Helsinki Weekend Edition: Chevrolet Caprice Classic Wagon

This weekend, I’ll be posting the wide variety of cars I saw on Helsinki streets just recently. It’s not difficult to see just about anything driving around or sitting still in Helsinki – especially in the summertime, as all the summer-only cars are out and about. Autoweek’s Graham Kozak had a good time in Helsinki, and the cars he saw were representative of the oddball and the everyday: this weekend you get to see some through my eyes.
And I’m starting with this wonderfully brown Chevrolet Caprice Classic wagon.

As a note, some of these weekend sightings have gone through an Instagram filter. I’ve been posting a lot of stuff on Instagram lately, so be sure to skim it for Hooni-worthy stuff I spot. The cars I publish there will most often get a separate Hooniverse treatment later on.
I loved how the Caprice had been parked right behind a modern Mini; it couldn’t have looked dumpier in front of the boxy, long, low Caprice.
The late-’80s Chevy wore an 80 kilometer speed limit sticker on its behind, indicative of a “van conversion.” The rear bench was made foldable and uncomfortable, and the car a lot cheaper to import.

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  1. david42 Avatar

    I’m curious about the 80 kmh rule. First, why would vans (real vans or Caprices) be limited to 80 in the first place? Do drivers and police take it seriously? If you do a conversion like this, might you just peel off the sticker and drive normally?

    1. cronn Avatar

      I’m unsure on the details, but the cliff notes of this is that you can lower the yearly road tax by a substantial amount by registering the car as a van. This is especially beneficial on diesel vehicles where the road tax is steep. Registering your car as a van means removing a number of seats. You are (or were?) also allowed to replace the missing seats with MDF board covered in, I think, 28mm of foam rubber and upholstery and still get away with the van registration. This is adequate for shorter trips but nothing you want to sit on for longer periods of time, of course.
      The main drawback of having a van registered car is that you aren’t allowed to go faster than 80km/h, or 100 if you’ve got a driver airbag and ABS. At least I think those are the requirements. I find this whole idea fairly ridiculous, particularly since you can take the exact same Toyota Hiace or whatever in factory 9-seater form, fill it with your dearly beloved wife and seven kids and go flat out on the Finnish Autobahn. Not that we have an autobahn, but you get the point. But somehow the van version is deemed too unsafe to go faster than 80.
      The sticker on the back is probably mostly to alert other drivers that you aren’t doing 80 on the freeway just to piss them off.

      1. cronn Avatar

        Antti has probably featured the Citroën BX Van here at some point. It’s a special version of the BX Estate with a plastic tub on the roof, to raise the interior volume and get it registered as some kind of commercial vehicle. It looks terrible.
        Audi and Mercedes did the same thing with their big estates, but these look like a normal estate with a roof box mounted really close to the roof. I see a battered old W124 around every now and then but I haven’t ever snapped a picture of it. A friend of a friend also had a 200 turbo quattro van at one point.

      2. Batshitbox Avatar

        I would think the 80 kmh limit would be to ensure that you are using your “van” for short haul, around town delivery and not, as with the Hiace, blasting around the countryside with your family on vacation all while avoiding the taxes of a pleasure vehicle.

      3. 0A5599 Avatar

        Not that I understand the logic of an 80 KPH truck conversion anyway, but if I ran the government and wanted to make people remove passenger seats to turn a car into a truck, for safety reasons, I certainly wouldn’t let them replace factory engineered, crash-tested seating with some fire prone wooden hodgepodge crafted by somebody armed with rudimentary knowledge of operating a saw and staple gun.
        My Ramcharger is registered as a car, even though it is truck based. My wife’s vehicle is registered as a truck. The annual registration fee is about the same for both. Registration as a truck allows parking in loading zones. I am not aware of any restrictions. I’m not sure how to switch it, though.

        1. Roger Henry Avatar
          Roger Henry

          It’s not about safety, its about taxation

          1. 0A5599 Avatar

            I toally get that, but then they should just not allow the crappy bench either, and make someone choose between something that acts like a truck all the time, vs. something that has a higher tax rate.

  2. Roger Henry Avatar
    Roger Henry

    Gotta love the lengths ordinary citizens will go to in an effort to avoid excessive taxation.

    1. dukeisduke Avatar

      Yeah, since it could do 80 mph without breaking a sweat.

      1. Roger Henry Avatar
        Roger Henry

        Actually 80kph…which is even more leisurely.

  3. StephaneDumas Avatar

    I think it’s more of an early 1980s Caprice, the late 1980s ones have different headlights.