Volvo Museum, Part 2

Recently we had a look at the concept cars on display at the Volvo museum in Gothenburg, Sweden. Now it’s time to investigate some of the production vehicles.

1977 Volvo 262
1977 Volvo 262

The first few rooms of the museum represent the early years of Volvo which don’t interest me that much. Thus I didn’t take any photos at all. I wanted to get to the 70s cars from where my interest in Volvo takes off. That means my interest begins at the 262 stand. This one (above) glows resplendently in a very late 70s gold metallic paint. That it was designed and built by Bertone is well-known. This one does

without the vinyl roof and is the better for it. The interior had more elaborate seats than the standard car and some extra wood inlays and is pleasantly spacious, thanks to the 200-series’ square forms.

Here (below) is the 262 with its close relative, the 200-series, an archetypal saloon car which repels and appeals in equal measure. Personally, I think it´s excellent for its uncompromising approach to practicality.

IMG_1029[1]

1977 Volvo 262 alloy wheels.
1977 Volvo 262 alloy wheels.

Volvo bought DAF in Holland just after they launched the 66 (1972). A year after the purchase the car became the Volvo 66. Michelotti did most of the design work and it must have been one of his last cars. Volvo adapted the car with a new interior and safety seats.

1975 Volvo 66
1975 Volvo 66

When I was in Sweden I saw pretty much every Volvo model on the roads, except the 66 and a car we will come to in a moment. This 66 is the first one I have seen since a trip to Geneva more than four or five years ago. Notice the rather questionable treatment of the shutline:

Volvo 66 door shut-line: approximate.
Volvo 66 door shut-line: approximate.

Launched a year later (1976), the 300-series originally had this very simple plastic grille and separate bumpers. This model too was not in evidence in Sweden. It had a leaf-spring rear suspension and famously vague steering. I drove a late-model of one of these, without power steering and it really was as bad as Clarkson made out in one of his polemical inserts on Top Gear.

An early Volvo 340, or partthereof. I literally forgot to photograph the rest of it.
An early Volvo 340, or part thereof. I literally forgot to photograph the rest of it.

I apologise for the blurriness of the photo.

And here is…

1982 Volvo 760 GLE rear side-glass.
1982 Volvo 760 GLE rear side-glass.

You know what these cars look like so I have focused on a detail. Look at the level of craftsmanship on the doors. This is built to last. Those are very time-consuming metal folds and require a high-level of precision to make them fit neatly together.

1982 Volvo 760 door frame, rear.
1982 Volvo 760 door frame, rear.

As far as I can tell, this is the first car with this kind of fade-out ceramic edging  on the side-glass (above). It is there to conceal variation in the gap between interior trim and the glass and bodywork. I noticed this first when I was about ten years old and it struck me as quite a smart detail.

1982 Volvo 760 GLE door frame, detail.
1982 Volvo 760 GLE door frame, detail.

And…

This is the landscape behind the rear head-restraints of a 1982 Volvo 760 GLE.
This is the landscape behind the rear head-restraints of a 1982 Volvo 760 GLE.

More usefully, this is the passenger compartment. The warm colours and soft velour contrast with the industrial design aesthetic of the hard trim.

1982 Volvo 760 GLE rear passenger comparment.
1982 Volvo 760 GLE rear passenger comparment.

Notice the generous width of the arm-rest. This is an exceptionally comfortable and spacious environment but it does not suggest excess. How very Swedish.

1982 Volvo 760 GLE wheels.
1982 Volvo 760 GLE wheels.

However, the exterior is clearly influenced by American tastes and the formal roofline is very much in keeping with what GM were doing at the end of the 70s.

1982 Volvo 760 GLE
1982 Volvo 760 GLE.

The skewed plate (above) is not so fortuitous.

1982 Volvo 760 GLE headlamps.
1982 Volvo 760 GLE headlamps.

The 900-series  replaced the 700-series, when Volvo reworked but did not substantially change the architecture. Here is the 960 for comparison:

1998 Volvo 960 estate headlamps and grille.
1998 Volvo 960 estate headlamps and grille.

The headlamps are slimmer and slightly more inclined. It’s worth noting that in its top-spec trim level the estate was a car arguably without peer in the European market. At once highly equipped and far from cheap, it was still not as pointedly aristocratic as its only real enemy, the Mercedes E-class. This example is one of the last made.

