Talbot in Finland

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.

Story by Graham Arnold.

The History of the company

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 worldīs 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 worldīs 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 Corporationīs Talbot production figures).

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

NB: Some of the Horizon models were converted to run on a type of "petrol" with an octane rating of between 60-70, normally used in marine engines or agricultural machinery; these cars acquired a bad reputation for reliability.

Additional information from gstromsten

The "Petro Horizon" was a purely Finnish "invention", where the engine was converted to be able to run on motorpetrolem. The reason for this was a search for cheaper alternatives to gasoline at the end of the 1970s. First the Valmet factory converted Saabs, the when Talbots were added to the range of the factory, the Horizon was converted.

The conversion did take a way a sizeable chunk of horsepower because compression had to be lowered significantly, so you paid a penalty in shape of poor performance. In addition, the motorpetroleum affects the oil of the engine, therefore intervals for oil change had to be shortened considerably, but still you could expect less mileage from a petro converted car. In addition, the smell was certainly noticeable. A Wartburg did smell like roses compared to a petro engine.

In the end, Finnish tinkering with motorpetroleum ended because of the government's taxation of veichles and fuel, which finally killed off the petro experiment together with a patchy distribution network. Who would pay more for something that was less efficient ? The thinking in that aspect is that alternative, cheaper fuels must be taxed higher to compensate for their lower initial cost ......

(Cars and fuel for them has traditionally been one of the government's cash cows here, a fact noticeable when checking out the car fleet in use in Finland.)

Valmet Automotive did manufacture the 1510, Horizon and Solara. At first the cars were identical to the ones assembled in France, but with time Valmet did tweak them a lot, especially the interior, where seats and other items were taken from the Saab models that the factory manufactured together with the Talbots.

List over cars manufactured by Valmet Automotive :

Saab 95 1969 - 1975
Saab 96 1969 - 1980
Saab 99 1969 - 1984
Saab 90 1983 - 1987
Saab 9000 1986 - 1990
Saab 900 1978 - 1992
Saab 900 / 9-3 Convertible 1986 - 2003
Saab 9-3 3D and 5D 1999 - 2003
Chrysler-Talbot ( 1510, Horizon, Solara ) 1979 - 1985
Opel Calibra 1991 - 1997
Euro-Samara 1996 - 1998
Porsche Boxster
Porsche Cayman

The Euro-Samara was an interesting thing in itself. Valmet's designers did what was possible to give it a facelift and together with superior build quality compared to the original, well, not exactly a commercial success ...

Pictures of the Valmet Horizon

Article by Graham Arnold

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