By 2 September 2011 55 Comments Read More →

Unsung Heroes : Volvo 740 and 760 Turbo

Mike Humble

Continuing onwards from the ‘Overhyped and Over Here’ which stirred the water slightly, here we have a trip along Nostalgia Drive for a sideways look back at some cars that were special yet today seem somewhat forgotten.

The Volvo 740 Turbo estate. Hardly the kind of car you'd associate with Monaco!

The Volvo 740 Turbo estate. Hardly the kind of car you'd associate with Monaco!

I WILL be the first to admit, I love Sweden and even though I have never been there, they have produced some of my favourite things. Items such as Abba albums, Saabs, cough sweets and my all time late night snack: ‘Krisprolls’ have all been on my shopping list at one time or another. Volvo back in the 1970s and ’80s were a formidable force in the world automotive sector producing reliable and practical cars.

Their revolutionary F86/88 range of commercial vehicles pretty much single handed pulled the trousers down of the British truck builder, while the bus and coach range built up a  reputation for quality and back up that other European rivals – Leyland included – could never touch. Its range of cars could never be called exiting or dramatic for not since the 1960s with the Volvo P1800 sports coupe had Volvo produced anything remotely sporting. As the late 1970s turned into the ’80s, the product range comprised of the worthy but dull 343 and 345 range (the last number denoting the number of doors) the 200-series saloon and estate: the chosen tool of the antique dealer of choice and the odd looking V6 coupe: the Volvo 262C.

Both the 200- and 300-series had been a sales hit here in the UK and with thanks to the marque’s reputation for quality, safety and clever marketing; the Volvo range were seen as prestige cars. When we think of turbocharging on a mass production scale, the other Swedish marque comes to mind: Saab. Volvo had extensive experience with turbo seen in its range of trucks and buses, suffice to say that Volvo could extract the same amount of power from an engine of just over 6-litres if not more than our own Gardner engines of almost 11-litres with the use of a turbo with no loss of reliability or fuel consumption.

So as far as turbocharging a petrol engine, those strange people at Saab developed a reliable front driven turbocharged car while Volvo continued to produce a range of worthy but ever so slightly dull rear wheel drive saloons & estates that were conventional to last letter. The biggest selling Volvo as the ’80s progressed was the 240 saloon and estate, a boxy yet blastproof tank of a car which sold in very respectable numbers both here and in the USA. This new decade ushered in a new era of styling over substance, so those clever Swedes bought some new pencils and set to work penning a new model for the 80’s.

Upon its launch in 82, the 760 was panned by the motoring scribblers for being a car that seemed to be inspired by the American market, and it would be fair to say it did look like a scaled down American car. Under the skin, the suspension and many of the mechanics were carried over and improved where needed from the existing 200 range. In its first guise, the 760 was offered with three engines; a VAG-sourced diesel turbo, a 2.3-litre four-cylinder injected turbo Volvo sourced plant and a 2.8-litre PRV alliance (Peugeot Renault Volvo) all alloy V6.

Even though the styling was not to everyone’s taste, the 700 range quickly became a car known for all the best aspects of all Volvos that came before: safety, reliability and equipment. The people who mattered ie: the buying public, quickly warmed to the styling of the 700 range and the range went on to sell in decent numbers here in the UK never being a threat to the Granada or Rover SD1, but the 700-series quickly became a common sight on British roads.

The models I’m focusing on, namely the 740 and 760 Turbo changed the public’s perception of the brand almost over night. The 760GLE  turbo offered a colossal 185bhp and average power rating today but extraordinary in 1982. Here was a car in saloon or estate format that would gather momentum up to 60mph a shade under 8 seconds, a time that even today is a match for many a hot hatch – even more amazing considering the 760 estate tipped the scales at just under two tonnes!

So just how tough is an old Volvo?

Two years after the launch of the 760, the 740 entered the marketplace sharing the same body style, but with smaller engines and slightly less equipment. The Turbo continued with the 740 – so the 760 turbo was seen as a high speed executive cruiser with a GLE badge; the 740 Turbo was marketed with a genuine sporting theme with visually different alloy wheels and a substantial reduction in price.

The gearbox had the trademark Volvo overdrive button as opposed to a normal five-speed shift pattern – a feature sadly dropped in later models as cost cutting measures took place. What made the 700 turbo’s such a pleasure to drive was the fact it was as docile as a Spring Lamb under normal driving conditions, its long travel suspension soaked up the ruts and bumps while its bombproof build quality gave the driver a eery sense of imortality. The vast never ending bonnet seemed to make objects and hazards seem a million miles away and its mechanical components, though not the first word in high technology, were insulated well from the cabin and simply went on for miles and miles never giving any real cause for concern.

