places. Laplanders were powered by Volvo’s classic yet bulletproof B20 engine. Boxiest Volvo I’ve ever seen.

And finally, another “Cod War Icon” that was also paid for with fish, a 1964 UAZ 69.

These not unattractive 4x4s were designed by GAZ in the early ‘50s, but production soon moved to the Ulyanovsk and lasted until 1972. Pretty much a Soviet version of the Land Rover or the Jeep Station Wagon.

The interior is as simple as its Western counterparts’ were, though these seats seem far too modern and comfy to be original. I like the separate switches and motors for the left and right windshield wipers.

So that’s it for the Skógar Museum’s vehicular delights. Other exhibits include a 19th-century school, a church, a few houses complete with period furniture, the hull of an 18th-century fishing vessel and countless other memorabilia. Worth a look if you happen to be in the area, however unlikely that may be…