My Summer Car. That seems like a weird name for a car game, but it makes sense once you think about it.

It’s 1995, and you live in a rural part of central Finland, more specifically Central Ostrobothnia (a region, or maakunta of Finland). The nearest village is Peräjärvi, which shares a name with the lake you live on. You can ride your boat around in the lake and fish for the case of beer you just dropped into it. It’s also useful if you happen to have passed out drunk yet again at the Pub Nappo. This is really a car game comprised mostly of drunk antics and swearing. There are 3 distinct buttons for swearing. I am not kidding.

So, what is My Summer Car actually about? Well, you are supposed to build a car called a Satsuma, which basically a re-branded Datsun 100A, which is a European Datsun/Nissan Cherry. It has a 988cc A10 engine and a 4-speed manual transmission… if you can figure out how to get it working. You have to build the thing part by part, from the two 8mm bolts holding on the front bumper all the way to the two 8mm bolts holding on the back bumper. When the developer says you should have an intense knowledge of cars to play this game, he is not lying.

So, why don’t I start a new save? The game looks like a happy, simple driving game where you drive the Satsuma from the main menu and that’s all you see at first, but that facade is is soon proven to be false. The happy colors and fonts make you feel like this game is a joke, and even I caught that at first. The only thing funny about this game is when you laugh to get rid of the frustration you receive when you first get started with the game.

The next screen is the driver’s license page, this is where you get to choose your name and whether you choose to turn permadeath on or off. I kept it off, but if you really want the most effective method of sending a fist through your monitor, turn it on. I also added a humorous image, it’s a simple addition that makes the process a little more worthwhile. Why don’t we jump in now?

And there’s the shell. It’s a stripped bare car. Mine is yellow, but you could have picked any color you wanted. The whole thing is rusted out, and the rear window says ‘Oispa kaljaa’, which is “I wish I had a beer” in Finnish. There are some fuzzy dice you can take off, and yeah. It’s a rusted out shell.

Here’s the garage, which houses all of the parts that have to go into the car eventually. The engine parts are on the back shelves, and the suspension is along the wall. Pro tip: The spray paint completely removes rust from your body parts and wheels, and gives them a professional-quality paint job. I wish that existed in real life because I need some for my passenger’s side rocker panel.

Remember how I said the garage housed all parts you needed? Well, I need to get fluids and my “fan belt” from the store. I put fan belt in parentheses since it’s actually acting as the serpentine belt. I got in the van, and set off, not before actually waiting for the glow plugs to heat up since it’s a diesel.

There’s even an inside joke about the van. It’s called a Hayosiko, and it’s obviously based off of a Toyota Hiace. But in Finnish, the name was twisted. It’s a Finnish joke about Japanese fictional names and a Toyota mechanic named “Hajosiko Toyotasi” which roughly translates to “Did your Toyota break yet?”

Well, after the store run and spending about 2000 markka on various foods, beer, and fluids, I began working on my engine. I had it about halfway together at this point. Did I mention this game was not a joke? You have to match every bolt with the exact size wrench it needs, not much unlike real life. And there’s a lot of bolts. I’ve learned the bolt sizes almost by memory, which is why I didn’t miss any this time.

And now the engine is together on the stand, and ready to go into the car. Which is still just a shell in the driveway. Time to fix that, I think. I also painted the doors and such, because I don’t really like yellow.

After about 15 minutes, I had the suspension completely together and the car rolls back and forth. After another 5 minutes of lining it up, I pushed it into the garage. I drifted awfully close to the pit, but it worked. The Satsuma is ready for its heart, and now I have to fiddle with the engine hoist to line it up. Ugh.

The engine is in. I repeat, the engine is in the Satsuma. I also ran the clutch and brake master cylinders and lines, radiator, etc. It’s almost ready to run. I also gave the carburetor a bit of a richer tune, I will have to lean it back out when I get it running. You actually do have to worry about this, because in my first game, I killed the engine by running an almost 18:1 AFR (air/fuel ratio). No wonder the thing backfired, huh?

Now, the finishing touches. Seats are almost in, I’m tightening the 9mm bolt holding the passenger seat in. Almost done with the entire car here, and it’s been about 2 hours. I took 5 the first time I built this car.

IT’S RUNNING! This was the first start, and it seems to run fine. The smoke out the back is still a little gray, but I think a ‘fat and happy’ tune is best until I can take it to the shop. Also, notice the manual choke below the radio. Since this is a carbureted car, you have to manually richen it to help it when cold starting. We kind of take this for granted now. I’ve left the choke on too many times to count.