As I write this, I recall the time I took a beaten up 740 estate as a part exchange for a new Vectra back in 2007. The car in question was an 86 D-plate GLE with 290,000 miles on the clock – from just two owners! It sat behind the showroom for six weeks untouched before i was asked to move it to the vehicle compound some two miles away, it fired first turn of the key and even though it stank of dog and other foul odours, it drove better than some cars with more than half its mileage or half its age.

Next time you have a few spare minutes, have a search on the auction sites and used car web pages and see how many of these utterly reliable bricks still survive…

Big Volvos? we love ’em!

 

Mike Humble

Mike Humble

Upon leaving school, Mike was destined to work on the Railway but cars were his first love. An apprenticeship in a large family Ford dealer was his first forray into the dark and seedy world of the motor trade.

Moving on to Rover and then PSV / HGV, he has circumnavigated most departments of dealerships including parts, service and latterly - the showroom. Mike has owned all sorts of rubbish from Lada to Leyland and also holds both Heavy Goods & Public Service Vehicle licences, he buys & sells buses and coaches during the week. Mike runs his own automotive web site and writes for a number of motoring or commercial vehicle themed publications
Mike Humble
Mike Humble

About the Author:

Upon leaving school, Mike was destined to work on the Railway but cars were his first love. An apprenticeship in a large family Ford dealer was his first forray into the dark and seedy world of the motor trade. Moving on to Rover and then PSV / HGV, he has circumnavigated most departments of dealerships including parts, service and latterly - the showroom. Mike has owned all sorts of rubbish from Lada to Leyland and also holds both Heavy Goods & Public Service Vehicle licences, he buys & sells buses and coaches during the week. Mike runs his own automotive web site and writes for a number of motoring or commercial vehicle themed publications

55 Comments on "Unsung Heroes : Volvo 740 and 760 Turbo"

Trackback | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Hilton Davis says:

    I still like the look of those 7 series Volvo’s, still tough but more modern than the 200 series. In the late 80’s/early90s I had a company 240DL Estate car which was rugged and roomy – if heavy on the fuel. It drove well and was comfortable on long journeys.

    I always thought the 740/760 were nice big chunky saloons and even better in Estate form. The 9 series seemed to be a milder design transition after that.

  2. David 3500 says:

    Mike, well done on writing some positive and enthusiastic comments above these Swedish ‘turbo bricks’. So many people forget about the immense contribution that both Saab and Volvo had in developing the turbocharger for use in relatively highly volume cars. Now we just see it as a ubiquitos piece of technology that all manufacturers use, without showing any gratitude to these two Swedish manufacturers. What a shame that neither company patented some of their technology in this field, as they would now be rather wealthy!

    The 740 Turbo Intercooler, in particular, was a very fast car, although when it comes to 1980’s Very High Performance Derivatives based on saloons, most people will recall the BMW M5, Mercedes Benz 190 2.3 16V developed with Cosworth and of course the Ford Sierra Sapphire RS Cosworth. Even the classic car scene is general does not acknowledge the contribution or wothiness of the 740/760 and later 940/960 models. And even the Volvo owners clubs are slow on the uptake too, considering the 240/260 Series and the 850 T5 models as more worthy of being ‘classics’ – how ever they define what a ‘classic’ is.

    I saw a 780 at last year’s NEC Classic Motor Show and thought what a handsome car it was. I still say the same about the V90 model that transcended from the 960 in the late 1990s.

  3. Mike Bushell says:

    Spot on piece! Volvo 700s are one of those cars that look better now than when they were current. the estate obviously is the pick of the bunch.

    Another point is that Volvos (as did Saabs) refelcted their country of birth. Too many cars are stateless or pseudo-German. Of course that’s why we all like the Rover 75.

    Finally as an ex-75 tourer owner i have migrated to Volvo, via a Passat estate (I had a 9-3 TiD before the 75s and it was a total let-down). I now drive a V50 and it seems to be the perfect car for me. I wish I’d gone Volvo years ago (but would have still wanted my 75s!)

  4. Jemma says:

    My dads old boss had a diesel version of the 760 – bombproof it might have been – quiet it was not. I was never really impressed by the ‘mobile country home’ styling design but they were definately durable.
    If I recall correctly, the PRV V6 was the same (non turbo) version used on the Renault 25, and for some reason it was referred to as a 2.9 on that car.
    Imagine what would have happened with a few more creative engine choices – 2 stroke diesels for example.

  5. Jemma says:

    PS: Re the 850 T5 – I had a boss with one of those, and it was downright scary when pushed, a true schizophrenic of a car. I dont think I have ever been in anything faster.

