The pioneer and his car
Gustaf Erikson was a mechanical engineer with an all-consuming passion for designing combustion engines and automobiles.
His skills fitted like hand in glove for Vagnfabriks Aktiebolaget, whose visionary managing director Peter Pettersson sensed the end of the massive 19th century expansion of the railway network in Sweden and decided to dedicate resources to a promising new phenomenon: the “motor-car”.
So, in 1896 Eriksson was approached by the new company and offered a contract to “design and manufacture, exclusively for Vagnfabriks Aktiebolaget, suitable automobiles and engines…”. It was an offer he couldn’t resist.
By spring 1897, the first completely Swedish-built car was born. But like its immediate successors, it had major defects. Both engine, a four cylinder paraffin-burning unit, and car designs were unsatisfactory. The maiden drive, with Erikson himself at the controls, took place early 1898.
Only in 1902, when engine development had been moved to Södertälje, was Erikson able to design a usable petrol engine and gearbox, with two forward gears and one reverse. That same year a truck was built, and the following year a passenger car.