Iceland Classics: The Winter Beaters Of Reykjavik, Iceland


Several weeks ago my wife and I went to Iceland again for a week after having found a great package deal.  We were glad to find that it had lost none of the charm it had when we went a couple of summers ago, if anything it was even better with snow and, of course, the U.S. dollar’s resurgent strength.  Compared to Colorado, the temperature was very similar and there was less snow than at home, setting up the perfect conditions for a long walk around Reykjavik.

My initial goal was only to photograph vehicles that had some rust on them, i.e. cars that were at least beginning to approach beaterdom.  As it turned out, there were some others that were far too interesting to pass up, so here they all are in no particular order. Put on some warm gloves and join us for a walk around this marvelous place!


Starting things off right across the street from our hotel is this marvelous SsangYong Korando in a very Geo Tracker-esque shade of Purple.


SsangYongs are surprisingly common here, or perhaps not that surprising as they are considered to be somewhat robust, usually with a fair amount of Mercedes mechanicals.


Just around the corner was another Korean cousin, this time a Hyundai van with 4WD mechanicals.  Overall this is about the size of a modern Toyota Sienna but quite a bit narrower.  Still, it looks like it could easily seat at least 7 or 8 in relative comfort.  Fill up the box on the roof, attach a trailer and you are set for a great cross-county trip.


There are a ton of this generation Grand Cherokee still running around Iceland, certainly more than I see back home in Colorado.  All versions too, including the upper-crust Orvis edition.


Here’s a Hyundai Terracan SUV, very reminiscent in shape and size to the Mitsubishi Montero/Pajero.  It turns out it is related to it.  Equipped with a diesel engine and what looks to be a BOF chassis, Hyundai appears to have some serious off-roading machinery for sale in other parts of the world, what with this and the van that we just saw.


When’s the last time you saw a Lincoln Aviator?  Beautiful color too.  This one had passed me earlier and I couldn’t get to my camera in time so I was glad we caught up to it a bit later.


It wouldn’t be a walk without a sighting of a funny-looking French car. Another one of those tiny on the outside but huge on the inside jobs that they seem to do so well.


A Renault Modus, it’s about the size of a Nissan Versa.


Why can’t we ever have nice things?  Ford Fusion wagon (Well, a Mondeo in this case), so sensible an idea.


Panther love never sleeps.  Mercury Marquis, at your service.  This was one of my more surprising finds but hardly the only one of its kind.


Here’s a well used Opel Corsa 5-door.  Another super-cheap little city car but still trimmed out to a decent standard, note the plastic wheel arch trim etc.


This one’s sporting the mid-level 1.4l engine.  Not bad for a late ’90’s car, still running around almost twenty years later.


Did you think I would see this Cadillac Deville with a Northstar V-8 around the corner?  Neither did I.  This one obviously is driven regularly and doesn’t need much but a bath.


Icelandic folk are probably the world’s biggest 4WD enthusiasts.  Gotta love this mint green short-wheelbase Econoline 4×4.  It’s a good thing the country has relatively low speed limits, this thing has got to be frightening on the open road with a cross wind.


These Mitsubishi Lancer’s are pretty popular, the last time we were here I shot a red one and this wasn’t the only one I saw this time either.  I always think of Perry Shoar when I see these for some reason, I believe he is a big fan of these and everything else Lancer (or Colt).


Rust is definitely starting to nibble away at this one, but for around town it seems to be just fine.


A Chrysler 300?  A Dodge Magnum?  NO!  The best of both worlds, a Chrysler 300C Wagon.  Why, oh why, Chrysler, why deny the home market this piece of magnificence?


Maybe I’m a snob, but for me this Chrysler version is infinitely more appealing than the Dodge Magnum ever was.


This is one of SsangYong’s more recent efforts, the Rexton.  It looks significantly less “challenged” than most of the rest of their offerings and seems to be somewhat popular.  I see some Land Rover and also some Lexus in the shape, kind of like the way that the original Kia Sorento was very reminiscent of the Lexus RX300 back in the day.


The front is not unattractive either, although I see more Infiniti influences up here, especially the grille.  If SsangYong ever tries to set up shop in North America, this is probably their best opportunity to try it with.


A Suzuki Jimny!  Actually, these are far from rare here, but this one of the most beater-ish ones I saw.  Many of these are/were rentals.  It appears that people don’t realize how small they actually are (Yes, pretty much a Samurai).  We saw one with four people in it on the airport road.  Everybody except the driver had their luggage on their lap.


It could be fun to drive for a bit.  Around town?  Sure, probably like driving a Wrangler back at home.


The colorful variety struck me, funnily the Subaru of all cars wears the most boring color.  Followed closely by the BMW at the end.


Ooh, a first-generation base model Honda HR-V!  In a color that can really only be described as “radioactive urine”.  At least it brightens the day, just don’t eat the snow around it.


These always struck me as very practical, kind of like a super-sized Honda City.  But make no mistake, they are not large, probably a bit smaller than a first-generation Rav-4.