  6. Trollhatten Turbo says:

    Its nice to see a nice pece of writing avout these ‘boxy battle cruisers from Sweden. O own a Volvo 240 GL Catalyser 2.3 ltr saloon, and a Saab 900 T16-S Convertible, both supperb cars, and great fun to drive. Indeed the Volvo 740/760 range never got the praise it deserved, but were wel, ahead of there time in terms of build quality and the Turbo technology used. In respect of the Volvo 700 series, it might be worth noteing that as a long term owner of both Volvo’s and Saabs I would like to make the following points. The 700 series was never intended to replace the 200 series, but to run along side it, in fact the 700 series should have been in production in the late 70s, but was delayed until 1982, the 240 soldiered on until 1993 and the 700 series was replaced by the 900 series in 1990. The 760 had softer suspension than the 240/260 range, and the 240 was marketed by Volvo as the sporty option within the Volvo range throughout the 1980s. The 2.3 HPT designated B230FT was used in the 760 from 1984/1985, depite being called 760, this 2.3 litre was of 4 cylinder design. In respect to the 700 series sales it sold 1.1 million in 8 years, and the 700 series was never an SD1 or Granada competitor. It was aimed at the Jaguar XJ6, BMW 7 series and previously BMW635 with the 780 coupe. The Volvo 240/260 was aimed at the SD1 market and Granada sector, and from 1980 the 242, 244, 245 in GLT Guise had the option of a Turbo engine, and the 242 Turbo won the 1985 European touring car championship beating the Rover SD1, So Volvo has had a sporting image before the 700 series, and even before they were using Turbocharging the 242 GT existed.

    The 740 Launched in 1986 was aimed at a more affordable market the the more luxury equipped 760, but it was still however expensive compared with a Ford Granada for example. I am I feel not unique in feeling that Volvo’s are more stylish in a unique scandinavian way than many other cars, and were well ahead of there time in terms of performance, reliability and longevity. I would say the same might very well apply to SAAB, and both these companies deserve far more credit and respect than they have ever been given, by both the public and press alike. They represent excellent value for money, and a genuine performace alternative with comfort and standard luxuries, such as heated seats and screenwash, than much of the over rated produce from Germany’s car manufacturers both past and present.

  7. Trollhatten Turbo says:

    In addition the 760 Turbo intercooler and 740 Turbo intercooler had blistering performance for there day, inded the 740 Turbo cout get from 0-60 in under 7.0 seconds and will still hold its own in modern traffic particuarly in mid range punch.

    I wish many more younger people would enjoy these classics from Swden instead of there hotted up Saxo and VW Golfs. Luxury, performace, and individuality. Thats SAAB and Volvo.

  8. Dennis says:

    I had a 2.3 Carb’d petrol estate, would happily do 35mpg, simple to maintain and you could move a house with it, no i mean you could actually fit the whole building in the back! The Estates came with clever self leveling rear suspension, all built into the dampers.
    I had a 2.4TD too, i wouldn’t say they were noisy. If you stood outside it with the engine running, yes it was a bit of a racket. Once you were inside and driving it though you could hardly tell it was a diesel, in fact most of the people i gave lifts to were surprised when i told them it was! The 6 cylinder VW Diesels weren’t the best though, Peugeot and even the Montego lumps were much better, main problem was being a 6 you had 6 glow plugs to replace, and 6 injectors. Oil Filter looked like it came off a lorry.

    Supremely comfortable inside, lovely to be able to stretch your legs right out and the seats were like arm chairs. Power steering was beautifuly light. They also had a turning circle not far off a London Taxi. On the Road they drove like a Rolls-Royce. Mine were both around 20 years old and neither had even a spot of rust on them! Actually struggle to remember why i got rid of them!

    Only real fault they all suffer from is the headlinings fall apart, it’s sort of a Cloth/Hardboard sandwich with foam in the middle, the foam just dies a death with age so the cloth sags down!

  9. Damien says:

    Hi!

    Nice comments about the 700 Series… BUT 😉

    I’m from the Volvo fan world and do know a fair bit about Volvo’s cars… The 760 though was never a heavy weight! “Just under two tonnes”? I don’t… The 760 2.4TD (D24TIC) weighed around 1600 kg. The 760 2.3T (B23ET and B230FT) weighed around 1550 kg. The 2.8l V6 (B280E, B280F) around 1500 kg. The heaviest being – as stated – the 2.4TD.

    Thrus, the title is very confusing. Officially. the “GLT” and “Turbo” are two totally different models with two different engines. The Turbo having a turbochargerd 2.0l and 2.3l turbo petrol putting out between 155 and 190 hp (B200FT, B200GT, B230FT, B230GT, B204GT – depending on model and year) where as the GLT was a 2.0l/2.3l non turbo 16V engine (B204F/B204G/B234F/B234G). There was no official combination of a GLT Turbo. GLE Turbo -> yes.

