Researched information on the history of the vehicle fleet

The history of the Finnish vehicle fleet is examined below mainly from the perspective of machine-powered vehicles. In addition to motorised vehicles, bicycles, which for a long time were the most common form of road transport in Finland, have also been included. However, horse-drawn vehicles are not included, as the use of horses in transport declined and almost disappeared in the 1920s and 1930s with the advent of motor vehicles and bicycles.

The history of the Finnish vehicle fleet is divided into three periods: vehicles before 1922, vehicles from 1922 to 1944, and vehicles from 1945 onwards. The division is based on the start of nationwide registration in 1922 and the Second World War, which is reflected in a clear break in the vehicle fleet. Research into Finnish vehicle history has so far progressed up to 1944.

Click on the links below for a more detailed look at the vehicle fleet for each period.

Register of Finnish motor vehicles before 1922 (in Finnish)
Sources of Finnish vehicle history from 1922 to 1944 (in Finnish)

Sources of motor vehicle history

Knowledge of the history of motor vehicles on the road in Finland is based primarily on vehicle registers.

First registration numbers

The first registration numbers in Finland were issued in 1906. First, this was related to taxicabs and was a direct continuation of the numbering of horse-drawn carts for hire, which had begun much earlier. The oldest surviving registration books date from 1911, although they also contain entries for older vehicles. By the First World War, most Finnish cities, towns, and many rural municipalities are known to have had motor vehicles with registration numbers. The surviving registers from this period are held in various branches of the National Archives. With some exceptions, the registers do not contain vehicle data, only the registration number, the name and address of the vehicle owner, and the name and address of the driver of the vehicle.

Sources before 1922 (in Finnish)

Province registry books

In 1922, an order was issued for the province-specific registration of motor vehicles. The authorities attached to provincial governments kept their own register in each province. Most of these books have survived and are now available for study in the various branches of the National Archives. In addition, the Oulu Region Mobilists have the Oulu Province Register Book in the Oulu Automobile Museum, and the Mikkeli Mobilists have the Mikkeli Province Register Book. The books cover the years from 1922 to 1929. The register books contain detailed technical information about the vehicles, in addition to information about the owners and drivers.

Province-specific register cards

In the 1920s, the number of motor vehicles grew so rapidly that it was no longer possible to maintain a register in book form. In the 1920s and 30s, the use of card indexes began at slightly different rates in different provinces. In Helsinki, the changeover may have taken place as early as 1925, but in most of the provinces, this did not happen until the turn of the 1920s and 1930s. The cards contain basic information about the vehicles and their owners throughout the history of their use. The practice was that a vehicle’s register card could be removed from the register after ten years had elapsed from deregistration. In the mid-1960s, the vehicle registers were computerised, but the card registers were still maintained into the 1970s. For these reasons, the so-called master card registers actually only cover motor vehicles in circulation between 1955 and 1973. In addition, unfortunately, some of the provincial vehicle register cards were destroyed when the registration data were transferred to the Vehicle Registration Centre. The currently preserved cards are being held by the archives, Mobilia, and the clubs of the Historical Vehicle Association of Finland. Some of the material has been digitised, and the rest is available by appointment.

Sources of Finnish vehicle history from 1922 to 1944 (in Finnish)