The trip from Oslo up north and back again to Oslo would be five days. Travelling to and from Oslo would take 2 days each way. So a nine day trip in all.
BHPian Jeroen recently shared this with other enthusiasts.
Over the years you might have seen me mentioning a trip I made to the North pole, during wintertime early 2006. I have never published the full story here at TeamBHP. My good friend Bart who was one of my companions on this trip, was sorting out some stuff in his office over the weekend. He came across a CD with some 140 of the original photographs, taking by professional photographer Henk van de Hurk. At the time Henk was working for the Dutch Car Magazine Autovisie.
Whenever I am reminded of this fabulous trip I can’t stop thinking or talking about it. So with a lot of photographs recovered and some of my own images, I decided it is high time to pen down the full story. So here goes:
HOW IT ALL BEGAN
I recall one evening or afternoon I was reading the latest issue of the Dutch Car Magazine Autovisie. Its chief editor, Ton Roks, always wrote a great editorial column. This time he was fantasising about doing something with a few readers that had not been done before. Like taking some cabrio cars to the north pole in the winter!!
I immediately phoned my good friend and spanner mate Peter. Peter had read the article to and we decided to apply immediately. So we wrote an email to Ton, introducing ourselves. We also suggested that he should consider “upping” the challenge a bit. We pointed out to him, that modern cabrio’s are extremely luxurious these days. With virtually no wind blasting around the cockpit, warm air duct coming from the head rest to keep you neck warm, proper heating, electrical heated front windows. We suggested to Ton that real men would take a proper classic rag top car to the North pole, top down obviously, all the way. Anything else is just for whimps.
Ton replied immediately, he wanted to take us up on our offer. So Peter and I started thinking about preparing for this event. We still had some 4-5 months to get ready. At our next Alfa Romeo Spider Register event we mentioned it to some of our Spider friends. Only to find out that two others had registered as well. Bart and his brother in law Richard were going in Barts’ British Racing Green Series 4. And Ed was taking his red Coda Tronca together with an old mate of his, Hans.
So there would be at least three classic Alfa Spider going north!
Peter and I were discussing which Spider to take. He and I both had a series 3, but Peter also had a gorgeous Serie 2, green Coda Tronca. Initially we were going to take Peter’s white Series 3. I can’t remember why but we had to change and take his Coda Tronca in the end. I think there was something wrong with the Series 3 and we did not feel comfortabel taking it on such a long drive. Something with the fuel pump. So we opted for the Coda Tronca.
Autovisie was in charge of the overal organisation, the route, fuel stops and the hotels. They also arranged for proper winter spike tyres for all the cars. However, there was a catch; We had to get to Oslo, Norway, ourselves. That is where all the cars and crews would meet up and set off on our pole adventure. Our spike tyres would be fitted in Oslo too. Autovisie would send a crew of three. One of their journalist, Werner, their staff photographer (Henk) and Hetty, the lady in charge who organised these sort of events all the time. They had arranged for some sponsorship as well and were also given some support vehicles.
We would have to pay for our fuel, food and accommodation ourselves. The trip from Oslo up north and back again to Oslo would be five days. Travelling to and from Oslo would take 2 days each way. So a nine day trip in all.
We decided to pool our resources and knowledge amongst the three Spider crews to get ready.
We had several areas of attention:
1) Prepare the cars to survive severe winter conditions
2) Get kitted out for us to survive severe winter conditions
3) Find Sponsors, get stickers made for our cars and arrange for lots of PR
4) Decide how we would get to/from Oslo
Ed, Bart, Peter and I had all been active in the Spider Register in various capacities. So we knew a lot of people and a lot of companies that we could approach for sponsor ship and other support.
Getting the cars prepped was actually pretty straight forward. Bart was friendly with a nearby car dealer. The owner was quite happy to lend us his garage and equipment for a day. So we all drove up there. Peter and I checked every Spider out. All of them were very well maintained to start with. In the end we only replaced the coolant fluid with very low temperature coolant. That was the Spiders prepared.
