Off the highway: A cemetery of wrecks | Maanteemuuseum

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Off the highway: A cemetery of wrecks

The car is sacred! Our car culture still maintains the mindset that cars, which were considered status symbols just decades ago, should not be discarded. Upon learning about the prices asked for car recycling or selling scrap metal, cars are often hidden behind barns with the hope of eventually selling them for a profit or repairing them. With more special cars, the prevailing belief is that they will go in demand in the future. Well, they won’t, especially if left abandoned on some field unprotected from wind and rain. As soon as its value increases and a rope is attached to the car for relocation, it will fall apart into a pile of rust on that same field.


A car wreck is hazardous wastebatteries, 6-12 litres of different liquids that can harm the environment, tires, plastic and much more. At a scrapyard or a scrap metal selling point, these materials can be safely dealt with. Moreover, did you know that 95% of a car is recyclable? Until general attitudes change, I have a lot of work ahead of me. I have known about wrecks and the way they grow into nature for a long time, but one day I suddenly realised that those works of art, born from the collaboration of humans and nature, are starting to vanish. Approximately five years ago, I began stopping my car at wrecks. Given my profession, I always carry a camera with me anyways. There is an unbelievable amount of interesting trash and wrecks in people's backyards.


Kaarel Tigas, who am I? I have worked as a photographer for around twenty years, as well as been active in the fields of journalism and marketing. I do not consider myself an artist, but rather a documentarian. I have been interested in cars since childhood, though my interest has always leaned more towards their visuals, rather than their horsepower or performance. A tree growing through a car will always excite me.



Nissan Prairie OIU 


All ten year old boys who are interested in technology have posters of their favourite cars on their bedroom walls. Middle-aged men who grew up in foreign countries often speak fondly of Ferrari and Lamborghini posters, while Soviet kids reminisce about Ladas and Volgas. I was ten years old when the winds of freedom blew into Estonia, bringing with it a mix of random foreign nonsense that was entering our culture completely senselessly. I found a large poster from an Estonian-language car magazine that had just started appearing. The unfathomably ugly Nissan Prairie suddenly became my dream car. After all, it wasn’t some Lada or ZAZ-965, which I had already seen a million times and even driven around a bit. I once flipped a reading lamp upside down and placed a plastic cover from a truck indicator light over the lightbulb, with the intention of making the room more cosy with the Praire and orange light. Having done this, I went to the living room to watch TV. My mother found the burning indicator light and already lightly smouldering Praire poster in the last moment.



#carspotting #abandonedcars #forgottencars #nissanprairie #nissan





On a chilly early spring day, my friend Ivo received a call from his sister: "I’m practicing for the Võhandu Marathon and my canoe got swept downstream!" Ivo rushed to help his sister get back the canoe and found it close to the Süvvahavva Mill Dam. In addition, Ivo stumbled upon a farm, in front of which stood the legendary Ikarus, slowly blending into nature. For a wreck photographer like me, this was like winning the lottery! I took a 50-kilometre detour on a workday just to photograph the bus, and I do not regret a single metre. What’s fascinating is that the bus is parked a mere hundred metres away from the hiking trails in that area. However, if you don't know where to look, you won’t find it. Many locals had no idea that such a beauty was hidden in the nature there.


#carspotting #abandonedcars #forgottencars #ikarus55 #ikarus



Safety-Passat HURMI


Coming from a family with an engineering background, I had heard countless lectures on safety to the point of being sick of it. And then, while taking an alternative route from my countryside home to the store, I stumbled upon this picturesque still life scene. The immortal Passat in an unexpected pose, with a Niva in the background. I do not wish to know the intended use for this sledgehammer in relation to this Passat. I do not wish to know how this Passat was even put on these wood blocks. I do not wish to know what the author of this scene was thinking. I cannot think of a single action relating to car repair that would necessitate the Passat being in this pose. No-no-no, tell me this is a dream!


