Chrysler Horizon : Finnish Horizons

Would you believe Lada Samaras, Porsche Boxsters, Saab 96s, Talbot Horizons and Talbot 1501s all being built by the same company under the same roof?

Believe it or not this is what has been happening at different times since 1969 in the Finnish Valmet Automotive plant complex situated in Uusikaupunki (pronounced oo-see-cow-punky) on the south-west coast of Finland, about 140 miles north of Helsinki. All these models, and other niche vehicles from varying manufacturers, have at one time or another rolled down the production lines of this Finnish factory since the first Saab 96 came out on 13 November 1969.

Word and pictures: Graham Arnold

Building Talbots in Finland

Now known as Valmet Automotive, the company is currently an independent European contract manufacturer of premium specialty cars. Originally conceived as a Finnish production and manufacturing facility for Saab cars and established as a joint venture by the Swedish company Saab-Scania AB and the Finnish Valmet Corporation in 1968, Valmet Automotive was originally known as Saab-Valmet. Both the founding companies took a 50% stake each in the new company.

In 1989 the Swedish participation in Saab-Valmet was transferred in two equal parts of 50% each to Saab Automobile which was owned by Saab-Scania and General Motors Corporation. In the spring of 1992 the Valmet Corporation became the sole owner of the company and in September 1995 Saab-Valmet was renamed Valmet Automotive Inc.

Since July 1999 when Valmet Corporation merged with Rauma Corporation, Valmet Automotive Inc has been part of the new founding corporation, Metso Corporation, now one of the world´s leaders in paper processing and automation. Currently Valmet Automotive acounts for about five percent of sales in Metso. In October 2001, Thyssen Krupp Automotive AG, one of the world´s top twenty automotive systems suppliers acquired 10% of the shares of Metso.

Valmet Automotive production

Many different makes and models of vehicles have been produced by Valmet Automotive over the years. Set up initially as Saab-Valmet as a production base for the Saab 95 and 96 models, it has since then produced models as diverse as the Lada Samara, Porsche Boxster and many more Saab models, besides the Talbot Horizon and the 1510. (See table below showing production details for Valmet Corporation´s Talbot production figures).

Model Years produced Amount
Talbot Horizon 1979-1985 17,931
Talbot 1510 1979-1985 14,047

NB: Because of the tax system in this country at the time, it is thought that some of the Horizon models were converted to run on a type of “petrol” with an octane rating of between 60-70. This was a type of fuel which is normally used in marine engines or in agricultural machinery and these cars acquired a very bad reputation for reliability. However it is not yet clear if these vehicles were actually produced by Valmet Corporation or they were after market conversions. More information would be welcomed.

Pictures of the Valmet Horizon

Article by Graham Arnold


  1. Has a familiar ring of the Pressed Steel story before it was acquired by BMC (apologies if I got the wrong acronym!), turning out bodyshells for other manufacturers (including Rolls Royce & Ford IIRC)

  2. Some more information on the Horizon Petro: It was an official Valmet conversion, a total of 2385 were made alongside with 3756 Saab 99 Petros.

    The “petrol” is actually a type of kerosene, and wikipedia’s kerosene article seems to mentionthe Valmet conversions. The Petro cars had a two-section fuel tank as gasoline was required for starting the engine (and “fast accelerations”, according to one newspaper source :-)). Nearly all of the “petro” cars were converted to run on gasoline when our government put a stop to this form of cost-efficient motoring as well. Buying and running a car has always been quite heavily taxed here, and to avoid that we’ve had other interesting specialities as well, such as Chevrolet Camaro Pick-Ups and Citroen BX vans 🙂

  3. One of the reasons for the bad reputation of the Petro Horizon was the fact that “petrol” was a particularly efficient remover of oil film on the cylinder bores.

    Ever heard of Vauxhalls made in Finland? They do exist, for one of the Valmet Automotive products over the years was the Opel Calibra. The RHD versions were badged Vauxhalls and shipped to the UK.

  4. The Valmet built cars were heavily favorited by the Finnish government, municipal departments and the law enforcement after the Uusikaupunki factory was built, up until around the mid 90’s. The police departments used mainly Saabs, 96’s, 99’s and finally the 900’s (as well as Ford Transits) before switching mostly to VW group cars when the last Saabs gave up the ghost.

    My father worked for the Tax Administration and I remember all the “company cars” in the early 80’s were either Saabs or Talbots. I even remember they had one Petro Horizon, I can still vaguely remember the smell of the “petrol” as I once rode it as a passenger back in 1983 or ’84. I guess it was flawed as well, since they quickly replaced it with a standard gasoline Horizon.

    I remember my dad said he hated driving the Horizons, since they weren’t really designed for someone who’s 6’5″ and 230 pounds. Still, I’d buy one if I found a decent one and fit my 6’7″ & 220 pound carcass in it. 🙂

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