“No mashed Swedes!” Archie Vicar on the Volvo 244 saloon.
Auto Motorist, September 1974, pages 23-29. Photos by Ian Cambridgeshire. Owing to unexplained fermentation affecting processing of the original images, stock photography has been used. [Editor’s note: This transcript was first uploaded to DTW on 2 November 2013.]
The Swedish like eating tinned rotten fish. It’s an acquired taste, I am told by those with experience in such things. One is advised to open the tin can under water so as to contain the noxious aromas that would otherwise emanate. And one is also advised to drink plenty of schnapps to kill the taste. That’s really the only part of the whole palaver I can really see my way to agreeing with. I mention all of this by way of an introduction to Sweden’s other acquired taste, their Volvos.
Concluding the story of Volvo’s long-running and successful 100/200 series.
After eight years and 1.25 million sales, the Volvo 100 series was heavily re-engineered and restyled to produce its successor. The budget for the research, development and updated production facilities for the new model was a relatively modest £60 million. The 200 series was launched in the autumn of 1974.
It retained the body of the 100 series from the A-pillar rearwards but was given a completely new front-end, inspired by the 1972 Volvo Experimental Safety Car. This was designed to improve passenger safety in a frontal collision and added a substantial 172mm (6¾”) to the overall length(1), which was now 4,823mm (189¾”) for the saloon and 4,844 mm (190¾”) for the estate. Unfortunately, the ‘shovel-nosed’ new front-end, again designed by Jan Wilsgaard, looked rather ungainly, and it unbalanced the proportions of the saloon(2) somewhat. Continue reading “Swedish Iron (Part Three)”
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.
Quiet and unassuming by day, the 262C saw the distinctly suburban 200-Series loosen its collar 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 cemented the Swedish carmaker’s reputation for solidly respectable middle-class transportation.
1977 saw Volvo celebrate its half-centenary and to celebrate, the car maker announced a number of Anniversary special editions of their 244/264 models. But a surprise announcement was that of a coupé variant, the Bertone-assembled 262C. The project is believed to have been initiated in 1974, when returning from a trip to the United States, Volvo President P.G. Gyllenhammer conceived the idea of a personal luxury coupé (based on existing hardware) as an image builder.
Shortly afterwards, a using a 164-based prototype was built by carozzerria Coggiola, using concept drawings from Volvo’s own design team, under Jan Wilsgaard. With an almost total US-market focus, European styling tastes were not given high priority.
A coupé in the dictionary sense of the term then, the canopy section was completely reworked above the beltline, featuring a more raked windscreen, a chopped roofline and thicker, more raked c-pillars. The fitment of a vinyl roof added to the car’s distinctively formal, Luxe appearance. Lacking the production facilities to build the car in-house, Bertone was contracted for build duty, the Swedes valuing the carrozzeria’s reputation for quality and craftmanship.
Not what anyone in their right mind would call conventionally attractive, the 262C did possess a certain appealing menace, there being something of the slammed American custom car about its low-profile roofline, although some critics derided it as being more akin to a Martello tower. Initially available only in silver with an all-black interior, its lavish leather and elm wood-lined cabin featured four separate seats upholstered in fine pleated Italian leather normally reserved for high-end furniture.
In launch specification, it married an appealingly loucheness with perhaps something of the ambience of a high-end fetish-club. Less adventurous US customers however, could choose from a small range of alternative exterior colours and the option of beige leather.
Launched at the 1977 Geneva motor show, the 262C was mechanically identical to its 264 saloon sibling. Simple and rugged then, with a well located live rear axle which allowed for generous roll angles and handling which the UK motoring press unanimously derided as ‘stodgy’. Power came from the familiar PRV 2664 cc V6 engine, with 140 bhp. Needless to say, the virulently anti-Volvo Car magazine, who had already dismissed the entire 200-Series as “mediocrity by the mile”, opined, “This is prestige?”
Produced from 1977 until 1981, changes to the car over its production run were relatively minor. Mechanically, an uprated 2.8 litre version of the V6 arrived in 1980, which added another 15 horses to supplement a power unit which in original form offered nothing in performance or refinement over Volvo’s own four cylinder 2.3 litre fuel-injected engine.
Visual changes during the car’s lifespan amounted to wrap-around tail lamps in 1979 and for the final year of production, a re-profiled nose, revised instruments and the deletion of the (so-Seventies it hurt) vinyl roof – which did soften the visuals somewhat. In all, 6622 were built, with over 75% of total production going to the United States.
With something of a split personality then, the 262C was a difficult car to for Europeans to comprehend, in addition to being a very expensive one to purchase. As a US-focused model however, it was probably a success, so to judge it on any other basis is probably both irrelevant and somewhat unfair. Furthermore, its existence, despite being an eccentric one, probably didn’t do Volvo’s image a great deal of harm either.
It also led directly to the lovely (if equally rare) Bertone designed and built 780ES model in 1986, a car that a reasonably cogent argument could be made for being something rather wicked indeed.