#carspotting #abandonedcars #forgottencars #volkswagenpassat



2109 TARTU 


This is a dream from my childhood. Actually my parents’ dream, as they were the ones who made the decisions at the time. A three-room apartment in a standardised Tartu concrete building - the dream was fulfilled. On the other hand, the dream of having a VAZ 2109, or at least 2108, was not fulfilled. My father came to the realisation that the ten years older Daihatsu Charade provided a better driving experience in all measurable fields compared to either of the aforementioned Ladas. Thanks, dad! I had a test drive with the Lada, and I am relieved that it was not my first car. I instead got the Daihatsu, which was a very economical car for a university student. For some inexplicable reason, Vasara Street in Tartu seems to have an above-average number of wrecks, which provides quite a bit of visual satisfaction for someone like me. The parking lots around houses on other streets in the city tend to be considerably more boring.


#carspotting #abandonedcars #forgottencars #vaz2109 #lada2109



Kehtna Volga KEHTNA 


This photo makes me weak. Most people are all talk, but some actually take action! Spring in Kehtna, Raplamaa. It was the first warm day and I had too many clothes on. I drove past my turn, probably because of the sweat dripping into my eyes, and had to go through some garages. And there it was. A seasoned car owner who doesn't hesitate to take off his shirt at any given opportunity and start working on his Volga, GAZ 21. I cannot say how many springs he has dedicated to this endeavour, but I hope that by his final moments, he will be satisfied with the shininess of his car.


#carspotting #abandonedcars #forgottencars #gaz21 #volga





The only photo in the exhibition not made in Estonia. Kuldiga is a city in Latvia where lawns filled with car wrecks are reminiscent of a golden age. Wasn’t it a Latvian proverb that you should never bring the old wreck to the scrapyard before a new car is in the house? Regardless, one can come across joyfully rusting vehicles that haven’t been produced since the previous century behind almost every house in Kuldiga. Furthermore, some old cars have found their purpose as design elements in cafe courtyards, including this Fiat. It must be a lucky coincidence to start the morning by putting on a red shirt and then finding a dining spot on a red couch in front of a red Fiat. Then again, it might have been a deliberate choice.


#carspotting #abandonedcars #forgottencars #fiatfiorino #fiat


Maarja LAZ



I have a strong connection with the LAZ bus. Being a lifelong driver, it was from behind the LAZ wheel that my grandfather retired. By the way, his buses also ended up in secluded corners in some field or forest. They moved to their final parking spots basically straight from their regular routes, branded with the sign: spare parts donor. Whenever grandpa and his mate arrived with a new bus from Lviv, the old one was promptly hidden away, far from sight.

Grandpa had a fondness for repairing engines. He wasn’t very good at it, but despite (or because of) this, he often took on the task. Every week, he awaited my father's return from school in Tartu so that he could start the LAZ with his old Volga and let it idle. My father often had to first use his own car to start grandpa's Volga and let it idle, as its engine had also started to unexpectedly demand for repairs.

Maarja-Magdaleena was the old parish centre, the existence of which is debated by many. I am aware of its existence, and as can be seen from the picture, it once served as the final stop of a bus line in the past.


#carspotting #abandonedcars #forgottencars #laz #laz695




Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, MTÜ Pro Patria Semper has delivered a hundred cars to the frontline within the span of nine months. The mission still continues. Three fraternity brothers along with their Ukrainian pilot friend have dedicated themselves to acquiring four-wheeled vehicles from acquaintances, semi-strangers and strangers, assuming the roles of car salesmen during random encounters. In their pursuit, they have systematically sacrificed their personal lives and sleep hours. The photo displays a red Mitsubishi being tuned for frontline duty on a Saturday night.


#carspotting #abandonedcars #forgottencars #mitsubishipajero #mitsubishi





After the Estonian Restoration of Independence, it was the Toyota Dyna that breathed new life into our family. Amongst the smaller trucks traversing local highways, this particular one was the most affordable and uncomfortable, yet several times more economical and therefore commercially viable than its socialist counterparts.