    Thrus, the first turbocharged Volvos were in the 240 series featuring a 2.1l turbo (B21ET) with 145-156 hp.

    Coming back to the GLT name, which meant “Grand Luxe Tourer” was a long distance crusier. The “Turbo” was mainly there for pulling power, as the turbo would tend to lose power at higher revs (motorway/autobahn speeds). The GLT had the power then 🙂

    The 740 was aimed at “budget buyers” as they were stripped down cheaper 760ies – until 1987 looking bang on the same – where you could buy smaller engines with less “bling” 😉 -> 2.0l and 2.3l (B200E, B200F, B200K, B230E, B230K, B230F) as well as boring non turbo diesels (D24 – from VW’s LT transporter) and a turbo diesel without an intercooler (D24T).

    I’ve owned a few 740ies, 940ies and 960ies, and must say, IF a car is to be admired, then the 960 from 1991 until 1994 with classic Volvo designs but super modern engines (B204FT -> 2.0l 16V Turbo and the B6304F -> 3.0l 24V I6 without turbo).

    Otherwise it is rather well read… A few minor faults can still be found 😉

  10. Kev Davis says:

    ‘In addition the 760 Turbo intercooler and 740 Turbo intercooler had blistering performance for there day, inded the 740 Turbo cout get from 0-60 in under 7.0 seconds and will still hold its own in modern traffic particuarly in mid range punch.

    I wish many more younger people would enjoy these classics from Swden instead of there hotted up Saxo and VW Golfs. Luxury, performace, and individuality. Thats SAAB and Volvo.’

    Most kids can’t afford to insure a 1.1 Saxo, so a turbocharged Volvo is a definite no-no! In any case, these old Volvo’s are hardly good to look at; I don’t think many kids would even want a lift to school in one these days! They’d rather walk!

  11. jemma says:

    @ Damien – out of curiosity what models did they shove the 2.5 I5 into? Was that the engine in the 850? Renault half inched that along with the 1948cc 16v to put in the series 2 Safrane but I never got around to finding out what it was in originally…

    NOTE: should anyone have a 2.5 safrane and think it a cheap idea to get hold of the volvo specialist tools for cheaper than the renault bits, dont. Renault, being Renault fiddled around with the timing setup on their version, which means the volvo timing tools wont work, I think you’d end up timing the engine 180 degrees out IIRC.

  12. jemma says:

    @ Dennis – Malcolms car was way beyond noisy.. Ive stood 10 feet from an unsilenced Merlin and of the two the Merlin made less racket. It wasnt too bad on the inside admittedly, but the people down the local pub could hear it fire up from a mile away so they knew who’d be walking in 5 minutes later.
    I can remember the turbo whine vividly, it was just at that frequency where parts of the human body vibrated that shouldn’t. Still it never seemed to do it any harm and the machine was apocalypse proof – its probably still going now somewhere, unless its been banned as a noise nuisance. I might be a little over sensitive in the hearing dept since I can still hear those anti-teenager alarms and my teens are a thankfully dim & getting ever more distant memory.

  13. Damien says:

    @ Jemma

    The 2.5l I5 10 and 20V can be found in any FWD Volvo beginning 1991 (850, S70, V70 I). They are still used in many models today… Although Volvo is sourcing the I5 out, as it is too “out dated”.

    The I5 (Volvo “nick name”: White Block) is actually from Volvos Porsche developed I6 first found in the 1991 Volvo 960 is a modular engine, possible to be used in sizes from 3-6 cylinder variants. The I5 was a version of that. The current 5 cylinder engines are the D3, D4, D5, T5 (in C30, S40, V50 and C70! Otherwise it is a 4 cylinder from Ford!) and I think the 2.5T.

    But otherwise the I5s are only fitted to FWD cars… The old bricks only have 4 or 6 cylinders (either I or V).

    We’ve got an S80 I with the 2.0T (a 2.0l 20V 5 cylinder with turbo) and it is a nice engine when it comes to performance, but the sound is boring. Nothing there anymore 🙁

  14. KeithB says:

    Was the I5 used by ford?

  15. David 3500 says:

    Kev Davis – I think your comments aptly reflect what is wrong with the ‘yoof’ culture of today. If they go along to a classic car show (old cars, to them) it is usually the sight of the badge on the bonnet or grille that draws their interest, not the substance that lies beneath it, the car’s driving dynamics, engineering innovation or styling.

