- Sep 19, 2008
The cars of Ystafell: vintage Icelandic metal
Click above for a hi-res gallery of cars at the Transport Museum at Ystafell
Tucked away in a green, waterfall-riven valley between Akureyri and Husavik, Iceland is the hamlet of Ystafell (who-stuh-fel is the closest we can get to proper pronunciation). Akureyri has some of the best nightlife in Iceland, while Husavik has whales and a museum dedicated to things unmentionable on a family site. That leaves the Transport Museum at Ystafell practically unnoticed, which is a shame, because features two barns full of unlikely vehicles, each with an authentic Icelandic story. Follow the jump for the tale of our recent visit, and check out the gallery of hi-res photos below.
The Transport Museum literally is a case of blink-and-you'll-miss-it. In fact, even if you don't blink, if you don't know what you're looking for and don't keep at least one eye on the side of the road, you'll miss it. Hidden largely behind trees and tall bushes, a small sign and a tiny dirt driveway are the only markers to signal that you've arrived at a museum built on one man's passion for cars.
You can read the full history here, but the Cliff's Notes version is that Ingolfur Lars Kristjansson moved to Ystafell in the 40s and eventually became a car mechanic. He packed away so much stuff that people began to bring him additional things to hold on to. In 1998 everyone decided it was time to bring the whole mess indoors and tell the stories of the cars, tanks, tractors, snowmobiles, jeeps, trucks, and assorted bits within.
The most intriguing thing about the museum -- besides seeing vintage Trabants, Skodas and a couple of Dr. Seuss-looking cars for the first time -- is that each vehicle has an Icelandic history. There's a 1/2-ton 1940 Dodge Carry All that Kristjansson used himself to deliver milk and ride into town. There's a 1955 Unimog he used for farm work, and a 1951 Bombardier snowmobile that he used as a school bus.
Speaking of snowmobiles, those wacky Icelanders even tried importing Bren Gun Carriers (or Universal Carriers) for ice and powder duty. However, all that armor, good for repelling bullets, made it a little to heavy for winter work. Speaking of military vehicles, Iceland was home to an American military base for 50 years, so there along with a couple of Willys Jeeps you'll also find a Ford Jeep and a 1941 Canadian Chevrolet CMP.
Even more mundane tastes are satisfied, if you can call the first female Icelandic prime minister's 1982 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham mundane. A return to exotica is provided by the Matra Simca Bagheera, with three-abreast seating. And what museum collection would be complete without a 1961 Sunbeam Rapier donated by Emiliana Torrini, a 1965 Ford Taunus -- not Taurus -- and a 1991, 10 hp, four-speed manual Kewet El-jet electric car from Denmark?
We didn't have time to roam the entire exhibit, for we had an appointment with some minke whales. But for a further selection of cars and stories, go here. And if you're ever headed to Ystafell, remember to pack your camera -- and a coat -- and tell them Autoblog sent you.