In our family, the Toyota Dyna started out as a regular truck, and then my father rebuilt it into a tow truck. Oh, and this Dyna also had some glass anomaly.

At first, the front glass spontaneously shattered and, as the original was expensive, my father bought a 2108 glass as a replacement. Then, the side door window also broke for some reason. This was replaced by a regular thick display glass. In case of a crash, the sharp flying shards would probably have first killed everybody in the car and then also any bystanders within flight distance.

I was 14 years old when my father and I got in the Dyna tow truck and went to liquidate the scene of a car crash. It was then I first saw a human scalp and brains on a car seat. A car salesman from Pskov had fallen asleep behind the wheel.


#carspotting #abandonedcars #forgottencars #toyota #toyotadyna



Corolla KAMBJA

Despite its year of conception, the reliable Toyota Corolla continues to be highly regarded among experts in the field. In Kambja, behind a greenhouse, there is a car with a number plate from the Canary Islands and the logo of the Mongol Rally on its door. The combination of these details lacks any feasible explanation, but they open up the possibility of inventing glorious legends, which is more fun anyway. It is just a shame that the Corolla, otherwise in good shape, is not used anymore.


#carspotting #abandonedcars #forgottencars #toyota #toyotadyna





I knew that the long-bodied Suzuki Samurais are rare in Estonia. I also knew that the father of a friend of mine had one. However, it took until he made a call on Facebook for something to fill the roads with - even Eternit cement - for me to show up. I happened to have two roofs worth of it lying around. I rented a cart, loaded it up, and drove 30 kilometres away from any place that would accept the material for free. I was hoping that the Suzuki would still be there, even though I could not find it in the register. When I arrived, I received a scolding from my friend's father's partner, who said that anyone could bury such junk under their road on their own. Then, I saw the Suzuki. It was alive, even though it didn’t exist in the register. The car earns its living as a cattle shepherd to this day.


#carspotting #abandonedcars #forgottencars #suzuki #suzukisamurai




The wreck that I have admired most in my life. It is located in a residential area in Tallinn. A weekly Sunday ritual of teaching our sons to ride bicycles with my friend brought us next to Vauxhall. It is essentially an Opel, but with British characteristics, which is quite unusual to find here. It caught my attention again and again. Finally, it was there by the Vauxhall that my wreck photography started. You can see that when I finally arrived with my camera, the apple trees were blossoming. A captivating sight. I couldn’t have found a better timing.


#carspotting #abandonedcars #forgottencars #vauxhall #vauxhallchevelle



VW Transporter SAVERNA


It is unbelievable how a completely new truck has been hit by climate so bad. I would usually not take a photo of such a young and common vehicle on our roads, especially a VW Transporter, but it fits in so well with its surroundings. Heaven knows what kinds of acid rains come down in Saverna. In any case, they create such a well-fitting monumental art in the landscape. Modern sculptors have a lot to learn from.


#carspotting #abandonedcars #forgottencars #volkswagen #vw #vwtransporter





I have an odd curse that seems to follow me: I hate cherry red cars, yet they have been the most reliable vehicles I've owned so far. (I used to also hate silver cars, but they kept kicking me in the face at each jump and turn.) A cherry red car is usually a sedan that is not let out of the garage in the winter by its retired owner, as it is more comfortable to polish the machine in a warm room, preparing it for summer drives. I currently own two loyal cherry red cars.

This photo depicts a Daewoo Tico surrounded by a decaying house and an overgrown garden. The car has been standing here since 2000 and has managed to avoid meeting its end on our pothole-ridden roads. It was bought in only slightly better condition. Essentially, it’s still a new car!