    As for insurance. Well, high insurance groups does not necessarily have to translate as meaning high premiums, particularly with a classic car policy. A friend of mine who is in his late twenties has been driving turbocharged Volvos and Saabs for many a year and even before the cars were old enough to qualify for classic car insurance, proved to be cheaper to insure on a standard policy than a modified Saxo or Corsa.

    Volvo 740s and 760s are also very popular on the continent with young drivers, particularly in the home market, with the aggressive retro styling being a well liked feature.

    Twenty five years ago when I was bearly a teenager, I announced to my friends that when I was older I wanted to own a Rover SD1 Vitesse. They were horrified as it was a Sporty Ford XR or Golf GTi, Ferrari or Lamborghini Countach that floated their boat, not a Rover. I am glad that I did not follow the herd but decided to like what genuinely appealed to me(although I still don’t own an SD1 yet!).

  16. Damien says:

    @ Keith

    The I5 was used by Ford as the T5 (Volvo engine code: B5254T) with a few mods in the Focus ST, Focus RS, Mondeo ST 220/230, Kuga 2.5T and Galaxy 2.5T. 🙂

    The I5 in Focus and Co is actually not a pure Volvo developement anymore, as the original I5 (Volvo original) is wider and a tad longer where as Ford wanted the engine to fit in the compact class (Focus) so it was reshaped, made a little more narrow and tuneable.

    In the Volvos it has been tuned for economy and comfort… Making it a little more sluggish but still fun to drive 🙂

  17. yereverluvinunclebert says:

    I have Volvo 960, a closely related box with the 3 litre straight six engine. It is really a small truck and drives like one. Used for an infrequent journey to the tip now but it has leather seats, aircon, a sunroof and 200bhp or thereabouts. Lacking sophistication but it goes on and on. It somehow lacks the charm of the previous 245 turbo.

  18. David Dawson says:

    The Estate and 780 Coupe are attractive & well proportioned if not exactly pretty. Never really warmed to the saloon’s styling, however. They always seemed a bit ungainly to my eyes.

  19. daveh says:

    As a Volvo owner some could say I am biased but I am not
    The 700 series was a nice comfy ride and the 2.3 turbo was good, but the diesel was abismal and the V6 was extremely fragile. My Uncle had the 850, which was just a facelifted 700 with the forementioned V6. Three head gaskets in about 60,000 miles. A friend of the family had a Renault 25 with the same lump and that had a had the same problem. And people moan about the K Series!!

  20. daveh says:

    woops mistype should be 950

  21. cakewalker says:

    @David3500 – I think the majority of Saxos and the like are only cosmetically modified, so I doubt they’d cost any more to insure modified than unmodified. Not that I agree with that. If people want to make their cars look like they go fast you have to suspect they drive them accordingly. And if they were insured accordingly then perhaps the insurance for my carefully driven first car (left entirely original) would have been somewhat more sensible. Out of interest, do any classic insurers do online quotes? I’d be curious to see if I could have insured a 99 Turbo for the same price as my 1.3 Metro when I was 18 🙂

    Actually, I’m grateful that Saxo fans don’t like classics. There’s a number of older motors I wouldn’t mind if I ever had the means (Citroen DS or CX, Saab 99, Landcrab, Ro80) and would be rather upset if the only ones I could find had aftermarket wheels, ovals cut into the trim and bits of plastic rivetted to them.

  22. Steve Bailey says:

    A friend of mine had one of these, a 1989 740 Turbo Intercooler in grey with half leather interior. He had all sorts of cars over the years, from MG Metro Turbos to SD1s to Fiesta Sis, Escort GTis but he thought that the best cars he had ever owned were the Volvo and the Monza GSE. I went in the Volvo a couple of times – it was smooth, comfortable and surprisingly quick. The overdrive switch was ace – flick the switch for instant acceleration, flick it back for serene cruising. Far better than a boring fifth gear! His brother was so impressed he bought a 740 Turbo Intercooler estate in silver. Both Volvos were utterly reliable. Fantastic cars, and still cheap for a car that does so much, and cost a fortune when new. Hard to find though – not sure they were ever that commonplace.

  23. Steve Bailey says:

    Trivia time: The author and panelist on Shooting Stars, Will Self, had an F reg 760 Turbo Intercooler Automatic back in the early Nineties and loved it so much he wrote a short story featuring it, in his short story collection “Tough Tough Toys for Tough Tough Boys”.

