At Sweden’s Speed Weekend, where jet-powered insanity hurtles across ice


For the past five winters, thousands of people from across Europe have gathered on the frozen surface of a Swedish lake to test the speed potential of every kind of vehicle imaginable. This year's Speed Weekend lineup included a motorized bathtub on treads, a 40-foot Lincoln Navigator limousine, and several rides best described as ramjets on sleds with handlebars. Because what else is there to do in winter in Sweden but tempt death at 170 mph?

With 40-odd categories, the Orsa event welcomes anything that can move, as long as it has the potential to go fast. Many of the vehicles use treads instead of wheels to grip the ice of Lake Siljan; those who stick with wheels put long metal studs on their tires for traction. With a flat, 2.5-mile course to run, driver fear and mechanical failure tend to be the only limits on speed.

This year's fastest time came from a modified Audi A4 painted in a General Lee livery that hit 180 mph. The four-wheel class ranged from the usual modified Nissan GT-R's to a 1994 Buick Roadmaster station wagon to a smattering of Volvos and Saabs with engine swaps, reflecting the deep Swedish appreciation of all things hot rod.

It's in the lesser classes where Orsa Speed Weekend transforms into a Winter Olympics of mechanical insanity. The field stands ready to accept anything with an engine, from a Harley-Davidson chopper with rear treads instead of a tire to this bathtub/snowmachine combination. And the event usually draws a number of people who've taken jet engines or turbines and built sleds around them; what they lack in top speed and reliability they make up for in fire-belching, eardrum-piercing entertainment.

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