Icelandic car culture: balloon tires and the United States

Recently I spent ten days on a tour of the west and south coasts of Iceland. As we moved from winter to spring, we traveled all over the icy roads, steep hills and dirt trails. We own a nine-person Volkswagen Caravel, yes, a four-wheeler. But the cars around us were the most striking. Creating this story.

Companion of our mighty Caravel

Somewhat normal

First, it’s not so bad on the roads of Iceland, we see many Toyota Land Cruisers passing by, and then the Ford F150. We get off at Kevlavik and drive towards Reykjavik, so this is basically the city and the urban area. There is light snow, and a nice dress everywhere. So, on the roads.

Sliding happens here, but for convenience people always spoon the tires with nails under their cars. So you often see embedded tires that make the Kia Picando or Volkswagen Polo look off-road. I thought to myself: ‘In some places it’s really necessary’. An idea comes from someone who has never experienced anything clearly, and it changed later.

Interestingly, many cars were found in Europe around two cities in the west. You often see Hyundai SUVs including the Santa Fe. There are Volkswagens and other brands we know of. Also, we saw some significant Mercedes-Benzes and not a Fiat at all.

One of the few Mercedes cars, but one of the most awesome
One of the few Mercedes cars, but one of the most awesome

A touch of America

What struck me later was that from time to time an American car was lurking in normal ‘European’ traffic. I’m not talking about the well-known Dodge RAMs and Ford F150s here, but I’m talking about ordinary (so rare) things.

One of the Icelandic elementary school teachers we met was driving an American Toyota Corolla sedan. Each time Honda drives a unique American economy-mini sedan from the 2000s Chrysler or 1990s.

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My spicy feelings for interesting cars were instantly red. Suddenly I saw them everywhere. American editions of Land Cruisers, Ford Explorers, Chevrolet Tahoe’s, and Ford Expeditions. Everything is new and comes from the nineties. Also Ford and Chevrolet vans and cambers, 1970 to 2010 and surroundings. Those American cars are popular because Iceland is almost as close to Europe as North America. American cars are often bigger and cheaper.

If you look closely you can see the Ford car coming from USA here
If you look closely you can see the Ford car coming from USA here


The next day, after we loaded our three caravans, we left the city and headed into the wilderness. Not only did it drive in the wilderness, it also caused bewilderment. Aside from the high number of rental cars on the island, we encountered many more bizarre things.

Rental cars can be easily identified, take a look at the rental car sites and pick them up at any time. From small to large, these include Picanto and i10’s, Suzuki Jimny’s, Dacia Dusters, Suzuki Vitara’s, Toyota RAV-4’s, Hyundai Tuscons and Kia Sorento’s. The red line in this story is, of course, the four-wheel drive. Dusters were the cheapest 4 × 4 option on the island, so you saw them pass by the crowd. There are a lot of Jimny drivers too. If I were to guess, I would say that Iceland is the most concentrated landscape of Jimny in the whole world.

Dusters!  Dust everywhere!
Dusters! Dust everywhere!
Jimny's plates
Jimny’s plates

Out of town, in surprise

But, real special cars are now being discussed. I.e., the Extreme off-road snow proud cars Sky-high lift kits with giant off-road balloon tires. Land cruisers are not the only ones mentioned and not the latest things. Everything with 4 × 4 and a little oempf has been transformed into a real off-road king by the Icelanders.

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Land Cruiser since 2014? No problem. One since 1984? No problem. Chevrolet Express Bus? We do. The Giga-length Ford F350 has six doors and a wheelbase of at least five metersதூக்கி Lift the kit down, change the tires and go with that banana. What if you wanted to tour up to nine people at once? Then you throw an off-road package against the Mercedes Sprinter. Public bus? No, they will not go that far …

Subtle sprinter

… Fun, they certainly do. The buses are adorned with thunder gray diesel smoke and dense matte black, rolled paint layer and terrifying turbo sound. But, you come everywhere. You are with your standard 4 × 4 caravel between the ice giants.

Those big tires are also very popular because they sometimes allow you to drive on snow that is several meters thick. Of course, you need more power and a four-wheel drive, otherwise you can not go anywhere. For Icelanders it does not matter that it costs more money to drink more. They like to go where they want, snow or not.

The Moonwalker
This subtle invention

Experienced drivers

Weather or wind, snow or rain, sunlight or moonlight. Icelanders will ride anytime, anywhere. They can not do otherwise because there is no public transport. None, except for several scheduled buses in Reykjavk.

Sometimes there are abandoned cars on the roadside, half buried in the snow. They landed on the road, but were not damaged. They are temporarily trapped, but when the sun shines again and the snow melts they are immediately pulled out and sent back home by the owner.

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Sometimes, you can even see the funny scene of a local person in an IPSA seat overtaking someone in a big off-road car. It never gets boring.

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