  24. Simon Hodgetts says:

    Someone on here mentioned the V90 – an old boss had one – I used to borrow it from time to time – what a magnificent car it was – big, roomy, extremely comfortable, surprisingly fast, with a good auto-box (sport button always engaged ;D), quite subtly designed (as Volvos always are), and the biggest surprise, a very tidy handler. My boss’s business partner drove an E class at the time, which I also borrowed, which couldn’t hold a candle to the Volvo – it handled like a boat, was slow and felt decidedly low rent in comparison with the Volvo. One of the nicest cars I’ve ever driven. My Dad is a Volvo man – he’s owned a 240 (13 yrs), which we all loved, and miss (his brother also had a 240GLT, which he still talks about), a V40 (8 years) and now drives a C30, which he loves. But, modern day build quality is nothing like the 240/700 series era……love the pic of the 780 too – a highly underrated and very elegant car – Bertone I think?

  25. Jeff Mullins says:

    @ David 3500 “Kev Davis – I think your comments aptly reflect what is wrong with the ‘yoof’ culture of today. If they go along to a classic car show (old cars, to them) it is usually the sight of the badge on the bonnet or grille that draws their interest, not the substance that lies beneath it, the car’s driving dynamics, engineering innovation or styling.”

    I couldn’t agree more.

  26. Damien says:

    @ David 3500

    You are right with 850. The 900 series was only a 940 or 960 (the middle number was in 90% of the cases the piston count). The 850 was only available with 5 cylinders. The 940 with only 4 cylinder petrols (the diesel being the only 6 cylinder in the 940). The 960 with 6 cylinders (on certain markets 4). But there was no official 950… 🙂

  27. Dennis says:

    @Damien
    But then you had he 760 with the 4 Cylinder Turbo, just to confuse matters!

    “quite subtly designed (as Volvos always are), and the biggest surprise, a very tidy handler.”
    I agree, the 740’s i had handled really well, yes there was body roll but they still hung on like they were on rails. Superb fun in the snow.

    It’s so true about the designs being subtle. You would look at the brick like shape (i prefer the first pre-facelift ones) and would think there was no thought given to aero-dynamics. Read the brochure though and it says the A-Pillars are specially shaped to keep the side windows clear. Then you think about it and realise the side windows are always clear of rain and snow! The curvature of the body was apparently designed along with the front air dam to stop the wind being able to ‘get hold’ of the car, and then you realise actually they’re rarely affected by wind for such a beast! The standard headlamp wipers, seem odd until you drive one in winter and when everyone elses lights are dim from the salt build up yours are lovely and clear! The Heat resistant screen washer hoses run above the engine, so they defrost more quickly. How many other car’s of the era came with a bulb failure warning system? Of those that did, how many were standard.

    As i remember the 700 range was designed to be simple to work on, and actually there are acres of space around the straight engines. When you drain the oil the sump plug is right in the centre of a domed sump, so no jacking one corner up to get that last bit of dirty oil out. Then when you undo the filter it’s slightly angled so when you unscrew it very little is left to run down the side of the engine, and what does run out is perfectly in-line with the drain pan under sump bung! The 2.3’s are non-interference engines, so if the cam belt snaps, you just re-time it and fit a new belt, even then the belt can be changed in around an hour. I dare say your AA man could even do it at the road side for you!

    They were of course more expensive than say a Granada, but a Granada would crumble away in 10 years, a Volvo would reach 20 and still not have any rust on it. They had as i remember about 12 coats of paint, including some sort of self healing primer, so stone chips didn’t grow into a blister. the Tailgate and Roof was aluminium i think. So in the long run they were cheaper than the opposition, because you could keep them “for life”, something not missed by their marketing department. It’s not unusual to see a 20+ year old example in daily use even now.

  28. Simon Hodgetts says:

    @Dennis ““quite subtly designed (as Volvos always are), and the biggest surprise, a very tidy handler.”
    I agree, the 740′s i had handled really well, yes there was body roll but they still hung on like they were on rails. Superb fun in the snow” I was actually referring to the V90….but I’d still agree with you – I don’t think time has been kind to the 700/900/V90, but they do hark back to a time when Volvos (and SAABS for that matter) were built to the highest of standards. I defy anyone to name anything that solidly built now….

  29. Dennis says:

    The V90, was basically the same as the 700/900 series, although it gained independent rear suspension.

    Although 5th Gear did a crash test 940 vs. the Renault Modus
    http://fwd.channel5.com/fifth-gear/videos/other/renault-modus-v-volvo-940-crash-test

    So if you’re driving one, don’t swerve, just take it head on. Amazing how much modern cars have moved on with crash safety. The old RWD Volvo’s were definitely tanks though,I was parking mine once and i crashed into a fence post in Tesco’s car park, it bent the steel post, but didn’t even mark the front bumper. Other than the LR Defender i can’t think of a modern car that would have brushed it off so easily.

