We take a brief dive into Volvo’s Italian coachbuilt past.
Turin based coachbuilder, Carrozeria Fissore had confidence aplenty. Founded in 1919 by the four brothers; Antonio, Bernardo, Giovanni, and Costanzo, the reins fell under Bernado’s control in 1936. Originally horse carriage experts then car repairers, by wartime the carrozzeria had moved on to manufacturing – mail cars, vans, even hearses after military service.
No prizes for guessing much of Fissore’s work lay within the Fiat purview. By the 1960s, Fissore may not have been the household name far outside the confines of their homeland but their reputation had grown. To the point that Motauto, the Italian import agent for Volvo believed the carrozzeria possessed the skills to Continue reading “Confidence Might Be Z-Shaped but Knock-backs Wear Iron Marks”
If George Orwell wasn’t volunteering to fight in the Spanish civil war, he might just have been found causing literary chaos whilst craving a pint of stout in his perfect pub. A turbulent life ended aged just 46, Orwell spent many years inventing (and searching for) the Moon Under Water – his perfect, Londinium watering hole.
In his (final) Saturday essay published in the Evening Standard, 9th February 1946, Orwell set out ten significant bullet points, eight of which he eventually found in one unnamed hostelry. In turn, this led to me thinking can similar attributes be used to Continue reading “The Moon Under Water”
The Volvo Bertone 780 coupé was dying. When North American dealers were given one to sell, it could sit idling for months as most customers were looking for wagons or heading to rival badges with bigger engines – not choosing an unorthodox coupé, however intriguing. Lead times also proved challenging. A customer could be made waiting twelve months to Continue reading “Dirty Great Volvos – One Last Dash”
The success of the Bertone and Volvo partnership bred goodwill, long term relationships being established between manufacturer and carrozzeria, which maintained their longevity, thirty-plus years from their labours – enough to tip the scales in favour of a second attempt.
Once the final 262C had trundled off the forecourt early in 1981, the new project coupé was planned under the P202 code number. Lengthy concept briefings took place in both countries over a period of three years, the Torinese producing some typically flamboyant early renders.
Imagine the reaction. Nuccio Bertone himself being informed the initial drawings were “too aggressive.” Paolo Caccamo, Bertone chairman states, “Three designs were drawn. One too similar to the 760, one too sporting, the final of the scissor designs a compromise that both parties were happy with. It may not be innovative but it is elegant.” A further development saw the Italians Continue reading “Light Fogging”
Dirty Great Volvos: Part one – which deals with a mid-seventies international affair.
When Henry Ford II came to town, he got noticed. And when he showed up in Sweden with his entourage of executives to have a look-see at how they made cars in Gothenburg, he, along with his Yankee-Iron cavalcade, caused quite a stir, enough to inspire a new Volvo.
The investment programme behind the 1991 Volvo 850 was the most important in the Swedish automaker’s history. Not only did it deliver an excellent car, it had a fundamental impact on the company’s future direction.
Despite its conservative appearance, which looked like a scaled-down and smoothed off 940, the 1991 Volvo 850 was the fruit of the Swedish manufacturer’s largest and most expensive ever investment in new models, so it needed to be good.
It was not, however, Volvo’s first foray into front-wheel-drive. That honour rests rather heavily on the 400 Series. First to launch was the 480 coupé in 1986, followed a year later by the 440 five-door hatchback and 460 four-door saloon. The 400 replaced the 300 Series, which Volvo had inherited as a largely completed design (the DAF 77) when it took over DAF’s car-making business in 1975.
Technological breakdowns – there’s one Born every minute.
This cringeworthy yet humorous phrase uttered regularly by the character Carol Breer in the TV show, Little Britain reminds us of the fact that while computers may have given us countless advantages and convenience in every field you can imagine, when they malfunction or are not programmed correctly they can cause immense frustration. Computerisation in cars can be a source of aggravation too, as today’s subject shows, although an iffy digital onboard diagnostics system was not the only thing impeding the Volvo 480’s market chances.
