In production : Valmet-built Talbot Horizon and Solara

Would you believe Lada Samaras, Porsche Boxsters, Saab 96s, 99s and 900s, Talbot Horizons, Talbot Solaras, Vauxhall Calibras and Mercedes-Benz GLCs amongst others were all built by Valmet in Finland?

Here, we concentrate on production of the Talbot Horizon at this plant about 140 miles north of Helsinki.


The inside story: Building Talbots in Finland

Now known as Valmet Automotive, the company that brought us the Finnish-built Talbot Horizon is based in Uusikaupunki (pronounced oo-see-cow-punky) on the south-west coast of Finland. The company is an independent contract manufacturer of premium cars. Conceived as a Finnish production and manufacturing facility for Saab in 1968, Valmet Automotive was originally known as Saab-Valmet with both founding parties establishing 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 accounts for about 5% of sales in Metso. In October 2001, Thyssen Krupp Automotive AG, one of the world’s top 20 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, many more Saab models and, more recently, a range of Mercedes-Benz models, besides the Talbot Horizon and the 1510. (See table below showing production details for Valmet Automotive’s Talbot production figures).

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

It’s worth noting that because of the tax system in this country at the time, many of the Horizon models were converted to run on a type of ‘petrol’ with an octane rating of between 60-70, most closely related to Kerosene. This was a type of fuel which is normally used in marine engines or in agricultural machinery and these cars acquired a very poor reputation for reliability, with most engines failing terminally by 30,000 miles.

However, production of this model stopped when taxation was changed to plug this fiscal loophole.

Talbot Solara VIP by Valmet
Talbot Solara VIP by Valmet

Another Finland-only model was the Talbot Solara VIP. It was a luxury version of the Solara based on the 1,5 GLS and, as can be seen from the brochure images above, it was substantially upgraded. In total, 50 were built.

Here are the additional features unique to the Talbot Solara VIP.

  • White models with white front grille, black stripes, black window mouldings and VIP-badges
  • Melber 13-inch wheels with Gislaved 175R13 tyres
  • Power steering with quicker rack (2,7 turns from lock-to-lock)
  • Leather-covered dashboard
  • Wood panels and plush upholstery for the door cards
  • Upgraded front seats (which look like they’re from the Saab 900 seats)
  • Tinted windows
  • Auxiliary gauges
  • Heated door mirrors
  • Leather-trimmed centre console
  • Mobile phone (Mobira Talkman NMT450)
  • Voice synthesizer (EUROsyn 450)
  • First aid kit (inside rear seat centre armrest)
  • Fog lights (Bosch)
  • Twin antennas, one for the Blaupunkt-stereo and one for Mobira -phone

Gallery: Valmet-built Talbot Horizon

Valmet Talbot Horizon


Thanks to Graham Arnold and Ari Myllylä 

Keith Adams
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17 Comments

  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 🙂

    • The wiki article mentions the Saab 99 Petros running kerosene, turpentine or petrol. Surprised by the short-shelf life of engines running on Kerosene or Turpentine, or more specifically that cars featuring engines with such a short-shelf life would be allowed on public roads after acquiring a bad reputation.

      Were they limited to just the Finnish domestic market for tax reasons or were some sold in neighbouring Sweden and Norway, if the latter two had similar policies on Kerosene or other alternative fuel conversions?

  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. 🙂

    • Or indeed Nedcar (the former Daf/Volvo factory in the Netherlands) currently making Minis

  5. I believe that over many years, Valmet had a contract to produce ? cars p.a. for Saab. It started as a means of avoiding high import duties in Finland.

    When Saab launched the 900, 99 sales dropped and production was moved to Finland.

    900 2 door sales dropped and that was produced there too. The first convertibles were built there.

    In house, at Saab, Finnish produced cars were seen as being better quality than Trollhattan produced cars.

    • Saab 900 convertibles main market area was US. And American buyer always want to be sure that his convertible has been done in Finland, not in Sweden. Uusikaupunki made almost all US 900 convertibles and Trollhattan based convertibles were sold in Europe and UK.

  6. 17.000 sales over six years for the Horizon is good, considering Finland had a population the tenth the size of Britain in the eighties. Also fitting SAAB seats to the Horizon would have ensured a comfortable drive, wonder if they were heated like on the SAAB 900.

    • I imagine the SAAB seats would have been thicker though, which would impinge on legroom?

      • Talbot seats were quite thick actually, in a squishy French kind of way. Wouldn’t be surprised if the Saab items were slimmer, at least in the backrest.

  7. Given its specification, you could almost argue that the Solara VIP might have been the very last of the Humbers.

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