    • faketest says:

      The engine in the Volvo was removed. So the Volvo never had a fair chance at all. Without engine you don’t have any crumplezone left. The engine is part of the crumplezone at the front. So they did something very ugly here, just watch the ad from volvo with the volvo 740 they drive from a cliff and you will see it is still a safe car.

  30. alexscott says:

    this brings back a few memories. Mitzi NZ once ran a series of adverts which had only 3 glants stacked up like this picture above and volvo came back with a picture similar to the above with not 3 but quite a few more( I dont know how many exactly but it could have been 10) Volvo stacked. the Volvo SW also draws some interesting parallels with the Rover 800. interestingly I thought the Volvo stationwagon and the Rover 800 fastback, both looked a lot better than their saloon siblings ie; the saloons didnt look very attactive.alex

  31. Shep says:

    I think that Dudley Moore said it best in “Crazy People”:

    “Volvos. They’re boxy, but they’re good.” 🙂

  32. Mike Humble MikeHumble says:

    A worrying amount of smiling or winking face icons in some previous comments! 🙂

  33. Simon Hodgetts says:

    “I love Sweden and even though I have never been there, they have produced some of my favourite things.” – I’ve been there – you should go, its a beautiful country (especially the archipelago), and the old part of Stockholm. It’s also full of extremely attractive blonde people!!

  34. Richard16378 says:

    The 700 saloons did look a bit like an early 1980’s Buick, but the estates seemed more pleasing to the eye. The sharp edges were smoothed out a but later in the 1980’s IIRC.

    I still see a few 1980’s 700’s around, including a E reg saloon as a daily driver.

    My Uncle had a could of 900’s one of which had a rear shunt which only scratched the rear bumper, while the other car came out far worse.

  35. Two R8s says:

    My fave was the 262C. It was beautifully ugly. A bit like a present day lexus or mercedes.

  36. Dennis says:

    I’ve just been trying to find the youtube video. I seem to remember seeing a 740 turbo that had been tuned to over 700bhp still with a fairly standard looking engine, other than all the Samco hose. I would imagine it was probably somewhat upgraded internally.

  37. Damien says:

    @ Richard16378

    The estates though are rarer than the saloons! Odd but true. Production numbers say, that 834.327 saloons wer built and only 396.395 estates… So people may think, that the saloon wasn’t desireable, but it outsold the saloon easily! The most rare 700 (without noting the 780) is the 760 estate, as it is one of approx. 37.000 built 🙂

  38. Damien says:

    @ Dennis

    That video can be found on youtube using the words “Volvo” and “Turbo” 😉 It is a 744 with B230FT (2.3l turbo) fitted with the 16V head from a B204FT (2.0l 16V turbo).

    Or do you mean the Volvette with the Chevy 5.7l LS1 V8 from a Corvette with tiwnturbocharging? It can easily outrun a Yamaha R1 on an open limit road 😉

  39. Dennis says:

    I tried that, just came up with someone doing a burn out with an apparent 400bhp. Pretty sure even the diesel would do a burn out with a brake bias valve fitted, seemed a bit pointless!

    Well there may well have been less estates built, but i would definitely say there are far more estates left than Saloons. Probably down to their practicality. If you have a Saloon that needs MOT work, then you think, actually i can get something newer for less money that is cheaper to run. Same thing with and estate and you think, actually i can put everything including the kitchen sink in the back. They seem to live on as ‘useful tools’, i’ve seen quite a few just kept as sheds!

  40. Will M says:

    Have never seen a Volvo 780, but they do look great, they look like an 80s Maserati BiTurbo.
    The mk1 C70 was another looker.

    There was an elderly gentleman lived across the road from me growing up had a Volvo 740/760 saloon in black. That colour really suited it.

    Was the PRV V6 the same as that fitted to the DeLorean DMC12?

    Re: Insurance – Was it not the Volvo 440 that was extremely cheap to insure, due to a quirk in the insurance calculation algorithms?
    I agree though, in my 20s and apart from a Clio mk1, the rest of my cars (apart from a GTV) have been large or sensible cars described by my friends as “middle aged”.

  41. David 3500 says:

    Will M – Yes, the DeLorean DMC12 used the same spec engine in the same tune as used by Volvo.

  42. Damien says:

    @ Dennis

    Not really, there are more saloons – mainly in the USA. The estates were mainly built for Europe… Volvo has always been a saloon brand…

    The reason you don’t see many (I assume you live in the UK?) is because the UK wasn’t a big 700 saloon buying nation and IF, then they were mostly streched…

  43. Dennis says:

    Well yes there are quite a few stretched Co-Op Funeral Care fleet cars about here. They renewed their fleet a couple of years ago and the leasing company sold them off, you got a 6 month lease for £1500 then kept the car at the end of it. A bargain considering how well looked after they were. The Limo’s were all factory built by Volvo as i understand it. So while Co-op probably had a couple of thousand in the UK, there can’t have been too many built over all?

