Maybe it was the cultural activists who saved the Swedish “car cemetery,” or maybe it was the locals in support of the “Bog Man” who ran it. Maybe it was the City Council, who came around to see the value of preserving poignant and photogenic decay of old Saabs and Volvos. Or maybe it was simply some bad weather.
The story of the car cemetery begins with Åke Danielsson, who lived in the village of Ryd in southern Sweden. In 1935 he bought a piece of forested peat bog, where he harvested the natural fuel and fertilizer by hand. As demand grew, “Åke on the Bog” upped production by building himself a peat shredder using old car engines.
With the post-war years came a boom in car ownership, and the village of Ryd’s old cast-offs were often abandoned to the surrounding forest. Åke started gathering them up, and with no training in engines or auto mechanics—he didn’t even have a driver’s license—he learned all he could from the old junkers. A little side business in spare parts caught on, and soon he had a skrotbilar – loosely translated, a “scrap yard”—and the parts business outstripped the peat. The collection grew until 1974, the year Åke bought his last car.
Over time the empty shells took on an aesthetic life of their own, attracting tourists and shutterbugs. Even though Åke had been keenly aware of the risk of contamination to his peat bog, careful to always remove the gas, oil and batteries, City Hall wasn’t so keen on the whole setup. They decided the cars had to be sent to an authorized recycling site, imposing a fine if it wasn’t done by a November 1998 deadline.
That’s when some bad weather struck. The plan had to be postponed, which gave Åke’s supporters valuable lobbying time. All kinds of people rallied to his defense, including journalists, photographers, and even the director of the Småland Museum in nearby Växjö. The voices of support won out, and a 49-year permit for the site was issued.
Åke Danielsson passed away in 2000, but not before seeing his scrap heap saved from the scrap heap. What’s to happen after the year 2047 is anyone’s guess, but the skrotbilar is staying put. At least for the time being.
Know Before You Go
The Kyrkö Car Cemetery can be found driving west on Värendsgatan 2 (Hwy 119) from the town of Ryd in southern Sweden. Follow Hwy 119 for about a mile and a half (2.4km) and the parking area will be on your right.