And it’s actually not bad to drive! Of course, I’m going only about 50 km/h, but it’s holding onto the road pretty well. Wait, why is the temperature so high? What did I do now? Why aren’t the brakes working? Well, let’s limp it to the shop, being careful…

And I wasn’t very careful. The handbrake in this car is too effective. I locked the rear wheels and spun into the banking, and ripped my muffler off. Well, I did bring my tools, because you have to be prepared for anything in this game.

And I’m at the shop, it’s about 4 kilometers from the house, although don’t quote me on that. I did only use the handbrake to stop and didn’t really go above 80 km/h since there was no power to play with. But this little thing is fun on the dirt roads, only if you can keep it in control.

Well, at least I have my 50% discount! Look at the prices of service! An alignment is 495 markka! Engine repair is 8 grand! Well, I do have the money, so screw it. Let’s see what this guy can do. He also can paint your car, change final drive ratios, and other various services, but I thought that was unneeded.

The next day, since the Satsuma was running, I needed to get it inspected. I took it on the highway to Peräjärvi and took it to the inspection place. Yes, the inspector stabbed my floor pan with a screwdriver about 7 times and muttered something about how I was a “character” with the Satsuma, and how he’s not getting either baby chickens or eggs. I did pass though, but his note wasn’t as nice. ‘Täys jatekasahan taa auto on‘ is pretty much him saying it’s fit for the scrapper. Oh, you have to pay 325 markka for the privilege to be insulted.

Well, since I was now legal on the road, it’s time to order parts, right? So, I got just about everything in the catalog. You get an envelope and have to drive to the store to put it in their mailbox. What did you expect, personal mailboxes?

And about a day later, the parts are here. I drove the van to the store and got my parts, and none fell out of the van, which is always nice. Of course, nice things are expensive. These parts in total were about 8000 markka. Now time for some gratuitous before-and-after shots.

And this thing is now fast. I haven’t taken it to the shop to lengthen my gears yet, but with the stock gearing, I could hit 200 km/h. It barely did 80 before. Of course, it is sketchy as hell at the limit and the tires can only hold on at ~180 km/h, but it’s fun. And with fun comes maybe too much fun.

Yay, a ticket. HOW MUCH IS THAT? 3500 markka! Are you crazy? Well, there’s an explanation for it.

Finland has been running on a system that scales your traffic tickets depending on your income stated to the government. I’m technically classified as unemployed in the game, as per the ‘työtön’ profession on this ticket. But that’s sometimes why you see $100,000 tickets in Finland. That’s a cool little touch.

There is a backstory to this game, even if you don’t see it. You are rather young (reportedly 18) and you live with your parents in their house in Kesselinperä, and you are a contractor. In the shed is a tractor and there’s a sewage truck. Those are owned by your parents in their business, in which their logo is in the newspaper, which details your 22nd death, and on your van. You do use their equipment to make money though. One man will call you to deliver a trailer full of firewood, and another 7 people call for sewage tank pumpings at random.

That isn’t much money, and there’s even more of an inside joke inside the story itself. The racing parts catalog is called Amis Auto, which is a car that someone in a trade school upgrades. And you are an amis, the trade school student. The racing part section of said catalog translates into something about rice burners (which makes sense).

In the little village, there’s a shop and a pub right next to it. What else do you need? The nightlife is exciting in this area, when you play on a slot machine swaying side to side drunk, or watching the local drunk driver rally at crazy speeds in his little Fiat 126 on the dirt roads near your house. You can also hitchhike with him in the latest update, but he will kill you.

Also, the other AIs are hilarious. On the highway, there’s a green Opel Vectra with a man blasting some presumed Russian ‘hard bass’ rave music, and he goes an average of 160 km/h who on occasion slams into the back of you. Other AIs on the highway tend to drive on the oncoming lane to pass trucks. That has counted for about six deaths so far.

How do I wrap this up… this game is a great one. It’s the most ‘car guy’ game I have ever seen. You have to drive to the store to do things, and you have to build the car. It’s not done for you. It satisfies my thirst for extreme detail and I love it. But this is also a lesson that can be transferred to real life. Don’t live in 1995 Finland, and don’t drive 220 km/h on the highway. You could be a model citizen, but how fun is that? Fun enough for you not to end up in the local newspaper as “Young male dead in car crash” or “Man drowned in septic tank”. And you can drown in septic tanks. It sucks, one slip and you are gone. But isn’t that the motto of life?