The genesis of the 480 was 1978, when an internal Volvo project named Galaxy was initiated. By the early eighties the main stylistic direction was established and unexpectedly neither the design by Volvo chief stylist Jan Wilsgaard nor the proposal by Bertone was chosen to Continue reading “Computer Says No”
Turning the clock back to a millennial from Gothenburg.
Twenty years have slipped by since Volvo entered the shark infested waters of the compact executive saloon market, leaving behind a broadly positive if somewhat small mark in that (now) ever-shallower pool. By the time Ford showed up with a very large cash bag ($6.45 billion) and placed the Swedish brand under their Premier Automotive Group umbrella in 1999, the S60 was all but ready for unveiling.
In today’s instalment, Andrew gets up close and personal with his Nimrod.
Waves arrive in many forms; tidal, sound, shock, metaphysical even. Relating to my recent motor purchase, all of these and more were felt, some stronger than others. All made an impact, some longer lasting than others. Ownership (counted in minutes ) can be compared to a stone’s impact in water. The ripple effect: having apart from thirty two years behind a steering wheel, hardly any road testing experience – no car swopping auto journalist am I.
Yet perched on sumptuous leather, the view of that long bonnet out front, the rear in another post code, I felt a swell inside. A comforting sense of justification, an encompassing sense of the surreal – a car detached from reality, in my grasp. Disturbing waves are calmed, replaced by mellifluous currents. And this merely driving away from the Lamborghini hard standing.
Electing to foreswear the entire journey home on motorways by heading off piste provided an opportunity to allow the inner Setright to Continue reading “Sinusoidal”
Humans: funny creatures with emotions, feelings and urges. What was the divining moment, the will to leap from a car I’ve known and enjoyed for nearly five years to one that could be respectfully called a Swedish Bentley? A feeling named ennui – my Octavia was perfectly fine – but that was then. Could it be vanity coming a’ calling, age related issues (knees, back) maybe, appealing to more sybaritic senses, or could it be boiled down to simply wanting a change?
Even with regular washing and polishing, the Škoda sparkle had waned. I’ve compared the feelings I underwent, for no-one forced this issue upon me, to that of a seasoned motor racing driver. Not necessarily a champion, but one in need of a new direction, a fresh challenge with an unfamiliar team, and, most importantly, a new steed. With change, different objectives could be sought out. The daily commute might remain constant but the excitement could be enhanced, surely?
Sitting comfortably? Buckled in safe? Then we’ll begin…
Since its inception in 1927, Volvo Cars has given the world a lot to think about. At least as safety-focused as Mercedes-Benz (but with added acronyms), 1959 saw the Torslanda-based car firm installing front seat three-point safety belts as standard, allowing free use to any other manufacturer, not that many took up the initiative.
A concerned friend of mine once amassed a comprehensive file of seat belt data, weighing up the pros and cons from dozens of firms back in the early 1960s. After weeks of cogitation, he spent a weekend fitting Irvine belts (initially a parachute manufacturer) to his Morris 1100, which gave sterling service. The file carried weight – influencing one of his employer’s directors to Continue reading “Cap 112 (180)”
Forty years ago Gothenburg tried its hand at an eco-car. It didn’t catch on.
Large scale manufacturers have the ability to try new technologies, regardless of their commercial non-success. On these pages we have read of countless millions budgeted for a non-starting project or concept, at the time heralding new automotive beginnings, only to forever reside within the confines of a museum. A historical artefact from a less well informed period.
One such previously unsung example being Volvo’s LCP2000 project. The Light Component Project for the year 2000 started life in 1979. After an exemplary twenty five career with fellow Scandinavian carmaker, SAAB, where he had input with the Sonnet, in addition to rally-driving and engine development (tied with being an executive), the ever genial engineer, Rolf Mellde sought a new challenge at Volvo.