Bart also had contacts with one of the large Outdoor-chains in the Netherlands. They supported us in helping to choose the right clothes and we got substantial discounts from them. I remember we all went to one of their shops on a Saturday morning. There was this very knowledgeable sales person who provided us with all the insights into how to dress up for the north pole. The most important lesson; No cotton, whatever you wear, no cotton, never ever! Ever!
Keeping warm is all about layering. So we bought ourselves a multitude of layers, made of these very special wools and final layer of clothing with a windbreaker filled with feathers!
I had to model all our layers for a photoshoot we did for our sponsor:
All of us called everybody we knew to try and get some sponsorship from them. In return we would put stickers with their company logo on all three Spiders and mention them on our Blog and in our Alfa Romeo Spider Register Magazine. And of course all the photographs in the Autovisie magazine would show the logo’s too.
We all managed to get quite a few parties interested. In particular Ed was very good at securing sponsorship. In the end, the whole trip cost us hardly any money at all!
We also ensured some additional PR. We all featured in various local magazines and radio shows. Not everybody got it why we were going to drive to the North Pole in the winter top down. I remember one Saturday afternoon. We had American friends staying with us, Ann and Tom. I had been talking to them about our upcoming trip. Ann was flabbergasted. That afternoon Peter and I were going to meet a local journalist for an article. So Peter rocks up in this Spider in front of our home. Ann spots him and calls out: “The other idiot has arrived”
Here an example of one of those local articles: All in Dutch I’m afraid.
the article is called: Met open dak naar de pool, which translate as “to the North pole roof down!”
Note: this image still shows Peter’s white Serie 3. We had it all prepared, sponsor stickers and all, but in the end we had to take his green Coda Tronca.
There are several ways of getting from the Netherlands to Oslo. We decided to go via Germany, take the ferry from Germany to Sweden. And then follow the Swedish west coast all the way into Norway and ultimately into Oslo.
The ferry crossing would make for a good break and none of us had ever taken this particular crossing yet. So something new for all of us.
By early January everything was ready. Cars were ready, we had our polar kit, our Spiders were covered in Sponsor stickers. Autovise had given the final confirmation and final instruction on when and where to meet in Oslo.
So time to get going!!
GETTING TO OSLO
All of us lived in different parts of the Netherlands. So we had decided to meet up in the centre near Utrecht at one of the petrol pumps on the Motorway.
I was going to drive to Peter who lived in Amsterdam, park my car and leave it in front of his house and jump into his Spider. Of course, this being winter we were not expecting great weather. What we had not counted on was one of the most severe winter day in the Netherlands for decades! Just our luck. I had difficulties just making it to Amsterdam where Peter lived. We had not even started our North Pole adventure and we were already running behind schedule.
There was massive snow fall, which is rare for the Netherlands. Subsequently all traffic is severely impacted, endless queues, accidents, roads being closed down etc. I honestly think we were the very last car leaving Amsterdam that day. Traffic in and out of Amsterdam got completely bogged down.
We met with the two other Spider Crews about an hour later and we decided to push on to the ferry in German as fast as the snowy road would allow us. Even though the weather was pretty horrendous, we did make it to our ferry on time.
By the time we reached the ferry we had left the snow behind.
Here you see us driving onto the ferry:
Had a nice crossing. Had some proper (warm) food, stretched our legs a bit. And then when we drove into Sweden the weather was even worse. With about 50 centimeter of snow everywhere. Now remember, we are driving on average forty year old classic rag top cars, top down, rear wheel drive, on regular tyres! Not a very good, or safe combination. Luckily the Swedes are far better equipped to handles heavy snow fall than the Dutch. 50 cm of snow won’t get them to even blink!
This is what life on the Swedish motorways in January looks like.
We knew our Spiders are relatively low and small cars. But low and small gets a whole new meaning when you find yourself driving next to one of these Behemoths.
Made it to our first hotel that evening.
The next morning we got up early only to find our Spiders and the hotel parking place covered in heavy snow. Took us a while to clear the snow and with the help of several other guests and staff we managed to push the Spider onto the road.
Driving to Oslo via Sweden meant we were sticking to the Motorways. Because we just did not have the time to divert into pretty Swedish rural road. Also, our spike tyres were in Oslo and we were pretty desperate to get those fitted.
