A few weeks ago I looked at a 1995 Volvo 850 T5-R wagon, one of the all-time great designs launched by the company:
1995 Volvo 850 T5-R Wagon
The Porsche-modified engine managed to channel an impressive 243 horsepower and 250 lb-ft of torque. The downsides? Well, not only was that particular example expensive, it was front-drive only and equipped with an automatic transaxle. Of course, move forward a generation and there was an even more potent possibility if you like fast five-doors; the V70R. The V70R had 300 horsepower driving all-four wheels through a transversely mounted turbo five, along with heavily bolstered sport seats, Brembo brakes, and an Öhlins adjustable suspension. And yeah, you could get a six-speed manual. A vast majority of these cars were used quite heavily as intended, but still are appealing to consider in the used market:
As we’ve said before, a few select marques and cars get a pass when it comes to these pages, and one of my favorite exceptions is Volvo wagons. The Sultans of Square went a bit bonkers with turbocharging over a few generations; the 240, 740, 850, and V70 all had relatively high-performance turbocharged versions of their sibling sedans that were both practical and pulse-quickening. But when it comes to the top of the heap, the 850 T5-R and its replacement, the 850R, must certainly be in contention.
Launched around the same time Volvo was curb-hopping its Estate version of the 850 in the BTCC (replete with inflatable dog in the cargo area), the T5-R took a page from the Audi RS2 and E500 book and turned to Porsche to up the ante. Fiddling with the engine tuning resulted in 243 horsepower and 250 lb-ft of torque, and was met with a stiff suspension, 17″ wheels, and interior and exterior tweaks. Like the RS2 with its famous (and often mistakenly called Nogaro) RS Blue, the T5-R’s signature shade was T5-R Yellow. These were quick in period and are still pretty respectable today, though the quite limited production numbers mean you might need to look to other markets to find one:
The famous Volvo 1800 actually came about thanks to another unusual partnership in the earlier, and lesser known, P1900. In 1953, Volvo commissioned California-based fiberglass body producer Glasspar to help make a sports car based on the 544. A few were made, but changes in leadership ultimately killed the project.
The idea was reborn in the 1800 and design moved from California to Italy, where prototypes for the new sport concept were produced by Frua. Frua couldn’t handle large-scale production, though, so Volvo took the prototypes to Karmann in Germany. Though it initially agreed to produce the car, Volkswagen’s contract with Karmann to produce the competitor Ghia ruled it out. Stymied, Volvo turned to Jensen in England after exploring some other dead-end options. Jensen’s production possibilities looked promising to Volvo, but ultimately Jensen didn’t have the capacity to produce the bodies. An agreement was struck with Scottish Pressed Steel, which then produced the P1800 bodies so poorly that a very frustrated Volvo ended up moving production back to Sweden in 1962. The renamed 1800S (no longer with a “P”) signified the changeover.
But regardless of how many masications they went through or who was producing it on any given day, one thing remained certain – the 1800 is one of the best looking cars to come out of Sweden and was an unusually round peg from a notoriously square manufacturer:
There’s a running joke here at GCFSB regarding Volvos and SAABs. Without exception, every time we post one someone comments either here or on our Facebook page that those two manufacturers aren’t German. It doesn’t really matter that we explain nearly every time that though we know this, we still enjoy to look at a super Swede from time to time since – let’s face it – a majority of people on Facebook don’t actually read the articles that are posted, but rather just react to the headlines. Now, we could actually get into a discussion about how the Swedes are actually a Germanic based tribe if you go back far enough, or how many of their engineering principles fall in line with those of their Southern neighbors. We could mention that many of the newer Volvos and SAABs actually utilized German derived chassis from either Ford Europe or GM’s Opel division.
In the case of today’s ride, I’m not sure that matters much. We love colorful cars, we love wagons, we love performance wagons, and we love colorful Volvo performance wagons. So what do we have, but a Flash Green Volvo V70R to consider:
“IT’S NOT GERMAN!!!”
I know. But since today is the conclusion of Le Mans and occasionally we like to take a look at other cars, let’s check this one out. Because, in many ways, I think it has a lot to offer.
