Classic Ford nut, Veke Pirkonen takes us on a tour of his personal stash. But who is he, and how did he gather so many old Ford parts in Finland?
This is a hot evening in Finland; summer is here and the days stretch on for what feels like a week. Darkness? Only if you lock yourself away in a room with no windows. But that works for me right now and I’m glad that the end of the night will probably never come because I’m on a small expedition around a quiet town, discovering garages and lock-up spaces packed full of the most amazing collection of classic Fords and all the rare parts that go with them.
They’ve been brought together over many years by Veke Pirkonen, but what sets this collection apart is that Veke has not simply stockpiled parts. No, he’s developed and manufactured his own modified and improved components based around his classic Ford passion.
From modified Mk2 Cortina track control arms, designed to accept new ball joints, or Lotus Cortina dash plastics to aluminium Mk1 Cortina doors, he’s not only a collector but an improver of the marque.
Then there’s where it all happens. The first location I’m taken to is a row of anonymous garages under a block of domestic flats — that’s what you can see in the opening image. It takes an hour or more to go through everything here, as I dissect the scene and take pictures. Veke looks on enjoying the surprise and delight on my face as I see something new.
But this is just the start and next we head to the basement of a large building, where he has a series of store rooms, one of which also makes an amazing den. We duck via a couple more garages before heading in to his workshop and yet another Mk1 Cortina project.
From single seat race cars to an enviable line up of classic Fords, I’m blown away by what I’ve seen here. Then as we go to part company, Veke passes me a Pre-Aeroflow grille for my own Mk1 Cortina that’s parked outside. As he doesn’t speak any English and I don’t speak Finnish, I establish through his daughter and the ever-present Cortina Cowboys that this incredibly generous gesture is because my own is damaged and dented.
Driving away in to the dull light of Finland at midnight, I have a broad smile on my face at the discoveries I’ve made tonight. Here are a few questions I managed to get answered about Veke’s history and passion.
How where you introduced to cars?
When I was a boy my father worked for a big factory in Kemi, which is in northern Finland where he drove a truck — a US Ford, ’59 model V8. We lived in a house owned by the factory and next to it there was a garage with a 1928 Rolls Royce in it, this was about 1955 (Veke was six years old). I remember we used to play with other kids in the Rolls Royce.
Are there any early memories of Ford?
Me, my father and two brothers bought a ’64 Cortina 1200 Deluxe together in 1967. It was first car for all of us, I remember it was red and the reason for that particular car was it was so cool and such a nice model.
Why has Ford stayed so important?
Fords are for everybody, there are so many parts available and knowledge, too. The engineering is so simple and the parts didn’t change too often with the old models. So for example, the same part will work with different Cortina models from the ’60s. Plus it’s easy to develop new parts and when I make them myself, it gives me a kick when I succeed.
What kind of classic Fords do you have?
At the moment I have about 18 Fords and over the time there has been about 30 more. Right now I have one ’64 Cortina, two ’66 Cortina GTs, two ’67 Lotus Cortinas, two Formula Fords, the ’52 Anglia plus a ’68 and a ’74 Escort. In the past I’ve also owned three ’60s Mustangs, a ’63 Thunderbird, a ’59 Lincoln, six other Mk1 Cortinas, six Escorts, two Taunus’, a Sierra and some pick-up trucks!
Is it because a Cortina came first that you seem to like them the most?
There are a couple of simple reason why I like the Mk1 Cortina. One is for their balanced looks. Another is that they’re sensibly made and have reliable technology. It’s a great all-round package.
So what do you prefer? Creating new parts? Restoring? Racing?
I like it all, but I guess the best for me is constructing and creating new parts. I enjoy developing new parts for racing especially, and overall more functional parts, mostly for Cortinas. I do like to race, but it’s too expensive. But whenever you get the chance it’s good to challenge yourself and push your own limits with speed. I’d also say the social aspects of racing are important. The ’66 Cortina GT that I built for racing has introduced me to so many people and given me a good name for making a light, good performing car.
How did you learn to make your own components?
After school I went to study fabrication and welding. Then I applied for both goldsmith and watchmaking schools. I got a place in both and I chose goldsmith. There I learned to solder, finish and the fine accuracy you need, those features has been so helpful with cars over the years. My thing has always been cars and making things with my hands, I do not have a lot of money, so I have to make or repair things myself. I have this curiosity to know how things work and how they are built.
Is it difficult to know how many parts you have?
I have a visual memory and it’s pretty good training to try to remember everything I’ve got in stock.
Where do you sell your parts?
I go to classic car shows and swap meets and autojumbles: those are great places to meet other enthusiasts.
Tell us a random fact
I have the Guinness World Record for building the world’s smallest sauna heater!
Words and Photos Bryn Musselwhite
This feature on Veke’s stash of classic Ford parts in Finland first appeared in the August 2014 issue
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