Hard to believe but I have seen more Buick Rivieras* than Volvo 300s in the last fifteen years. Here is maybe the third 300 I’ve seen in Denmark since 2006. I also saw one in Sweden, in a museum. That doesn’t count.
This model is the 1985 360 GLS, a more elaborately trimmed version of the 340 which had a smaller engine. While the 260 and 760 had six-cylinder engines, the 360 was slyly trading on the name. It had a 2.0 litre petrol four, fuel injected (hence the “S” bit of the badge). What kind of car was it? For comparison, the asking for this car (in 1987) was within 200 quid of a 2.0 litre Ford Sierra LX or even a BMW 316. For about the same money one could also even go so far as to
Steve Marriott was lead singer and co-creator of 1960’s Mod four-piece, The Small Faces. In their 1968 track, Donkey Rides, A Penny, A Glass… Marriott alludes to wasting his days in idyllic fashion in a caravan at the seaside. Mind you, the band’s subject matter also included (and indubitably entertained) various substances; references being made to the breakfast cereal All-bran, tin soldiers jumping into fire and life affirming measures that only those of a certain age could possibly appreciate.
As a ‘70s child, blissfully innocent of free-love and mind expanding powders, for me the band produced consistent results, a little like some Swedish artisans cooking up glass, deep in Småland.*
Orrefors (end it with a shh) are producers of fine glassware and have been shaping crystals for many years. Building a smithy and forge by the river which flows into the lake Orrenas, the company’s name translates as the Iron Waterfall. The car connection appeared when Volvo asked them to Continue reading “Small Faces”
Just as the choice of car tells a lot about its owner, car advertising can say a great deal about its subject’s sensitivities.
Here we have the BMW 3 series, hitherto known as the Dreier or 3er in its home market – before it was recently rechristened The 3, because nothing rolls off the German tongue with quite as much aplomb as a ‘TH’.
Sliding then from the sculpture to the sow; Volvo’s Sugga, pronounced Soo-Ga is quite an exaggeration. And a world away from the Bilo.
Made strong and robust, which may have been mentioned earlier, initially as a taxi cab. The chassis was given the nomenclature PV800 and being built like the proverbial out-house was adored by taxi drivers for its longevity. Perhaps some Germans were on holiday in Sweden at some point and liked the idea of a strong, forever lasting, easy maintenance taxi cab? Again, hardly an elegant car having an American style with Swedish slants.
Originally conceived in 1938, the Sugga had a twenty year production run with variations from encompassing a glass screen to separate passengers from the driver (PV801) and the version omitting the screen (PV802) which lent itself to be easily converted into an ambulance, the stretcher for the poor soul being fed in through the boot. Still, if this vehicle assisted in saving your life, you could happily and rightfully Continue reading “The Sculpture and the Sow : Part two”
Andrew Miles casts his eye Northwards for a tale of marble and swine.
(c) The Guardian
In historical terms, Volvo are similar to Citroen; both engineering driven, both regarded as extreme at times, both brimming with frisson and an inbuilt nature to excel and impress, even if looking a tad more internally than we might expect. This tale deals with the Swedes.
Dublin resident Mick reports on life with a Volvo C30.
There doesn’t seem to be a lot of love in these parts for the mark V Golf. Not so here. I had 4 of them. My favourite was the ’08 black 3 door. So much so I kept it for almost a decade. The TSI engine that was reputedly brittle brought me and my learner clients almost to the moon (well over 300,000 kms).
I know we’ve talked about this car before but the theme is summer 1998 and around then, a worrying two-decades back, this car was fresh and new.
“Volvo S80 takes the fight to BMW,” roared What Car in 72 point lettering. “It may be unmistakably Volvo but the all-new S80 has enough style and appeal to give rival luxury saloons a fright. And it won’t cost the earth either,” they continued. This claim x or y car will frighten BMW et al is a constant.
Like another much-loved ’80s C-sector stalwart, Volvo’s turn of the decade hatchback was aimed at two market sectors concurrently, satisfying neither. We ask, was the 440-series Volvo’s Maestro?