The Renault GTA emerged out of the acquisition of independent boutique sports car maker Alpine by Renault. Renault immediately set upon making a rival to those pesky sports cars from Stuttgart and modernize Alpine’s 1970s A310 model. Let’s not forget, this was a period when Renault was quite active in Formula 1 and Le Mans, so a sporting car wasn’t entirely out of character for them (nor was the competition with Porsche, for that matter!). New lightweight plastic body-pieces were fit, and the 1.7 liter 4-cylinder in the back of the A310 was yanked in favor of the 2.5 liter PRV (Peugeot, Renault, Volvo) V6. In 1985, a turbocharger was bolted on and instantly the GTA was a 944 Turbo competitor with 200 horsepower on tap. However, the rear-drive, rear-engine layout and tricky driving dynamics were more akin to early 911s than the well-balanced transaxle Porsches. As a result, the Porsches continued to sell in droves, while the Alpine GTA remains just an interesting footnote in French automotive history.
But for about the same money as a very nice 944 Turbo these days (and significantly less than the price of a decent 911), you can get the Le Premier Absolutment GTA:
If you weren’t paying attention, Volvo has unleashed a new, large wagon on the world. The new V90, while designed for utility, has a very elegant swagger about it. While other manufacturers go about cranking out facsimiles of the same SUV, it’s encouraging to see Volvo go back to its roots. Even more encouraging is that Volvo will be selling this big wagon in the US. Hear that, Audi? Not everyone needs a jacked up pseudo truck in which to travel around. Dial back two decades prior and we arrive at this 1998 V90 we see here for sale outside of Philadelphia. This would be the end of the road for the ubiquitous rear-wheel drive platform, giving way to the S80 platform a year later, which would spawn the V70 wagon. This V90 represented a turning point in the history of Volvo Cars.
It’s been a while since we’ve featured a Swede, and after going to Volvo’s homeland back in May, I felt inclined to look around for one of the most famous models of their history, the 240. But this 240 isn’t any ordinary 240. This 240 Classic represents the final year of production for a car whose roots trace back to 1974. The 240 Classic was a numbered series of 240s representing the last 1600 vehicles built for the North American market. These were well equipped versions of the regular 240, with color keyed grilles and side mirrors, cross hatch alloy wheels and a numbered plaque on the dashboard. The Classic was offered in two colors, Ruby Red or Tropic Green Metallic. Available in both sedan and estate form, this 240 Classic sedan for sale in New Jersey is number 1444 and is equipped with a 5-speed manual gearbox, sure to please back to basics motorists.
It’s been a little while since we’ve featured a Swede here on GCFSB, so I thought we’d take a look at this Volvo 240 Wagon today. Unlike the Porsche Cayenne GTS we just took a look at this morning, this is not a vehicle that has an identity crisis. These Volvos wagons were built as no-nonsense haulers that could withstand everything a brutal Swedish winter could inflict. This 1993 example represents the final year for the 240, a car that can trace its roots back to 1974 and even a little bit before, considering it was closely related to its predecessors the 140 and 164.
Fashion icon Iris Apfel was noted for saying “life is gray and dull and you might as well have a little fun when you dress and amuse people.” Adapt this quote to automobiles and you are speaking my language. So much of what we see offered today by manufacturers is boring and drab, trying to maximize profit while giving consumers the vague whiff of individuality. There are still a few cars out there which will help you stand out. Continuing on with the Swedish theme I seem to be on this week, Volvo has been one of the few brands to offer what has become a niche vehicle with a rabid following: the performance estate. These cars are an attempt at offering the family man his cake and allowing him to eat it, too. And with this formula comes a bit of whimsy.
It all started in the 1980s when they started turbocharging their five-door offerings. Then, in the 1990s, Volvo went all out and fielded an 850 Estate in the British Touring Car Championship, with the help of Tom Walkinshaw Racing. This spawned a street version, the 850 T-5R. With an engine developed in conjunction with Porsche, this car packed 243 horsepower and was available in both sedan and estate form. The T-5R was then succeeded by the 850 R, essentially the same car with some improvements. This 850 R for sale in Kentucky is a rare sight, an example in very good condition with just 65,000 miles on the clock. Want some sport with your utility? Read further.
Just two scant years ago, Volvo killed off it’s C30 hatchback. It wasn’t a huge seller, but this car offered unique styling and competent performance in a tidy, near luxury package. It was also a flattering throwback to this car we see here, the P1800ES. The P1800ES didn’t have a long production span, but it made an impact on an otherwise staid lineup at the time, save for the P1800 coupe that it was based on. This example for sale in New York has the desirable 4-speed manual gearbox and benefitted from a bare metal respray. On Minilite style wheels, this is one attractive shooting brake.