Header Rolling nov/dec 2005



Last month's issue of Rolling featured a great article by Jon Evans chronicling the history of the two Bertone-built Volvo series, the 262 Coupe (model years 1978-81) and the 780 Coupe (model years 1986-91). We extend that article this month with an in-depth review and drive report on the Volvo 780 series, looking at one of the final Volvo Coupes built by Bertone for Volvo more than 15 years ago.
   As you may recall, the Volvo 780 was a joint venture between Volvo and Bertone, dating from an agreement in 1982, and culminating wth the car's introduction at the Geneva Show in 1985. At first glance, its lines are quite similar to the Volvo 700-series on which it was based. Looking at it twenty years after its introduction, its design is clearly in keeping with other vehicles of the 1980s, and it appears exceptionally angular and boxy by today's standards, even as a two-door coupe.
   According to official Volvo records, a total of 8,518 Volvo 780s were assembled between 1985 and 1990, and sold as model year 1986 through 1991 vehicles. What is somewhat confusing are the gaps in the assigned chassis numbers-at the beginning of each new model year, the starting chassis number was reset upwards to an even number, with certain numbers never assigned to vehicles.
See Table 1 for production data.

1991 Volvo Coupe

As was their habit with other series, Volvo continued to incorporate subtle changes and improvements to the 780-series from year to year. The earlest North American cars were all equipped with the PRV V-6, but later years featured either the V-6 or the more desirable 4-cylinder turbo. In its very short 1991 model run, the Volvo Coupe (as it was then known) represented the most tarted up and quickest version of the 780-series.
   For 1991, the 780 Coupes all came through with a B23OFT 4- cylinder turbo engine mated to an AW-71 4-speed automatic transmission. All 1991 Volvos with turbo motors got the

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       "Generation 3" version that year, but exclusive to the Coupe was the Turbo+ version as factory equipment. While the stock B23OFT Generation 3 engrne developed 162hp (740 Turbo and 940 Turbo/SE applications), the Coupe with Turbo+ was listed at 188hp.
   Mechanically, most components were shared with the 740 Turbo and 940 Turbo series. Notably, the Coupe had a higher rated battery (more electrical accessories), wider Multi-X design 15x7" alloy wheels, a larger gas tank (21 gallons vs. 15.8), a larger front swaybar (24mm), 8-way power-controlled front seats, and standard metallic paint. For 1991, the Coupe finally got a rear swaybar (only l8mm) as standard equipment-but remember that the Turbo wagons were still coming across in those years without a rear swaybar from the factory. The rear track of the Coupe was 2" wider than the other 700/900-series vehicles.
   In keeping with the Bertone tradition, the Coupe interior was finished with custom leather upholstery and a number of unusual touches, including real wood accents, a standard trunk-mounted 6-disc CD player, and exclusively in 1991, a dash plaque featuring Nuccio Bertone's signature.

Driving Impressions

Our feature car this month is Volvo Coupe chassis number 11416, finished in what appears to be completely original blue metallic paint, the condition of which belies the odometer reading-just under 199,000 miles. This two-owner vehicle began life in Texas (the $42,370 window sticker remains with the vehicle) and migrated to New England in the mid-1990s, where it has only seen summer service. The Volvo 700/900-series have always been remarkably rust-resistant by comparison to the 200-series and earlier cars, and the body of this Coupe is nearly flawless, with only a barely perceptible unevenness in the metal of one quarter panel from what likely was the rubber-bumper of a wandering shopping cart.
   Unlike some of the early year Bertones with their two-tone leather, the interior of this car is positively understated with rich tan leather and matching light-colored wood trim. The Volvo 780 was conceived as a luxury touring sedan, and outfitted according ly. However, if one is familiar with the 700-series, or its slightly newer first cousin the 900-series, one will immediately sense the family history at work in the design of the 780 Coupe. The driver looks out over the same instruments and controls. The 8-way power seats, which amazingly still work in this car, are a more

Originally sold for $42,370 by Giles Volvo in Webster, Texas.
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modern touch, but the lumbar support and seating position is classic Volvo.
   In walking around the exterior, the initial impression is that Volvo and Bertone engaged in a 262C-style chop job on a 700, until one recognizes that all of the sheet metal is different on the 780 Coupe from the standard 700-series. The fenders are different, the quarters are different, the trunk lid is different,

      







the hood is different, the glass is different, the lights are different, the bumpers and their related trim are different-it's a complete restyle, yet very much in keeping with the original 700- series design. It is sleeker and more elegant, but not the radical style departure of the 262C.
    On the highway, the car is crisp and responsive. The car feels faster than most Turbos I've driven, which makes sense given the extra 26hp from the Turbo+ system. It handles well on a twisty secondary road. An ipd-suspension on a 700/900 Turbo will outhandle the Coupe, but for a factory setup, it is exceptionally solid feeling. The wider rear track undoubtedly helps in this department, and a fatter rear bar would help even more.
    Volvo collectors haven't really warmed up yet to this series. Values hover in the $4,000 to $5,500 range, barely above the 700/900s in similar condition, which is a major depreciation hit, when one considers the Coupe's $43k sticker. The values are held back by the apparent similarity in design to the 700/900s, by the fact that the 780s are still fairly new cars by collector standards, and by the exceptionally high
    

  Trunk lid cannot be opened from the outside. You must use release mechanism located   in left door jamb or electric release button in glove


  Rear reading Iights mounted high.
cost of replacement parts for any exterior components that may be damaged. These are high maintenance cost vehicles, because of the scarcity of used body and interior parts. My belief is that these cars are destined to become more desirable and collectible with the passage of time. Their numbers are certainly dwindling, as they fade into the ranks of older used cars, get passed down to the next generation of young
     drivers, and get worn out and used up. 1 don't see many folks collecting them and putting them away, which means that the limited number that do make it into the hands of collectors will at the very least hold their own in value. 1f you're looking for a distinctive 1980s Volvo, and stylish touring rather than boy racing appeals to you, then consider the Volvo 780 Coupe. You will be in a select group at all the Volvo car shows.





Front Rolling nov/dec 2005

Text: Duncan Labay, Rolling November/December 2005.

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