Volvo’s long-lived 300-series proved something of a mixed blessing for the Swedish car maker by the late 1980s. On one hand, a firm and remarkably consistent seller (a regular in the UK’s top ten), while on the other, something of an embarrassment given its age, hapless dynamics and the fact that it was a car Gothenburg engineers never had much appreciation for in the first place.
Occasionally I trawl randomly among the newsroom pages of various car manufacturers. What did I find this time?
The first marginally interesting snippet involves MG Cars. Despite it all, they are selling more and more cars albeit not many more cars.
“More than 4,440 new cars were registered by the iconic MG Motor UK brand in 2017, an increase of around 6% year-on-year, according to the latest data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) released today (4th January 2018). In December alone, MG Motor UK achieved 100 additional unit sales over 2016 figures, thanks largely to the roll-out of the new MG ZS Compact-SUV. ”
While DTW is far from perfect on the sub-editorial front (blame the sherry), we still like to hold others to suitably high-standards.
In addition to the “front grille”, there is a new piece of automotive jargon to throw into your car-speak. It’s the “rear C-pillar”, a delightful formulation invented by the Irish Times. I feel like grabbing a driver’s steering wheel and heading off now. We will deal with the actual car in due course.
Quiet and unassuming by day, the 262C saw the distinctly suburban 200-Series loosen its tie and show a slightly darker side to its personality.
Loved by owners, derided by the UK motoring press, the 200-series Volvo seemed even by mid-Seventies standards, something of an anachronism. Its upright and uncompromising appearance made few concessions to fashion, majoring on values of practicality, durability, comfort and occupant safety. Not that this prevented it from becoming a firm favourite and the model that Continue reading “Something Wicked This Way Comes”
One model has defined Volvo’s rebirth, but its backer deserves some of the credit as well.
It’s customary for a new car line to hit its sales-stride within the second full year of production, before plateauing and gradually ebbing downwards. This fall is normally arrested by a mid-term facelift, before once again, the graph pitches inexorably Southwards as the model is run out and ultimately replaced. While I wouldn’t necessarily Continue reading “Henry’s Bequest”
Most of the brochure is just like all Volvo brochures from the late 80s. It’s horizontal, mostly white and assembled with extreme restraint.
The best part of the story of the Volvo 740 (1982-1992) is that the car it should have replaced only went and outlasted it: the 240 (to 1993). Yet the 740 did a lot of things better and was probably a bit more pleasant to drive (Car even rated it as being better than a Granada and a 604 in 1983). It had more room, used less fuel and offered decent reliability. All this is well-known. What makes this brochure more interesting is the location for the photography: the wilds of Ireland, just a few short years before
Long, thin lights make interesting reflections on car bodies. A malfunctioning restaurant sign made this Volvo panel especially fascinating.
These reflections show the contours of the front wing of a Volvo S60 from a sign. It had two strips running horizontally, one of which turned on and off at intervals. Image one shows the wing with one light illuminated. The second shows it with both strips illuminated. Continue reading “Highlights of Last Night”
Volvo’s trailblazing glassback coupé marked a new beginning for Gothenberg, but a creative swansong for its Dutch subsidiary.
With a reputation for solid looking, robust and uncompromisingly functional saloons, the last thing anyone expected from Volvo in 1986 was a shooting brake style sports estate. Yet for those with long memories or a photo of a P1800 ES to hand, Volvo had been here or hereabouts before – around 1972 to be precise. The 480 came about as part of Volvo’s plans to Continue reading “Born Slippy”
Different is good – right? Try telling that to Volvo.
In the push for growth and profitability, conformity rules. The market isn’t habitually keen on niche cars and tends to reward bravery by studiously ignoring it in favour of something more conventional. Volvo played it safe with the C30, but not in terms of positioning, concept or indeed style. Continue reading “Point of (in)Difference – 2006 Volvo C30”
These usually mean big numbers. In Volvo’s case that means only 20,000 annual sales for the S90.
