Tuesday Night Snippets – Antourage edition

Greetings all. We’re still in sightseeing mode at the moment, with Mrs Swade enjoying Sweden as much as I told her she would.

Last night we had a very pleasant dinner with Mr and Mrs Par Brandt. Par is one of the nicest blokes in automotive journalism and he was my first contact with the mainstream motoring press, around 4 years ago. I love Par so much that I even went vegetarian for a night at his invitation (and enjoyed it!).

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This morning we saw the changing of the guard at the Royal Palace (OK, but missable if you had something urgent to do).

We then walked down to the Grand Hotel and waited for these guys to arrive….

That’s Jörgen from the Saabs United Historic Rally Team in the front and the Spyker LM85 in the rear was being driven by none other than Mr Vladimir Antonov himself.

They were meeting there for lunch and I was supposed to join them, but unfortunately we were running late for a long drive south.

I did get to meet Vladimir briefly, however, and he’s a very nice guy. I hope we get to chat some more in Trollhattan on Thursday.

After those two cars arrived, the rest of the Antonov entourage arrived (henceforth known as the Antourage 🙂 ). There were three more cars, IIRC, with guys connected with the motorsports interests that VA indulges in and other assorted gents.

One of our own, North Toronto Punter, was scheduled to be there as well because his company, Mellowood Medical, is a premium sponsor of the rally team. Unfortunately I didn’t get to meet NTP as we were really in a rush and I couldn’t hang around. But I look forward to seeing him at the Festival.

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I think some media people turned up at the Grand Hotel later on. Bengt J has passed on the following, from TV4:

In an interview with Swedish TV4 Economy News, Vladimir Antonov says he plans to start a sub brand to SAAB in Russia. It will be a new brand that will use older SAAB parts.

It will be a budget alternative and will probably be built in Kaliningrad. They are targeting a production start in about a year and look to make 10,000 cars/year.

Antonov is also in talks with GM to be able to step in as an owner in SAAB.

This is a big story, and one that just won’t go away. Antonov has been talking about Russian production in one form or another for some time now.

He’s also very determined to iron out the whispering campaign that saw him removed from (from public identification in) the Saab deal in the first place.

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From our brief “hello” to Mr Antonov, we picked up our rental car and headed south. I’m writing to you tonight from Malmo.

The only thing worse than renting a VW Passat for a two day drive is turning up to collect it and finding out that it’s morphed into a Toyota Avensis. I think they use the Passat as an illustration of the vehicle category just to get people comfortable with the class of car, then they hit them with the cheap stuff.

When I asked if I could have the VW I saw in the picture, the AVIS guy told me they’ve actually only got 2 or 3 of them in the entire Swedish fleet. Tricky.

On paper, the Avensis was actually pretty good. 6-speed 2-litre and seats five, carried our luggage OK. Auto windows, Cruise, dual-zone aircon, rain-sensing wipers, light-sensing interior lights, heated seats, etc etc.

On the road, it was smooth enough, but dead boring and after driving it for 6 or so hours today, I felt like I’d been a demonstration event at an origami school.

I loathe Toyotas.

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I got to use our newly-purchased TomTom for the first time today and it pointed out an interesting thing with the Avensis.

I know most speedometers are a little less than accurate, but I wasn’t expecting a disparity of this size. Check the needle on the dash:

As you can see, it’s showing around 118 or 119 km/h.

Here’s a blow-up of the speed reading from the TomTom. Lower left corner.

Whilst the car was indicating 118 or 119, it was actually only doing 109 (and yes, officer, apparently someone was speeding whilst driving and taking this photo, but you can’t prove it was me).

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I love brown Porsches. This was taken yesterday on the boat cruise around Stockholm.

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I’m yet to see a 9-5 in the wild here, but I did see an AMG Mercedes SLS today.

My goodness.

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Whilst I love Stockholm, it’s fair to say I’m not quite so fond of the E4 highway, which dominates most of the drive to Malmo.

This is what you see for 80% of the 600+ kms between the two cities:

Blacktop and treetops – non-stop.

I think there’s definitely scope to dress this highway up with some public artworks or something similar. One could almost say it’s a safety issue, with the road becoming so mind-numbingly boring so as to induce fatigue at various stages.

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Tomorrow I have a special, special surprise to write about.

Very, very exciting for me personally, and I hope you’ll like it too.

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