‘Itaäutojen tullihuutokauppa’ – it doesn’t roll off the tongue quite like Monterey Sale, Pebble Beach or Amelia Island. But this weekend, fans of East European metal will be flocking to the small Finnish town of Salla to bid on some of Russia’s finest vehicles.
OK, ‘flocking’ and ‘finest’ might be stretching things a little, but it’s not everyday you get a chance to see 128 Russian cars in one place. Unless you happen to be in Moscow. Or Saint Petersburg. Or Vladivostok. Or… look, you get the picture.
Assuming you’re not fluent in Finnish or haven’t got access to Google Translate, ‘Itaäutojen tullihuutokauppa’ means — roughly translated — From Eastern Europe Customs auction. In other words, these are cars driven over the border at Salla and seized by Finnish customs officials.
According to the tourist authority tasked with promoting the self-proclaimed town in the middle of nowhere, the cars “found their way to Finland with immigrants who came here through Russia”.
The Salla website goes on to say: “Whey they [crossed] the border of Finland and Russia, they had to abandon their cars at customs. Cars waited many months on the border zone and went through an investigation by the Finnish Border Guard and Police before the auction.”
Salla sits on the so-called Arctic route through Russia and over the land borders with Norway and Finland. According to Frontex, some 6,000 asylum applicants were counted between October and November, mostly from Syria and Afghanistan.
The site goes on to explain that when crossing the border by bicycle was banned, many migrants acquired cheap cars in Russia and drove to the border. These cars are now being sold, with the Salla tourist authority releasing a huutokauppaluettelo, which is quite possibly the greatest word for ‘auction list’… in the world.
It’s fair to say that not many of the cars in the auction are likely to be troubling the record-breaking prices seen over recent years. Few will be eligible for historic motorsport events, so don’t apply for the 2017 Mille Miglia just yet. And that application form for the Goodwood Style et Luxe concours d’elegance… don’t go troubling Lord March.
But if you’re turned on by dents, broken door mirrors, roof racks and steel wheels — and let’s face it, who isn’t — this is the auction for you. All cars have that authentic ‘barn-find’ look, which is guaranteed to add at least 30 percent to the value of each lot, while some may even run under their own steam (of imminent head gasket failure).
The majority of cars are of Russian origin, but you’ll also find some exotic metal from Western Europe, including the Opel Sintra, Opel Vectra and Volkswagen Passat. There really is something for all (sorts).
If you’re not tempted to book the next flight to Helsinki, the Saala tourist board would like to offer “hilarious competitions, sweet and salty snacks and dancing in a tent”. To quote: “Lots of things to do and see for the whole family.”
You can view the entire auction catalogue here. While the Audi 100 is tempting, we’d chance our arm with lot number 24. It looks like it quite literally broke through the Finnish border. And to borrow a phrase used by auctioneers, lot number 30 offers an authentic and attractive patina.
Erkki Parkkinen, mayor of Salla, said: “This is a once in a lifetime event.” He stopped just short of giving a personal guarantee that all the auction lots would make it home in one piece.
The auction kicks off on 15 July at 12 noon, with the preliminary audit commencing at 9.30am. For more information on Salla, visit the website. We’re tempted to attend the auction, are you?