Cars fit for a king: New exhibition shows Norwegian Royal Family’s love of cars

The Crown Prince opens the exhibition “The King's Cars. Vehicles through four generations ”. The exhibition shows highlights from the Royal House's car fleet from 1913 to today, in the period 11 February to 15 May 2022. Photo: Beate Oma Dahle / NTB
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A new exhibition will showcase the Norwegian Royal Household’s love of cars. Spearheaded by Crown Prince Haakon it shows how several generations of Royals have loved getting behind the wheel since 1912.

A new exhibition showcasing Royal cars

A new exhibition titled “The King’s Cars” was unveiled by Crown Prince Haakon this week. At the exhibition, housed at Dronningens KunstStall in the Royal Palace, members of the public can get up close and personal to a collection of cars owned by the Royal House since 1912.

Ingeborg Lønning, section leader at the Royal Collections, spoke to NTB about the theme behind the exhibition. She explained that “this is an exhibition about the role of the car in the royal house from 1913 until today. And it’s about the big and the small events. About war, peace, celebration, sorrow. The cars are…our common national memory to say it in big words.”

It all started with a toy electric car

Talking to the media at the unveiling of the exhibition on Friday, Crown Prince Haakon explained a few stories behind the cars on display. The first car that the Norwegian Royal Family possessed was, in fact, a toy electric car. This was given as a gift to the then Crown Prince Olav as a Christmas present in 1912 by his grandmother, Queen Alexandra of the United Kingdom. The Prince, according to Crown Prince Håkon, drove this toy car around the family estate at Bygdøy.

The Norwegian Royal Household finally got a “real” car the next year, a 1913 Minerva Model MM, a model favored by other European royals from Belgium and Sweden. This was the same year that the first Road Traffic Act was introduced. King Håkon had to wait until this Act was passed before getting behind the wheel, Crown Prince Håkon noted.

Royal family vacation
Three generations of the Norwegian Royal Family on holiday in 2020. Photo: Elin Rønning / The Royal Court

Driving became a family passion

Driving soon became a family obsession in the following years. King Håkon and then King Olav passed their love of driving down to the current generation of royals. Crown Prince Haakon then reminisced about the first car that he and his sister used to whizz around in – a tiny motor car. This was given as a gift to the family from the Norwegian Atomic Car Association in 1980.

Crown Prince Haakon had interesting memories of driving this tiny car. He recounted that “it had a lawn mower engine and runs at about 20 kilometers per hour, both forwards and backwards. It’s like a small car that can drive up the slopes itself. You could also unplug it, and in free it went pretty well downhill. The steeper, the faster. I have overturned with it, and rocked a lot.”

Unlike this tiny car of his youth, he admits that he has not been able to drive many of the vintage and historic cars on show. They are technically demanding, according to the crown prince, involving a double-clutch and other tricky elements to master.

Preparing the next generation of royals for life behind the wheel

Crown Prince Haakon is now in the joyous, but a somewhat nerve-wracking phase, of passing on his driving knowledge to his children. With a lifetime of experience, he has helped his daughter Princess Alexandra with driving lessons and is now teaching his son, Prince Sverre Magnus.

His advice to the young generation of royals, and to young people more broadly, comes after a lifetime of experience behind the wheel. The most important thing, Crown Prince Haakon states, is safety. For those driving, he recommends that “if you are unsure, just take it easy. And then you have to drive defensively. Because even if you know what the rules are, not everyone else may follow the rules.”

Crown Prince Haakon
Crown Prince Haakon getting into the back seat of a car for a change. Photo: Terje Pedersen / NTB scanpix

After more than a century, electric cars are still a favourite

One of the more unusual cars that Crown Prince Haakon has driven was the Think electric car. Before the advent of Teslas, he made a point of driving in this electric car, from 2003 to 2012, to help fuel investment in the technology.

He mentioned that the car had to be charged after the short trip from the Royal Palace to the family’s estate in Skaugum. It was not, he said, the most easy-going ride as “I often had range anxiety on the slopes up towards Skaugum, at about 10-15 km per hour the last stretch.”

So for the Royal Family who started with an electric car all those years ago, the Think car was seen as a fitting ending point for the exhibition.

Source : © NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today / #NorwayTodayTravel

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1 Comment on "Cars fit for a king: New exhibition shows Norwegian Royal Family’s love of cars"

  1. I remember the royal family very bravely driving out through Oslo’s streets during the worst of the coronavirus and how that gave people heart.
    I got my avacado green 1969 (one of the first) fastback Chevy II Nova(s) when I got out of the Army in 1969. Someone picked it up after I traded it in for a rally green VW Rabbit.
    Last I heard, my carefully preserved (in that Bergen-like wet climate) Nova is still tooling around Juneau (Alaska).
    But mode of transportation has never been a priority for me – other interests are – and Norway’s very convenient and efficient public transportation – buses, trolleys/trams, and trains – fully serves that need.

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