Affordable Classic Cars of Concepción, Chile

Okay, so this doesn’t have much of anything to do with Mercedes-Benz cars, in fact, there isn’t a single Mercedes-Benz car included here… I wrote this entry for my Affordable Classic Car Review Blog and thought I’d include here too as I think about my friends in Concepción, Chile.

That's me at the beach a week before my year was up in early 1993. No haircut for a year, pony tail and all! Sad to think what became of this little town of Lota post Tsunami.

Many people heard about Concepción, Chile for the first time last week when one of the largest earthquakes in history’s epicenter was just a few hundred kilometers away in the Pacific Ocean. For me, it was startling news. Concepción, Chile has been like a second home for me since I was 17.

I was an exchange student there in 1991 and 1992. I visited at least once a year from 1992 until my last trip in 2004. Real life and responsibility took hold of me, but I’ve always been in regular contact with my friends and host family there… even more since Facebook and Twitter got rolling.

Google Earth map of Concepción and Talcahuano. Arrow points to where the Bío Bío river meets the Pacific Ocean.
My Chilean "brothers" where the Bio Bio meets the Pacific Ocean, the cars are their daily drivers... a Subaru and an Opel.
My Chilean "brothers" where the Bio Bio meets the Pacific Ocean, the cars are their daily drivers... a Subaru and an Opel.

Whenever I could cobble the money together for a plane ticket or talk my folks into springing for one, I would go to Chile, always back to my host family in Concepción. Most people go to Santiago, more than half the population of the country lives there, I’ve spent, maybe 10 days in Santiago total, Concepción was always, and still is Chile to me.

I’ve always loved the cars in Chile. Sure, most of the cars we have here, they’ve got there, but they’ve got plenty we don’t get. Citroen and Peugeot are well represented, the Russian made Lada brand is fairly prevalent, Fiat, lots of Brazilian made Volkswagens… I thought I’d show you some of them. These photos were taken in Concepción, some were taken in the South of Chile, some in Talcahuano, the port city right next to Concepcion. Think of Concepción and Talcahuano like ‘twin cities’ similar to Minneapolis and St. Paul, seperate, but almost one.

A Russian made Lada 2104 wagon.
A Russian made Lada 2104 wagon.

One of the cool things is that some people drive really old cars, almost like Cuba in a way, they just keep them running forever, somehow. There was a handyman sort of guy that wold come to our house to fix stuff, plumbing or work in the yard, whatever, he drove a late fifties Chevrolet 2 door wagon that I was just amazed to see. Lots of really bad body work all over it, matte primrose yellow paint, but it was something you never see up here.

These photos were taken during two different trips, one for Christmas of 2001, the other was a week during February of 2004.

Late 60s / early 70s Peugeot 404 in Frutillar, in the lake region of southern Chile, about 5 hours south of Concepción by car.

Unstable ground is nothing new to Chile, just look at the geography, volcanoes everywhere, the Andes mountains. It’s no secret as to how those mountains were made.

A bit out of focus, a Citroen 2CV we saw on the way to Talcahuano one day. Someone's keeping it on the road as a daily driver.
Peugeot 404 on the street in Concepción. ... some modifications here, has a whole boat thing going on.
This Volkswagen Transporter ambulance was just down the street form our house in downtown Concepción.
Side view of the ambulance... probably working overtime this past week. This is a rare sight, most ambulances are much more modern than this, Mercedes-Benz Sprinter vans or Toyota vans are often used too.
I was really into buses on this trip as I still had my Vanagon Westfalia in the garage. These are used as school buses.
Almost all the Beetles are Brazilian made, this was at the University of Concepción, an honest driver.
This looked to be a very new Beetle, really nice shape. In the mid 90s you could walk into a Volkswagen showroom and buy a brand new one of these, I'm not sure if you can still do that or not.
How about this? On the streets of Pucón in the southern lake region.
This is grandfather's little Datsun pick up. Bought it new in 1983. Today he's 98 years old, and doesn't drive anymore. It's kept at the family farm. It had been in the barn for months. We got in it, it wouldn't start, so we pushed it, popped the clutch and it fired right up. We drove it around the farm this day, down to the river for a swim. Everyone needs one of these!
How about this for a tow vehicle? Modern Peugeot 405 in the lake region of southern Chile.
Hardley a 'classic' this is a Mercury Sable Wagon hearse. Funny thing is, at the time, my mother here in the states had a Sable wagon, the same color as this one, that early 90s teal. This was the only Mercury Sable I ever saw in Chile.
This was cool, spotted on the street in Pucón in the south... a little Diahatsu thing. My brother (from the states) had a mid 70s Toyota FJ40 at the time, this looked like a 3/4 scale FJ40. Tiny little thing, but was very similar to an FJ40 in it's design, almost a smaller version of it.
Rear view of the Diahatsu "FJ40".

13 diahatsu FJ40b

So… those are some of the cars I’ve encountered on the streets of Concepción and southern Chile. It’s a great place. If you ever have the chance you should go, great people, great food, great scenery. You won’t ever want to leave, I sure didn’t. Let’s hope for a speedy recovery for all of Chile.

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