Event Recap: Celebration of the Life and Times of Roger von der Hellen

The shiny wheel of the Queen, Roger von der Hellen's 122 sedan, shows the reflections of his Volvo compatriots as they share fond memories. (Photo by Lelah Baker-Rabe)

This Saturday July 31st, over one hundred family, friends, coworkers, and fellow Volvo enthusiasts participated in the Celebration of the Life and Times of Roger von der Hellen, a longtime contributor to this club and the entire Volvo community. A processional drive followed his wife Cheryl in the Queen, Roger’s 122 sedan, from the site of the Donut Cruise up Highway 1 to Huntington Central Park where the celebration was held. A cool morning allowed those assembled to share stories about Roger and the impact he had on their lives. All agreed that as a mentor, friend, neighbor, sailing partner, technical trainer, practical joker, and believer in living life to its fullest, Roger von der Hellen was one of a kind. And of course, the parking lot was full of beautifully restored and maintained Volvos driven by those who knew him and shared his passion.

The processional drive up Highway 1 created a long caravan of Volvos old and new, attracting attention from passerby. Roger often drove his Volvos along this stretch of the PCH. (Photo by Lelah Baker-Rabe)

The Queen, Roger's prize-winning 122 sedan, led the processional to Huntington Central Park. Everyone parked with hoods open in his honor.

An impressive array of Volvos took part in the processional drive.

Huntington Central Park was a beautiful setting to remember and celebrate Roger's inspiring life.

SoCal VSA members gather around a collage of Roger's life with Volvos. This event truly was a celebration, with fond memories of the good times we were fortunate to share with him. (Photo by Lelah Baker-Rabe)

Roger William von der Hellen, 1947-2010

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In Memory of Roger von der Hellen


A SoCal VSA member and great contributor to this club and all Volvo enthusiasts, Roger von der Hellen passed away on Saturday July 10th of congestive heart failure. For three years he gallantly dealt with lung cancer – the various treatments, limitations, and life adjustments.  As only Roger would, he did so bravely and courageously. He never complained or felt sorry for himself and fought so hard to live life to the fullest. Most anyone with a passion for vintage Volvos in California, and many throughout the world, knew Roger for his love of Volvos and his skill in repairing and restoring them. He bought his first Volvo, a 1958 444, from a friend’s father at the age of 16. The first thing he did was rebuild the engine. In 1986 Roger became the West Coast Technical Training Instructor for Volvo Cars North America, having won the VISTA (Volvo International Service Technical Association) competition in 1984 while working as a technician at Riverside Volvo. His many career distinctions included Volvo Master Technician, International VISTA Delegate, Member of the Volvo International Training Advisory Board, the Volvo Metro West Area Office MVP Award (1990), the Employee of Excellence Award (2000), and Expert Shop Forman at Galpin Volvo (2006). Against international competition, Roger led Volvo North America’s training department to win the Service of Excellence Award 3 years in a row. Throughout his career he made his coworkers better than they thought they could be, by setting high standards and expecting everyone to reach them.


His talent for working on Volvos was surpassed only by his willingness to share his knowledge, and many vintage Volvo owners have learned to better maintain their cars from listening to Roger. The dual SU carburetors found on many B18 and B20 engines were a setup he championed for their simplicity and versatility, and he often experimented with different dashpot and needle configurations to record the benefits in mileage or performance. In August 2009 Roger hosted a VSA tech session at the Volvo Technical Training Center, in which he described the evolution of Volvo engine design as only a true Volvo guy could. Roger had the magic touch when it came to working on Volvos, and many club members have fond memories of impromptu “tune ups” in his driveway- when he got their engine to run better than it ever had before.


Roger will be missed at Volvo shows throughout California. He often attended in his 122 wagon, which he drove on the VSA Road Trip to Salome, AZ. It won the “Road Warrior” trophy at the 2nd Annual Swedish Car Fest. His beautifully restored 1964 122 sedan- known as the “Queen”- was featured in the August 2007 issue of Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car. It won 1st place in its class at Carlsen Volvo (2006), Best of Show at Davis Volvo (2009), three Best of Shows at Bozzani Volvo (2004-2006), and took first place in the Huntington Beach Concours five times. The Queen will appear this August 7th at the Carlsen Volvo Show in his honor. Roger is survived by his wife Cheryl, a great friend to the club who frequently attended events with him. Roger von der Hellen will be deeply missed by the Volvo community, as we carry on his passion for Volvos and his generosity in helping others.

By Dylan Osborn with Cheryl von der Hellen. Photos by Ted Brough.

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