#carspotting #abandonedcars #forgottencars #daewoo #daewootico



Sierra KOPLI


The number plate has faded into a uniform white, the wheels have sunk into the moss, and the car has become overgrown by it. Ford Sierra, an old dream. This specific car in Kopli has about twenty registered court offences. Winters come and go, new asphalt has been laid on the ground, and the neighbouring house has undergone renovations. However, the Sierra car remains oblivious to the fast-paced life around it, letting evolution continue its slow advance.

This Sierra, being clearly socially out of place, is an extreme example. However, apartment building parking spots are full of cars that share similar fates. So full, in fact, that people who rely on their vehicles for daily use are left with no choice but to park on the grass or in handicap spots.


#carspotting #abandonedcars #forgottencars #ford #fordsierra


Citroën Vasalemma


One of the few wrecks that I intentionally drove to for photographing, and one of the most valuable amongst them, came into my photo collection when I broke a promise I had made to myself and appeared on television. The TV show "Võsavinkel" edited together convincing footage showcasing how I work hard just for my gravestone to say: “Recognised trash photographer”. Following the directions to the Citroën van, which is a rare find in our land, was a moderately or even very difficult task, but after some wandering, I managed to locate it near an RMK hiking trail. Thanks, television, I would have never searched that corner of the Earth on my own.


#carspotting #abandonedcars #forgottencars #citroen #citroenh



Transit and kitchen appliances – Pulleritsu


This happens when you cannot bear to bring something to a waste station or metal purchase point. It is possible that the out-of-service machine has not been brought to its end because, as our ancestors taught us, a caring owner never throws away even a louse skin - you never know when you might need it. Unfortunately, trash can also accumulate from the fear of taking action. Or rather, from ignorance of the fact that there is some old stuff that does not cost anything to give away. Some machines can even earn you some money. My grandmother lost her childhood home during the last World War, and afterwards she lived close to 80 years in the same flat. Gradually, her storage spaces and cellars accumulated about 30 van-loads of stuff put aside, “just in case.” I sorted through this inheritance for one and a half months and brought it to metal collection points, recycling plants and second-hand sellers, making myself a decent paycheck. Thank God grandma didn't have a farm. There is always more space in the countryside to store things.


#carspotting #abandonedcars #forgottencars #fordtransit #ford


Scrapyard near Räpina - Räpina municipality


Not far from Räpina, you can find a field of wonders where a multitude of different and otherwise rare foreign car wrecks grow. I swear, I have never seen such a diverse collection before. Hectares worth of decommissioned and abandoned cars - this sight is perhaps only rivalled by the Järva-Jaani Old Equipment Shelter. It is a remarkable collection of cars that have been manufactured in 1970 or earlier. Despite some cars being partially hidden by hay, there are paths mown in between the wrecks.


#carspotting #abandonedcars #forgottencars #toyota #toyotacrown




Mustla house in Mustla, Järvamaa


Just a couple of years ago, any driver on the Tallinn-Tartu highway could have seen this house through the forest, as the new 2+2 road was not yet opened at that time. Considering the fact that the house in question stands in a senseless location by today's standards, my intuition kept telling me that there must be something interesting nearby. I finally listened to that inner voice and turned off the highway - I was not disappointed. The picture only captures a portion of the clutter around the house. There were even several car wrecks lined up against the wall. Next to some potato furrows, there stood an old apartment building, the types of which were known as Mustamäe at the time. Adjacent to it, in a small individual home, signs of life seemed to have persevered.


#carspotting #abandonedcars #forgottencars #lada #vaz2105




Kihnu ZAZ Kihnu


While I may not want a Soviet vehicle as a hobby car for myself, the first soapbox, the ZAZ 966, remains one of my personal favourites produced in the vast union in terms of design. The people of Kihnu possess a talent for making their permanent or summer homes visually appealing, showcasing their hard work to tourists in a skilful manner. Why close the garage doors when you can leave them open? A simple method for creating a picturesque view.