Somehow I got on a street with some very rusty cars, I got the impression that some of these were imported from elsewhere and were perhaps accident reconstructions.  There were several without plates and some with mainland European ID.  This is a relatively recent Toyota Yaris with a surprising amount of rust.


The same Yaris from the front.  Definitely getting nibbled at….


But nothing like this!  This was by far the rustiest thing I saw during our entire stay.  I’m guessing this first generation ML320 still runs fine, but it is hideous to look at.


Here’s one of those non-plated cars I was talking about.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen one of these Hyundai’s.


Yes, that’s right, a relatively low-status car with a very pedigree’d designer behind it.


Hyundai Matrix.  Hmm.  This is kind of what I think a Homer Hatchback might look like.  But really, it’s likely been designed as a city car.  Small wheels and tries, low beltline, high roof.  Super practical and likely low running costs.


Maybe I was in a not-so-great part of town, I didn’t notice the graffiti when I took the shot, my eyes were filled with this excellent example of a late 1980’s or early 1990’s  190E 1.8.  The lines on this thing are aging better and better every year.


A block away we came upon this.  It doesn’t get much more majestic than this, the S-Class Coupe.


And yes, it is the V12.  Someone isn’t afraid of $10/gallon gas.  Notice the rust spot?


It wasn’t just a regular S600 either, this one had the full Lorinser tuner package on it as well.  I’m guessing this wasn’t the original owner’s car anymore, being parked out  in the elements as it was.


Somehere in Iceland there must be a busy transmission shop.  Dodge Caravan’s were pretty popular and regular sightings, in all generations.


It wouldn’t be a CC walk without a Corolla sighting, actually there are two in this picture.  The red one though probably represents the best generation of Corolla ever.


Here’s a pretty sad-looking Open Vectra wagon.  I always thought these were quite attractively styled, certainly they look more attractive to my eye than the Saturn wagon that they morphed into for the US market.


Still, Vectra’s never really got much love anywhere else either, this one has seen some hard times.


I got extremely excited when I saw this from a distance, I could not believe what I was seeing.  A very early Renault 9 (our Alliance).


This appears to be the 9G version, I can’t find any info on it but it looks sportier than normal with the red stripes and the spoiler. For an early 80’s Renault, this was in very good condition.  I haven’t seen one of these in many years.  I noticed something on the back window and wondered if maybe it was some kind of college sticker or maybe something celebrating Renault in either F1 or Rallying.


Yeah, that’s right, after I worked up the nerve to wipe the snow off someone else’s car, I realized that the Renault 9 was the Car Of The Year for 1982.  I wonder how long the bloom on that rose lasted.  Anyway, this was probably the highlight of my day.  My wife thinks I’m a dork, but I know you all understand.


I’ve always liked this generation of Opel Astra.  The styling is spot on and just gives an impression of a solid little car with that perky little tail.


No Suzuki Jimny for this guy, a true commuter uses a Land Rover with replacement fenders and wider rubber.  For some reason I thought Land Rovers were made from aluminum but apparently not.


Here’s a typically worldly scene in Iceland, cars literally come from everythere, in this case the Forester from Japan, the Golf from Germany and the Chrysler Cirrus from the US.


Here’s a better shot of the Cirrus although the sleet was starting to come down a bit harder.  I saw more of these here in Iceland than I’ve seen at home in a long time.  It’s weird.


And here’s a Nissan Terrano, also sold as a Ford Maverick in Europe.  Smaller than a Pathfinder, these seem to still be running around in some quantity although starting to show their age.


SsangYong Musso.  These seem to be very capable both on and off-road.  You can find them anywhere here, in town or out in the country.


They are starting to grow on me looks-wise.  I see a lot of Isuzu Rodeo with a dash of Range Rover in the rear.


Here’s a VW Touran (not Routan).  Imagine a Golf up-sized a bit to be like a Mazda5 or Kia Rondo.  Kind of a Euro Mini-Minvan.


They’re good-looking and I’m sure drive pretty solid.  Overall a very good form factor for every purpose and again surprising that this stuff doesn’t catch on in the US.


Yes, this Unimog was in daily service, we saw it driving around all the time.


That bed is extremely usable with the folding sides and the tarp on top gets the job done too.


Just in front of it was this well used Nissan Micra.


With a replacement hatch from an apparently much sportier version judging by the spoiler.


Yes, even Lada has a piece of the pie here, we spied this Niva on our way to dinner later that evening.


It was in excellent condition too.  This was my first “in the wild” sighting of one of these and I was struck at how it was a size larger than I had imagined it being.  One day, I’d love to drive one, they’ve  always interested me.


I’ll leave you with this shot.  I’ve never seen a Volt at a gas station before and was surprised to even see a Volt here at all.  Iceland has one of the most diverse car markets I’ve ever seen, literally everything is sold here.  Both Toyota Tacoma AND HiLux, pretty much the full range of anything available anywhere in the world can be had.  All in a country with about 350,000 people.  I looked it up and in 2014 less than 10,000 (not a typo) new cars were sold in total.  What an amazing country in so many respects.  I hope you enjoyed our walk today, time to go warm up in front of the fire…