Mon 06 May 2024

From a world-beater to a barn find: Inside the Grönholm family museum

The place Niclas Grönholm calls home is a little different to most. Nestled deep in the Finnish forests, the family farm where he grew up is adjoined by a museum housing some of his father’s most memorable and evocative cars. This is their story...

“The museum was built when my dad’s collection of trophies, race suits and photos began to grow after he turned professional – mainly to get them out of the house!” Grönholm says with a laugh, with his father being two-time FIA World Rally Champion, Marcus Grönholm. “All his podium caps from his wins are there, too – he never gave them away. And then he began to collect some cars...”


The museum is a mixture of originals and replicas. Pride of place goes arguably to a Peugeot 206 WRC – the very car with which Grönholm Snr clinched his first world championship crown in 2000. The French hatchback was later driven by his cousin, Sebastian Lindholm – eight times a Finnish Rally Champion – before being added to the collection.


The 206 sits alongside another Peugeot – albeit one with a rather different background.


“This was a real ‘barn find’!” Niclas explains of the Peugeot 404 pick-up, which appropriately enough has a large cuddly toy lion sat atop its roof. “A guy in our hometown asked my dad if he wanted to buy it – for no real reason whatsoever. Dad went to have a look and I guess the price was right, so he bought it! A couple of friends restored it and painted it in Marlboro red. I drove it as a wedding car for my sister, and since then it has remained in the museum.”


Two cars from early on in Marcus’ career are similarly on show – a Group N Lancia Delta Integrale and an Opel Ascona, with which he won the Finnish Junior Rally Championship in 1988.


“Dad was searching everywhere for the Lancia, and we subsequently found it within a 50km radius of our home, which was pretty funny!” Niclas recalls. “The Opel is also exactly the same chassis that he drove, although I don’t think many of the other parts are the same as it quite often ended up on its roof!”


Grönholm Snr’s final WRC triumph – in New Zealand in 2007 – is marked by a replica of the Ford Focus RS WRC with which he pipped Sébastien Loeb to victory just south of Auckland by a mere three tenths-of-a-second, the second-closest finish in the world championship’s 51-year history.


The following year, ‘Bosse’ contested three rounds of the FIA European Rallycross Championship, piloting a bright orange Ford Fiesta ST in Sweden, the Netherlands and Poland, winning on his debut at Höljes’ ‘Magic Weekend’. A similar car is now proudly on display in the family museum.


A Group N Toyota Celica is another original, while a FIAT Abarth and Opel Kadett GTE offer nods to the previous generation of the Grönholm dynasty, when Marcus’ father Ulf competed with considerable success on the national rallying scene in the late 1970s.


The final car in the collection – a modest 1.3-litre Opel Kadett E – takes Niclas back to 2005, and the start of a journey that would ultimately lead him to seven victories to-date and three consecutive top three championship finishes at the pinnacle of international rallycross.


“That was the first car I ever drove,” he reminisces. “We bought it for something like €150, and I drove it in a field when I was nine-years-old. When I was 15, we put in a more powerful engine to be able to take it to a Folkrace event, but after we’d painted it, it looked so good that I decided I couldn’t race it! I went on to drive Beetles and an old FIAT 133 and FIAT 850 instead, but that little Opel Kadett E will always be special as it reminds me of where it all began...”

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