Valmet Boréal

Why is it that whenever companies outside of the major automotive manufacturers try to make their own cars, they tend to look a bit off?

I'm not talking about any one detail, but I was thinking the other day that these sorts of vehicles probably just look odd because we have no real experience with them—if the Valmet Boréal was as "common" as the Volvo C70 or Volkswagen Eos, 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 they've 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 better design and manufacture them, as well as work with automakers to have them installed on premium luxury 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. What I find neat is that often 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.

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—like this has ever been a problem—but when a more practical coupé is needed, with the top 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…

What, exactly, is the Boréal underneath? I don't know for sure, but my educated guess says it's a second-generation Saab 900.