by Graham Arnold
Also see our Finland road test of the Sebring, Avenger, Journey, and Patriot.
Since 1969, the Finnish Valmet Automotive complex in Uusikaupunki (pronounced oo-see-cow-punky) on the southwest coast of Finland, about 140 miles north of Helsinki, has produced a wide variety of niche vehicles.
Originally a joint venture by Saab-Scania AB (of Sweden) and the Finnish Valmet Corporation, Valmet Automotive was originally known as Saab-Valmet, and produced Saabs. In 1992, Valmet Corporation became the sole owner of the company, and in July 1999, Valmet merged with Rauma to form Metso, one of the world's leaders in paper processing and automation. Currently Valmet Automotive, an independent European contract manufacturer of premium specialty cars, accounts for about five percent of Metso sales.
Many different makes and models of vehicles have been produced by Valmet Automotive over the years, including the Lada Samara, Porsche Boxster, and many Saab models. The Tabot production figures were:
NB: Some of the Horizon models were converted to run on a type of "petrol" (apparently kerosene?) with an octane rating of between 60-70, normally used in marine engines or agricultural machinery.
The Petro Horizon was a purely Finnish invention, where the engine was converted to be able to run on motor petroleum due to a search for cheaper alternatives to gasoline at the end of the 1970s. First the Valmet factory converted
Saabs, then when Talbots were added to the range of the factory, the Horizon was converted.
The conversion took away a sizeable chunk of horsepower because compression had to be lowered significantly,
and the motor petroleum affects the oil of the engine,
so intervals for oil change had to be shortened considerably, but still you could expect lower mileage and a noticeable smell. Finnish tinkering with motor petroleum ended because of the government's taxation of vehicles and fuel, which finally killed off the petro experiment together with its patchy distribution network.
The government had chosen to tax alternative, cheaper fuels higher to compensate for their lower initial cost. (Cars and fuel for them has traditionally been one of the government's cash cows, a fact noticeable when checking out the car fleet in use in Finland.)
Valmet Automotive did manufacture the 1510, Horizon and Solara. At first the cars were identical to the ones assembled in France, but with time Valmet did tweak them a lot, especially the interior, where seats and other items were taken from the Saab models that the factory manufactured together with the Talbots.
Cars manufactured by Valmet Automotive included:
Saab 95: 1969 - 1975
Saab 96: 1969 - 1980
Saab 99: 1969 - 1984
Saab 90: 1983 - 1987
Saab 9000: 1986 - 1990
Saab 900: 1978 - 1992
Saab 900 / 9-3 Convertible: 1986 - 2003
Saab 9-3 3D and 5D: 1999 - 2003
Chrysler-Talbot 1510, Horizon, Solara: 1979 - 1985
Opel Calibra: 1991 - 1997
Euro-Samara: 1996 - 1998
The Euro-Samara was an interesting thing in itself. Valmet's designers did what was possible to give it a facelift and together with superior build quality compared to the original, but it was not exactly a commercial success ...
Also see our Finland road test of the Sebring, Avenger, Journey, and Patriot, the Plymouth Horizon and how the Horizon was engineered on two continents.
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