#carspotting #abandonedcars #forgottencars #zaz #zaz966



MAZ 200

I have heard numerous stories about the MAZ 200 truck and the incredible feats accomplished with it. Interestingly, these adventures become more captivating and vibrant with each retelling. For this exact reason, I am not interested in telling stories in video format. Carefully recorded material leaves little room for fantasy. What harm is there in embellishing a story a little and adding some spice to it, or allowing the listener/observer to fill in the missing information themselves? I had basically only seen the MAZ 200 in museums before.


#carspotting #abandonedcars #forgottencars #maz #maz200 #kuban #kuban62



Kuban Turba Mammaste


Soviet architecture captivates me, unlike Soviet engineering. Unfortunately, the poor construction quality of that era was so significant that even buildings completed as late as the Brezhnev era now stand in line for demolition. The photo showcases a visually appealing dryer belonging to the Põlva Kolkhoz, the garage of which was occupied by a Kuban bus. Sadly, the bus never made it to its next full repair, despite the preparations made for repainting it. The current appearance of the bus exemplifies the aforementioned quality issues of Soviet buildings. The roof of the dryer (!) has allowed enough water to seep through, leaving a visible mark on the vehicle.


#carspotting #abandonedcars #forgottencars #kuban #kuban62




Maybe you’ve even spotted this vehicle when driving from Tartu to the Estonian Road Museum? I always do. One day, my eyes caught sight of living house plants in the window behind the car, and from then on, I started the hunt for the perfect moment, when it would still be light enough outside yet dark enough for lights to be visible behind the window. It took a long time for that moment to arrive, and when it did, I captured the photo with quite an amateurish defect. I was just too proud of the light in the window.


#carspotting #abandonedcars #forgottencars #lada #vaz2107






An absolutely perfect way to store a barn treasure. Usually, barn owner keeps all its walls intact, and nobody will ever know that there is such a splendid vehicle hidden in the otherwise unassuming building. For years now, all passersby on the Tartu-Võru highway have been able to catch a glimpse of a relatively well-preserved GAZ 51. Indeed, a metal production building was recently constructed on the lawn, which also houses various other machines. However, the GAZ is always prominently visible to all who pass by. Just like a model car displayed in a transparent box - the same one that our father or grandfather would never allow us to play with. The GAZ 51 is perhaps the only truck I have ever driven - a remarkably simple machine! Powerful, yet... small. Looking back, it's quite possible that my current family car is longer than that pickup truck.


 #carspotting #abandonedcars #forgottencars #gaz #gaz51





In Kuningamäe Village, near Põltsamaa, the first thing to catch your attention is a hill composed of construction debris. In Estonia, it could even be considered a mountain. A trained eye can spot a couple of cars next to it. The seemingly random sedans are Alfa Romeos, the crumbling legends. On Estonian roads and streets, these Italians are quite rare. It is unlikely that these cars, having endured the elements for so long, will ever be revived again. Nevertheless, I get a heartwarming feeling knowing that there are like-minded individuals everywhere who appreciate beautiful vehicles.


#carspotting #abandonedcars #forgottencars #alfaromeo #alfaromeoalfetta





A relatively rare version of the classic Moskvitch sedan 412 body, but still crashed! Typically, I do not pay attention to the numbers at a petrol station, as when I have to drive, there is no alternative, and there is no point in getting riled up. However, when the kilo price of CNG, or compressed natural gas, surged from 90 cents to five euros, I began looking for cheaper alternatives. I discovered that for several years, a fuel derived from Koksvere cow farts can be obtained from behind the same barn at a significantly lower price compared to the highly volatile Russian natural gas. While driving to the petrol station, I noticed an abandoned house across the field. I decided to investigate and also discovered the car wreck. By the way, my orienteering trainer from childhood used to drive a similar Moskvitch, which had been transformed into a two-seater pickup by local agricultural engineering experts. It was a bit cramped, but the cabin could fit exactly nine children, in addition to the trainer, usually in three layers.


#abandonedcars #forgottencars #moskvich #moskvich427 #azlk