Early in this 12-day assignment to cover a pair of poker runs in Sweden, I imagined that yesterday—the day before the Smedjedbacken event—would be something of a down day. But down days don’t happen with this crew, and led by Smedjebacken Poker Run organizer Mikael Hedberg, my new friends including Helmich Hillen, Nando Giesen and Christer Wahlmstedt piled into a van and headed for Auto Verdi Racing Pumps and Rods in the tiny nearby town of Söderbärke.
Stefan Verdi (white shirt in foreground) entralled a group of diehard gearheads at his facility in Söderbärke, Sweden, yesterday.
And there we met the man himself, Stefan Verdi, fresh from a 360-degree back-loop in his tunnel boat three days earlier in the week. Verdi, who landed the flip, restarted the boat’s outboard engine and headed back to the docks, injured his back in the crash and was still sporting hospital garb when he gave our group a tour of his immaculate machine shop, dynamometer facility and go-fast toy storage area that included his remarkably undamaged tunnel boat, the 179-mph speed-recording holding Lady Bug GP Hydroplane, three dangerous-looking radio-control raceboats with six-horsepower gasoline/nitro engines and a half-dozen motorcycles that looked perfectly capable of killing anyone crazy to throw a leg over one.
Well known in automobile racing and high-performance engine circles, Verdi is a speed-obsessed designer, craftsman and machinist of the highest order. His oil pumps are used by every NASCAR team running Ford power, several of the Chevrolet and even in parts of the Toyota camp. His rods are used by professional drag racers, and even the spare-no-expense Factory Billet high-performance marine endurance engine program.
Even with an injured back, Verdi is a force of nature and his enthusiasm had his speed-loving audience captivated. I don’t think he wanted us to leave, but we had some late afternoon boating to do. I had promised Walhmstedt, a joyful character who owns Varmdo Mototeknik—the Mercury Marine/Mercury Racing dealership in Stockholm—as well as 1992 36-foot Apache powered by twin 1,200-charged engines, that I’d take a ride with him and his friends.
For a closer look at yesterday’s adventures in Sweden, check out the slideshow above.
The juxtaposition between the rural Swedish countryside and a next-level high-performance engine parts machine shop nestled within it was mind-blowing. Auto Verdi Racing easily could be mistaken for a farm equipment warehouse in that setting—at least until you step inside.
As for the Apache ride, it was delightful, though the sheet-glass afternoon water offered nothing to remotely challenge it. On the return leg, I hopped a ride on a beautiful Cigarette 39’ Top-Gun Lip-Ship Edition and—once we arrived at the harbor in Smedjebacken—stepped of that 39-footer and onto a 27-foot Checkmate owned by Hillen and headed to dinner with friends.
By the time we made it to the opening party for the poker run, it was time to say a few hellos and head to bed. Unforgettable as this adventure has been, it’s anything but a vacation. Today’s drivers meeting is less than two hours away. And then there’s the poker run, which I’ll be privileged to enjoy in Jan Homqvist’s Cigarette 36 Gladiator.
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