Driven to Write took the opportunity when in Gothenburg to visit the Volvo Museum.
It was the first stop directly after getting off the ferry from Frederikshavn, Denmark. I paid about €12 to get in. In this instalment I take a look at the concept cars. I discovered in the following three days that most of the ’70s cars and onwards were still driving around Sweden, making it the world’s largest open air museum for Volvos. There was one notable exception, and it’s not the Bertone 262.
Above is the 2003 Volvo Versatility Concept. You can tell it’s a concept by the simple finish of the headlamps and the door frames. Designers tend to go for really flush surfaces on concept cars and by the time they are realised a load of little returns, chamfers and edges creep in. The cut-lines also tend to be supernaturally thin.
Most noticeably, the door frames are impossibly straightforward. In this car the chrome door frame is a flat strip of metal bent to the required profile. It has no crown on the main surface and is clearly a solid bit of alloy. It looks fine from afar but is unconvincing at a metre or less. So, the lesson is that if you want to see if a show car is for real or not then check the window frames and lamp-to-body sections.
Here’s a close up of the window frames of a more recent SUV concept:
Not very convincing. It probably didn’t look like this when it was first shown. It’s a bit blurry but notice the dead-straight edge of the bright work. It’s a solid billet, cut to shape. The real thing is a thin strip folded to a box section and always has crown on it.
This is an early safety-focused concept car:
Below we have the technically prescient Volvo Light Component Project. Clearly Volvo was thinking about saving fuel by means in addition to aerodynamism.
The car has an in-line 3-cylinder turbocharged and direct injected diesel of 1400 cc (approximately). This turned out 66 hp at 4500 rpm. The cD was 0.25 and it had a claimed top speed of 112 mph. It weighed 707 kg. This car also has a raked grille and head-lamp treatment, markedly at odds with the upright angle they kept until the late ’90s.
And notice how the lower edge of the sideglass…
They had some trouble with the top of the A-pillar though:
This is the interior. It has rather Citroenesque tones. Notice the positioning of the radio and the style of the binnacle. Allegedly some of the thinking behind this car went into the 480 ES.
In 1992 Volvo previewed what became the Volvo S80 with this car, the ECC. You can read more details here. The same information was on the display panel that was blocking a clear view of the car so I put it out of shot. I find that it can be very hard to take in both the visual and the written information on offer at a museum like this. A proper student would take about four to six hours. I trotted around it in under an hour, which is a disgrace.
This is the interior. As ever, the shapes are fine but the pattern on the cloth inserts has dated savagely. Did anyone ever like Jacquard anyway? The blue shape under the centre arm-rest is clearly a placeholder.
After just a few cars I needed some refreshment. The coffee didn’t live up to the quality of the cars on display.
And then I carried on to the production cars which I will come to in another installment. These are located in between the foyer and the rest of the concept cars. These are positioned on a ramp which leads from about 1950-something down to all but the most recent cars. It’s not a great display arrangement. The cars are too close together and in most cases an information stand is placed dumbly right in front of the front wheel.
Ah, poor Frua. The shape of the rear suggested barrels and rockets to people. The feeling at the time was that it was too unconventional for customers. I think the problem is that the side glass and the car’s profile are not harmonious. A more rational side glass would have made the Kamm taill and tubular section less apparent as well as being more in line with Volvo’s values.
Rather less swoopy but more believable, we have this, the 1973 Volvo 263 GLC which predates the Lancia Beta HPE by two years.
It’s puzzling Volvo didn’t go ahead with this idea. It would have been cheap to make as it is mechanically the same as the saloon and would have offered Volvo a footing in the growing hatchback market. Lancia did quite well with their HPE. Here is an image from the web showing the front view and also that at some point the car was better displayed than it is now. The shape echoes some of the fastback profiles of Volvo’s 1950s output such as the PV 544.
The 2000 SCC laid out the ground themes for the 2005 C30, although the SCC is a five door and the C30 is not. The C30 didn’t fare that well despite having a lavish range of engines, ranging from 1.6 to a rather heady 2.4 five-cylinder unit. I simply don’t remember the C30 getting a lot of coverage in the press yet it looks, on paper, to have been a credible alternative to the Golf.
I suppose that was Ford’s hope at the time when they owned Volvo. The package of the C30 lacked the practicality of the Golf. That said it’s not a wildly useless car, daft parcel-shelf not withstanding. Should they have offered a better packaged five door as well? The A-pillar here is clearly eye-candy and a talking point not intended for production.
And here are some more dodgy concept car headlamps:
I will return to the production cars later on this week and I’ll offer a general opinion on the museum then.
The museum’s website is under this word here. Click on it.