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).
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.
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
Thanks to Graham Arnold and Ari Myllylä