    Well this is a UK site, so i think the majority of us are from the UK. 😉

    Looking at it another way though, Volvo being a european company after all, perhaps they’re an estate brand and just build Saloons for the US market. :p

  44. Chrisk says:

    Volvo stack – Nice bit of Photoshopping!

  45. Dennis says:

    No i think it was actually publicity shot from Volvo, long before Photoshop existed.

    Why go to the trouble of drawing in the mounting blocks between the cars otherwise?

    Seemed like a strange way of delivering new cars to the dealers though, i suppose you just had to hope yours was on the top. (joke, obviously)

  46. Alasdair Mackenzie says:

    That shot of the stack of cars wasn’t a photoshop, but would have been carried out for real. This was a common Volvo publicity shot showcasing the strength of their body shells, variations of which have been around since the 1960s and the Amazon.

    Many cars have been designed with the saloon (and/or) hatch coming first and the often compromised estate body coming afterwards. I understand that Volvo started on the estate first and then the saloon came afterwards, which perhaps allows for the slightly awkward rear end styling.

  47. Cliff says:

    The 760GLE turbo has the dubious accolade of being my all-time-worst car to drive, ever. I was fortunate to be in the fleet industry for about 20 years and had just about everything at my disposal at one time or another so I had plenty of good and bad cars to compare it with.

    When these were new I took a demonstrator home for a weekend expecting to really enjoy it. But by Sunday I’d had enough of its oversprung but underdamped ride and turbo-lag you could measure with a calendar and left it on the drive. It’s the only car that I actively avoided driving after that experience. Sorry Volvo fans, but it was Awful !

    What do I mean by oversprung but underdamped ? Well you could feel every singe pebble in the road but it would float over crests and heave-to on corners like a yatch in a storm. A colleague was equally dismissive of Volvo’s range at the time calling them upholstered trucks. That’s exactly how it drove – like an unladen dumper truck. I should have listened to him and saved myself a very unpleasant experience. They do last though.

  48. webby says:

    Can’t ever see one without thinking of my mate Wayne’s comment at a mid 1980’s Brisbane Car Show.

    “40 grand worth of right angles” Salesman was not impressed.
    And re turbochargers. GM was the real pioneer there. Turbo’d flat 6s and alloy V8s’long before the rest of the world.

  49. Thierry C. says:

    A lovely green v90 is parked at home just behing one BRG vvc Mgf. Eh, eh, AR lovers are opened minded. Delicious to drive with its 3.0 litres engine, autogearbox, aircon and incredibly easy to parking with its steering wheel. Old, trusty and still on the road drinking E85. Not sexy as my Alfa 166 but indestructible.

  50. John F. says:

    I have two Volvo 700s, both 1986 models and estate that has been in the family from one year old (bought by Father) and a saloon that I bought a year ago with one owner an 60k from new.
    These cars are still amongst the most confortable cars around. They’re not fast, but refined at sensible cruising speeds – the engine fan makes them a little noisy at startup so a Kenlowe conversion is a good upgrade.
    Currently well underrated by the classic movement and the owner’s clubs, and also very good value if you can find a nice one. Plenty of very helpful breaker’s around (at the moment) so sorting a few niggles out will not be an issue and lots of parts still avaialble form Volvo dealers. Genuine Volvo parts aren’t that costly as they are so durable.
    My estate (745) is now coming up for it’s 26th Birthday and 160.000 miles, still drives well, looks good (in a Volvo 745 way) and only cost £80 a year to insure.
    I’ll never sell either, but do get my performance kicks from a Mercedes 500E!
    But by a Volvo 700, especially the cool saloon, while you still can.

  51. Richard Littledyke says:

    740 turbo estate a fine looking car with real presence. 940 estate much smoother and refined but less fun. A lot less.

  52. Ol says:

    I love the old RWD volvos, I’ve had 240, 740 and now a 940 td. It is a bit loud from outside, but when underway you don’t notice. I like the sound they make anyway, a cross between turbo whistle, diesel clatter and straight six thrum. Lovely!

  53. maxvon says:

    Awesome bits of kit. Dad had a G reg facelift 740 after his Saab 900 my Mums favourite car. in the mid noughties I booked a holiday in France but the modern needed to go into the garage as the engine management light came on just before the trip. Bought a Volvo 740 GLE (complete with sagging headlining) for £190 on ebay and it did over a 1500 miles without a blip. Not many cars would be able to handle that for that price.

Have your say...