On the second weekend of every August, the calm, quiet little village of Vallåkra—out in the sticks between Landskrona to the south and Helsingborg to the north—is invaded by a crowd that roars in more than one way!
The influx are brummare, and they’re here for Vallåkraträffen, one of Scandinavia’s biggest meetups for car enthusiasts, which takes place on the airstrip of Landskrona Flying Club., where the event has been held since the 1990s. This is one of the last places where one can see (and hear, and smell) vehicles powered by fossil-fuel derivatives in action—and it’s all down to a combination of subcultural stubbornness, an old legal loophole, and an undeniable degree of hobbyist obsession. The A-traktor scene is perhaps the last generation of hotrod culture, and Vallåkraträffen is one of its holiest of festivals, attracting internal combustion enthusiasts from around the world, for many of whom the pilgrimage may be the only international trip they will ever be able to take.
A proudly and defiantly low-brow event, Vallåkraträffen is not for everyone. The loudness and the pollutants are enough to put many people off, but the braver and more curious should be warned that one is expected to take part enthusiastically if one chooses to attend: gawkers and “tourists” are not welcome, and there are more than a few ethnographers who found this out the hard way. The Rough Planet team harbours a few enthusiasts, however, and you have them to thank for this non-exhaustive list of the activities you’re likely to encounter.
Sweden’s Hottest EPA
Brummare have no shame in describing this as being in essence a beauty contest for modified cars—though it is a beauty contest with a bewildering number of categories and criteria, many of which are obscure to outsiders. But the biggest prize of all, known simply as Den Hetaste!, is open to all and hotly contested—and no wonder, given the prize is a year’s worth of the appropriate fuel for the winning vehicle, provided by the chemical synthesis companies which sponsor this and other A-traktor events.
It is well known that many EPAs—perhaps even the majority—are capable of going faster than the legally mandated 30km/h limit. But would-be competitors in this race are not among them: for one thing, the race adjudicators make a point of checking carefully—Swedish notions of a “level playing field” extend even to the brummare—but there’s also the risk of losing your license and vehicle to one of the undercover inspectors who are reputed to haunt the meet.
Don’t assume that low speeds make for an unexciting race, however. On the contrary, the speed limit means that driver skill, maneuverability and bodywork air resistance can make all the difference…
The Swap Meet
At the Swap Meet you can find everything from old retro motor parts to the latest 3D-printed technology. This is where a lot of young EPA enthusiasts come to buy the parts they need for their projects, since they can’t afford their own 3D-printers (and printing out parts for internal combustion engines at the public library printers is strictly prohibited).
How low can you—or rather your A-traktor—go? If you are a lowrider enthusiast, this is the event for you: a chance to see the wildest and weirdest mods from the customized stance subculture. Lowest EPA wins!
Military Vehicle Parade
One recurring event on the Träff is the Military Vehicles Parade, at which the Swedish Armed Forces show off the most powerful vehicles they have, whether land-based or airborne. A 1990s-vintage SAAB JAS 39 Gripen is one of the most neck-twisting (and ear-punishing) attractions during the parade, but there are many more.
No prizes for guessing that the military sees the parade (and the Träff more broadly) as a recruitment opportunity, which is among the activities that some climate activists have labelled “camo-washing”. There are persistent rumors that the military offers not only career advice but also tips for citizens interested in the CDV loophole, another way to keep fossil-fuel vehicles in legal operation.
True or not, we advise you to steer clear; there are plenty of other recruitment offices about if you’re genuinely interested, and at most of them you won’t have to shout over the deafening roar of several hundred engines.
Fuel up at the foodstands! Brummare tend to love their meat and BBQ, so a lot of the dishes are as meaty as anything plant-based can be: burgers, korv and kebab are popular forms. The longest queues are always at MotorMat, where they grill your seitan steak right on the engine of an EPA—but be warned, this will cost you, both in money and carbon credits. Real meat options are available, of course, but they aren’t cheap—and we strongly recommend against the temptation of unlicensed and illicit caterers, as you can end up with a hefty fine and a case food poisoning.
(Better to save your hard-earned kronor and set sail later on the Skattefri Köttbåt from nearby Helsingborg; they offer a 20% discount to anyone with a Vallåkraträffen wristband.)
The Vallåkra campsite is an exhibition in its own right. EPAs in all shapes and sizes gather here, as most drivers park up and camp out at the local football fields, which the local club rents out for the weekend as a way of covering their annual transfer budget. Here’s where the party’s at! Some brummare even leave their vehicle here and do a “walk of shame” through the village to the Träff… which is distinctly uncool by subcultural standards, for sure, but presumably more cool than losing your license as a result of a breathalyser check.