A rather bad photo of the Volvo 960 in its most sumptuous guise.
A rather bad photo of the Volvo 960 in its most sumptuous guise. This is the European equivalent of a Buick station wagon, only Buick stopped making them when the Century ceased production.

I came to the Volvo museum in the hope of seeing a 780 ES. Maddeningly, their example was black, parked in a corner and obscured by an immovable information panel.

...and this is the best photo I could get. 1986-1990 Volvo 780 ES by Bertone.
…and this is the best photo I could get. 1986-1990 Volvo 780 ES by Bertone.

It is rather fabulous. The grille is slimmer than the saloon, as are the lamps which are monochrome.

Look at this window frame detail…

1986 Volvo 780 ES, detail.
1986 Volvo 780 ES, detail.

And here is one of the wheels:

1986 Volvo 780 alloy wheel.
1986 Volvo 780 alloy wheel.

The 850 (1991 to 1996, below) is not a car I really feel that much for. However, in this colour and equipped with the five-cylinder engine it becomes something more engaging. I really wish they had not abandoned bright-work when styling these cars. It was designed, like the 700 and 900, by Jan Wilsgaard.

1991-1995 Volvo 850R
1991-1995 Volvo 850R

The S80 is, in my view, one of the last beautiful European saloons. The other one is the successor. It is clearly a Volvo and clearly elegantly functional with a first-rate interior.

1998 Volvo S80.
1998 Volvo S80.

Why they didn’t make an estate version of this is beyond me. The S70 doesn’t fully fulfil the brief, sleeker but less spacious. The S80 carries on the 760’s values in a contemporary way. It could do with more brightwork, yes, but I still greatly admire this. It’s comfortable, capable and entirely unlike its rivals from Audi, Mercedes or BMW in demeanour.

So, that is our canter through Volvo’s museum in Gothenburg. Apart from the watery coffee, the place is well worth a visit.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

5 thoughts on “Volvo Museum, Part 2”

  1. One really has to wonder how they managed to get from the 66 to the level of detailing and refinement in the 760. There’s not that much time between the two cars.
    Take that, Alfa!

    1. The Dutch design team went on an intensive course in detail refinememt and the steel pressing people likewise. There must be a lot of specialist, tacit knowledge related to steel pressing which isn’t easily accessible other than by hearing it from an experienced person who learned the same way and so on back.

  2. My parents had a Daf/Volvo 66, I drove it once but didn,t like. Personally I have owned a 1.4 340DL, utterly reliable and oh so easy to work on; a 1.7 340 GLE, a reliable and comfortable car that I bought as a stopgap and ended up keeping it for several years. Also have owned a 360 GLS that was a real pocket-rocket but thirsty. Two 240 estates and a 240 saloon, i loved those old bricks but they rusted badly. Three V40 estates, ok cars but not “real” Volvos. And now that i have retired i have a 1993, 2.9litre straight six 960 saloon with just 91,000 on the clock. It is registered as an Executive model but as far as i can tell it,s just an “ordinary” 960. That being said there is nothing ordinary about the 960, It is the finest car i have ever driven, I love it, my wife hates it (which makes me love it even more). It will serve me until i get too old and senile to care. By then perhaps someone else will be cherishing HMS Thompson, as my younger son calls it. It is a future classic.

    1. Hello Ian and welcome to DTW.
      Thanks for dropping in.
      It´s a bitter thing to hear the 240 rusts in any way at all. I really admire those cars and they are still about here in Denmark in reasonable numbers. My dad had a 240 and it had superb seating, a huge boot and looked terrific (I like square cars). The 960 is the closest thing Europe had to a Buick and for that reason I like it too. Isn´t odd that these cars have not stuck around? I see one here once in blue moon. They are rather fabulous palaces. What is it your wife doesn´t like about it? If she´s the passenger, the seating is superb. In many ways these cars are bigger on overt comfort than anything else barring Rolls and Bentley. For all their technical prowess BMW, Audi and Mercedes have never successfully offered a squishily comforable car. Maybe a large Jaguar is as softly furnished but not as spacious or regal.

      You might like this satirical item on the 360. I wrote it several years ago:
      https://driventowrite.com/2014/06/25/1986-volvo-glt-review/

      and this more sober item from a short while back:
      https://driventowrite.com/2016/09/04/a-photo-for-sunday-1988-volvo-340-dl/

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