Bilkyrkogården Kyrkö Mosse near Ryd in Småland is an unusual but charming attraction. The swampy forest is literally an old car graveyard, filled with the wrecks of historical vehicles which found their last parking space there decades ago.
Bilkyrkogården Kyrkö Mosse is the final resting place for an estimated around 150 car wrecks in various stages of disassembly, partially sunk into the swampy forest ground, some covered with moss, others are covered with pine needles or overgrown by shrubs.
There are old VW Beetle, Ford Taunus, Opel Kadett, Volvo PV, Citroen 2CV and many other cars.
It was the cultural activists who saved the area?
Or the locals in support of the Bog Man who ran it? Or maybe it was the City Council who came around to see the value of preserving poignant and photogenic decay of old Saabs and Volvos?
Or maybe it was simply a stroke of luck.
The story of Bilkyrkogården Kyrkö Mosse begins with a man called Åke Danielsson, born in 1914, who lived in the village of Ryd in southern Sweden. It was 1935 when he bought a piece of forested peat bog, where he harvested the natural fuel and fertilizer by hand for a living.
As demand grew, “Åke on the Bog” increased his production by building himself a peat shredder using old car engines.
With the post-war years came a boom in car ownership, and the village of Ryd’s old cast-offs were often abandoned to the surrounding forest.
Åke started gathering them up, and with no training in engines or auto mechanics (did you believe?…he didn’t even have a driver’s license!) he learned all he could from the old junkers.
Thus, a little side business in spare parts caught on, and soon he had a “skrotbilar”, something like a “scrap yard”, and the parts business outstripped the peat.
The collection grew until 1974, the year Åke bought his last car.
Over time the empty vehicles took on an aesthetic life of their own, attracting tourists, locals and simply curious.
Even though Åke had been keenly aware of the risk of contamination to his peat bog, careful to always remove the gas, oil and batteries, City Hall wasn’t so happy on the whole affair, and they decided the cars had to be sent to an authorized recycling site, imposing a fine if it wasn’t done by a November 1998.
However, bad weather struck, and the plan had to be postponed, a fact that gave Åke’s supporters valuable lobbying time. All kinds of people rallied to his defense, including journalists, photographers, and even the director of the Småland Museum in nearby city of Växjö. As a results, the voices of support won, and a 49-year permit for the site was issued.
Åke Danielsson passed away in 2000, but not before seeing his scrap heap saved from its sad destiny.
What’s to happen after the year 2047 is a mystery, but the skrotbilar is still there.
At least for the time being….
Author’s notes: the Kyrkö Car Cemetery can be found driving west on Värendsgatan 2 (Hwy 119) from the town of Ryd, in southern Sweden. Follow Hwy 119 for about 2.5 km, and the parking area will be on your right.