Automotive News mentioned this figure yesterday. There are another 40,000 units annually for the V90. Still, that’s quite modest really. The reviews so far have been good and my static inspection revealed a pleasingly high quality product. Is a figure of 60,000 enough for a firm without multiple brands to
Last week we considered the AMC Pacer: a car that is not known for inviting admiration. This week I take a quick look at another not-much-loved vehicle.
I could very well have served the two up together as a provocation. When I saw the 340 I wondered what it was doing at the gathering of classics and not parked outside. Yet not far away the 1976 AMC Pacer parked at the same event. That car gathered curious glances and much detailed inspection while the 340 didn’t at all. Yet both cars were there because they had loving owners for whom their vehicles were a source of pride and joy.
A mid-career midliner from Sweden under the DTW microscope today.
We should know this off pat: launched in 1974 and retired in 1993; was based on and replaced the 140 series and outlived the supposed successor, the 700-series of 1982-1992; both are the work of Jan Wilsgaard and you would not know unless someone told you. He evidently subsumed his personality into the project and only Swedish values come through. Let’s Continue reading “A Photo For Sunday: 1983 Volvo 240 GLE”
Thomas Ingenlath – dedicated follower of fashion. How disappointing.
CMA has helped us to capture something special, something youthful in our new concept cars. They have an energy, a disruptive and engaging urban character that makes them stand out.” So says Thomas Ingenlath (Senior VP Design) about the Concept 40 shown today by Volvo. When I turned my keyboard to this little bit of news I intended to do a short design review. Instead I saw the word “disruptive” thrown into the word salad Mr Ingenlath spouted in his attempts to sound modern, up-to-speed and edge-like (edgy?). Disruptive is a word used by futurologists and fans of Uber and Airbnb to dramatize technology that changes things.
Today, Driven to Write dons a metaphorical black armband as Volvo’s CrossCountry sales flop is quietly stuffed in a sack and drowned.
Spare a thought if you will for the unfortunate product planner, tasked with uncovering the next automotive sales sensation, all the while negotiating the myriad trapdoors luring the unwary and over ambitious. Falling on their swords this week are those hapless individuals in Gothenburg forced to Continue reading “Cross Purposes”
This is what it takes to turn one of the more handsome saloons of the past decade or so into an anonymous slab: matte black paint.
Volvo didn’t offer this car with the asphalt option. The owner actively decided they wanted to smear their lovely Swedish saloon with this drab coating. There’s a reason matte paint is not typically offered by OEMs. The highlights, worked over to the last 0.005 mm, disappear and the forms are flattended. Towards what end? Continue reading “A Photo For Sunday: 2002 Volvo S80”
Volvo are re-emerging from the Northern wilderness and look set to upset the automotive establishment by offering something increasingly novel: a genuine alternative.
Recently I was asked to cite which manufacturer impressed most over the past twelve months and I didn’t hesitate. It had to be Volvo. Having been a brand that previously earned my respect but little else, the sole remaining Swedish marque appears to be in the process of reinventing itself as perhaps the most viable alternative to the hegemony of the luxury car establishment, with a style and appeal that stands coolly apart from the self-aggrandizement of the mainstream prestige marques and their acolytes. Continue reading “Volvo: Scandinavian Without the Drama”
Here is it is, the replacement for the S80. It almost didn’t happen but Volvo reconsidered and now there is a meaningful alternative to BMW, Audi, Jaguar and Mercedes.
You’ll notice that the profile is markedly more elongated than the previous cars which themselves were not exactly slight cars. The bonnet has an almost horizontal angle and the surfacing is rather massive. It is out of the same mould as the XC90 meaning it’s going to look very imposing on the road and in the metal.
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.
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 Continue reading “Volvo Museum, Part 2”
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. Continue reading “The (Indoors) Volvo Museum, Part 1”