Elliott's Essen highlight - meeting the man who rebuilt an Ockelbo

| 11 Apr 2013

It's great to finally meet in the flesh an enthusiast who you have talked to and whose project you have followed.

And, no disrespect, but it is perhaps even a tiny bit better to finally see that project in the metal (or in this case, glassfibre).

That's why the easy highlight for me at Essen this year was to walk into my first hall and hardly have gone 50 yards when I saw the Ockelbo.

For those who don't remember it, this fascinating car was featured in Lost & Found in the June 2010 issue of C&SC.

The svelte Mondial-alike was built by famed racer Erik Lundgren in Sweden, modelled on a friend's Ferrari, clothed in a super-lightweight GRP body and named after his village. 

Just a score or so of the cars were built and only a dozen are thought to survive.

The one I had happened across is the long-term obsession of Belgian enthusiast Stoffel Mulier, so when a very polite man approached as I was snapping away and asked if I would like to know more, I was instantly aware who it must be.

And I knew that a fascinating tale was about to unfold.

"I've been into Volvos for many years," he explained. "My last project was a Coune Amazon Convertible. Then I found a picture of a Volvo special racing in the 1950s and I was hooked, but it took about three years to find out what it was."

When Mulier did identify the car as an Ockelbo, he set friends the task of finding him one. 

Pretty soon they did. He flew to Sweden in 2008, bought it and brought it back, but it was not quite everything he had hoped: "While the running gear was all correct the body was pitiful and had been modified."

He had the Austin-Healey 100 base and the Volvo B18B engine, but the search for a better body began in earnest… and ended ironically when one was traced to a barn close to Mulier's home where it had been languishing for 30 years.

Mulier could then complete the restoration and did everything, including the GRP – a first for him – himself except the paint.

No sooner had he finished in August last year than he did a 3000km round trip in it to Sweden for Volvo's 85th anniversary celebrations. What a hero.

And now the Ockelbo, looking resplendent is in Essen and I am gawping at it and finding myself in the privileged position of being able to shake this dedicated owner's hand and thank him for what he has brought back to life.

Somehow that made the fact I had 16 halls to visit in one day and had spent two hours in the first quarter of the first of them rather more bearable.