Sweden’s foremost Porsche dealer celebrates ninety-seventh birthday

Sweden’s foremost Porsche dealer celebrates ninety-seventh birthday

Walking the streets of Stockholm in the early 1950s, the casual observer would have seen a curious mix of cars, with newly designed domestic models from Volvo and SAAB rubbing bumpers with early Volkswagens. What they wouldn’t have seen, at least beyond the doors of a single, small showroom in Lindhagensplan, was a Porsche.

Thanks to a young man with a gift for making friends and a life-long love of sports cars, things were about to change. Per Anders Ygberg had recently left the military and, without any formal education, found himself looking for a career. Sweden in the early 1950s was a land of opportunity — neutrality during the Second World War had left the country cash rich and ahead of the industrial curve. Ygberg was ready to make the best of it. He applied for a sales job at a franchise selling Volkswagens and, in 1954, began trading both the Beetle and its little-known sporting cousin, the 356.

“I was totally inexperienced,” Ygberg recalls with a laugh. “Until then, I’d been in the military as a conscript and had never had a job. Even so, I managed to get one of three places being offered by VW to sell its cars in Stockholm. In my first year, I sold 250 Beetles and twenty-five 356s. When the Porsche launched, nobody I knew was interested in this peculiar car with its engine in the wrong place, but after the war, Sweden had money, meaning it was natural for Porsche to become successful here. To put this into perspective, near half of the first fifty 356s assembled were sold to customers in Sweden.”

Ygberg ploughed a lonely furrow for several years, selling this exotic, niche model to a small handful of enthusiasts. “Most people really didn’t understand the 356 because it was totally new,” Ygberg explains. “Everything else was square, like a box, but Porsche had designed a car with beautiful organic lines.” As Porsche’s sole emissary in Sweden, he was introduced to a diverse range of customers, from architects and engineers to artists and musicians. He even counted heir apparent, Prince Bertil, as a client.

By far the most important relationship Ygberg enjoyed through a shared love of Porsche sports cars was the bond he had with his wife, Karin. “We first met when she was twelve and I was fourteen,” he says. “My father was a doctor and she was killing time in the hospital he worked in. We became close friends during those two hours.” Their friendship would become long-distance when Karin was offered a scholarship to study in the USA. She subsequently returned to Europe to work for Radio Geneva and Scandinavian airline, SAS, where for two years she drove Porsches as company cars and even featured in SAS promotional material with her personally owned 356. “She was an extraordinary person,” Ygberg says. “She almost married a cousin of the Queen of England, but reasoned she wouldn’t enjoy the kind of life delivered by marrying royalty. She returned to Sweden and asked what I was doing. Our mutual friends told her I was selling Porsches. Her eyes lit up! She told them to call me immediately. I arranged to meet her and, after a few seconds together, were close again. We were married for sixty-eight years.”

Gazing at a photo of Karin and her 356 on the cover of a book, it is Ygberg whose eyes are now alight. “The car is mine, and so is the girl,” he laughs. “It’s hard to believe I had so much luck in one lifetime. I still believe the Queen’s cousin would have had some advantages over a Porsche salesman, though!” Ygberg has an interesting take on the idea of selling Porsches: friendships come first, purchase second. “I just waited to hear friends say yes. Sometimes it took years, but eventually they were all bitten by the Porsche bug,” he smiles.

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