It was also the first day all of us used all our polar gear. Which is great in keeping you warm. However, stopping to have a quick pee is just not possible. You have to peel off all these layers! We stopped a couple of times for fuel. I remember at one of these fuel stops I walked into the shop to pay; The guy behind the counter looked me up and down and said: What on earth are you guys doing? So I told him the whole story. He looked at me and said: Why? I explained again, and again his reply was: “but Why?” So we just thanked him and moved on.
Made it to our hotel in Oslo where we met the Autovisie crew and the other members of our party. Apart from the three Spiders there was a VW Beetle, a MGF and a Porsche Boxter. Also, Autovisie had arranged for themselves a Cabrio Saab 9-3 for themselves. As well as another regular Saab, as a support vehicle.
The next day after a healthy breakfast we were instructed to drive to a nearby tyre fitter where our Spikes would be fitted. However, there was problem with the Saab. The roof would not open. On this car it is electric and nothing happened. So we stopped at a Saab dealer first and asked them to check it out. They told us that below 4oC the roof can not be opened!. They could by-pass this limit, but that meant the roof could not be closed again. So had to be left open. So the Autovisie crew decided to have the roof permanently open.
I can’t remember all the details, but I believe Autovisie had arranged for Lease Deal to sponsor our Polar tour. So all the cars got some more sponsor stickers fitted;
Finally, spikes fitted!
The spikes make a huge difference. If you have never experienced them, it is difficult to imagine. But you find yourself driving over snow as if there is no snow! They did worn us not to get too enthusiastic. Sometimes the snow covers what they call black ice. Spikes are no spikes, won’t make the slightest difference when you hit black ice. You will spin out of control no matter what.
With all cars now equipped with proper polar spiked tyres we set off and headed north!!
Checking our the route in our tour book.
Bart en Richard in full Polar gear
We did have regular stops along the way. Sometimes for coffee, a leg stretcher, just to admire the scenery, or to talk through the route.
You will have noticed the weather had improved dramatically. As bad as it was getting to Oslo, it would remain sunny for the next five days. Cold, very cold, but sunny! Can’t ask for any better in January in the North of Norway!
I was sitting next to the Autovisie crew when the MGF arrived at our hotel that first evening in Oslo. I heard them murmur amongst themselves; Oh my God, a flipping MGF. I hope they have good insurance!
The MGF might have been marketed as a perfectly balanced mid engine sports car. But on snow it was absolutely lethal. These guys went of the road multiple times, just in the first hour after leaving Oslo. And they did have spike tyres fitted too.
This would become a very customary sight during the next five days: The MGF stuck in a pile of snow.
People and Saab to the rescue
At one point, these guys got pulled over by the cops. The cops had been driving behind them and they saw this MGF slithering and sliding all over the place. The driver had to take a breathalyser test! Took a bit of convincing the cops that he was not drunk, it is just how these cars drive on snow!!
Another hardy polar expedition member
Every day we would be setting off by about 08.30 and drive till around 17.00 / 18.00. Which meant setting off by the time the sun came up and usually stopping by the time the sun had already gone down.
At the end of each day, in a warm hotel Peter and I would dig up the local internet cable and publish a blog update. The Alfa Romeo Spider Register Webmaster Henri was very supportive of our tour and made a special section on our Spider Register website where we could publish our daily progress. It drove the Autovisie crew bonkers. Because even after three days into our tour they had not managed to publish untying on their website.
Bear in mind this was 2006 all the way North in Norway. Internet was not as well established as it is today. All of hotels did have some sort of internet connection, but not necessarily for the guests. So when I mentioned that Peter and I would dig up the internet cable, that is what we literally had to do in a few cases. There would be, literally, a single cable, plugged into the Hotel owners computer or local server. Some of our fellow expedition members were a bit weary of our technical endeavours.
But we told them: “listen up, we are heading for the North Pole, how many people have you seen along the route today? Nobody is going to notice if we hijack the local server for a few minutes.
Yours truly doing something on the internet:
Some more images from those first few days:
Continue reading BHPian Jeroen’s travelogue on his adventures with three Alfa Spiders to North Pole for more insights and information.
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