Valmet Boréal

Car of the Day #100: 1997 Valmet Boréal

Valmet Boréal
Valmet Boréal • via Valmet, wheelsage

Why is it that whenever companies outside of the major automotive manufacturers try to make their own cars, these designs tend to look awesome with a side of off?

I'm not talking about any one detail, but perhaps unfamiliarity. If the Valmet Boréal was as commonplace as other folding hardtop cars, maybe its strange Lincoln-esque lines would make some sort of sense.

But first…Valmet? Valmet Automotive is, if you're not familiar with their work, a company founded in Finland in the late '60s as a partnership between Valmet and Saab-Scania. 

Since that time it has been known as a manufacturing hub (everything from Saabs to the Porsche Boxster and Cayman), and often help to develop and refine advanced technologies.

One such technology is the now-common folding hardtop, a feature that debuted more than 60 years ago (no, not the Ford Skyliner…). If you're a fan, thank companies like Valmet who figured out how to improve its quality, function, and lower manufacturing cost, as well as work with automakers to have them packaged artfully into mostly premium cars. 

Valmet's first concept, in 1996, was based on a Saab and had a folding soft top, but in 1997, the Boréal featured one of the first "modern" folding hardtop roofs. 

A small quirk: supplier-designed concepts are aimed at manufacturers, not the general public. As a result, they're often finished in a strange way; often the gee-whiz features work flawlessly (you never know when Sergio Marchionne will be walking by), but the car itself is a bit of a dud to not outshine fickle design departments.

I suppose it looks like sort of a more GT-focused version of the Zimmer Quicksilver, albeit with styling tweaks to bring the whole neo-classic thing into the 20th Century. 

Introduced at the Geneva Motor Show, it must have given manufacturers delightful fantasies of converting their upcoming convertibles to hard tops—this one folds into the back seats, so that trunk space isn't reduced. 

That means that when the top is down, you can only carry two adults, but when a more practical coupé is needed, when the top is up there are two jump seats in the rear. A neat solution, especially if you're like me and can't stand the sight of two unused terrier-sized rear seats just sitting under all that sunshine.

This car still exists, and is housed in the Uusikaupunki Automuseo in Finland. Located near a Valmet factory and loaded with Saabs, prototypes, and curio — a lineup of tasty treats to attract bears like us.

What, exactly, is the Boréal underneath? I don't know for sure, but my educated guess says it's a second-generation (1994-1998) Saab 900. Leave your guess in the comments…

Read next:

  • Uusikaupunki Automobile Museum (website)
  • Uusikaupunki Automuseo (visitor tour; @saabrobz on Flickr)


Thank you to my supporting members: Ben B., Brad B., Chris G., Daniel G., Damian S., Daniel P., Drew M., Ingrid P., Karl D., Luis O., Michael J., Michael L., Michelle S., Mike B., Mike L., Mike M., Richard W., Sam G., Sam L., Wiley H.