The cars we loved.

1986 – 1990 Volvo 780: A Swedish Marriage Made in Italy

1987 Volvo 780 GT

1987 Volvo 780 GT

Oil and water don’t usually mix well if at all. Eventually one causes the breakup of the other and a new substance is created with the diluted properties of the original elements. When mixing Swedish practicality with Italian design flair, the results in the case of the Volvo 780 produced a restrained Nordic box with some underlying Italian flair, much like infusing Miley Sirius with Mozart.

Not to suggest that the blending of a coupe version derived from Volvo’s 700 series with the style of the Bertone produced a monster, it like other Anglo-Italian marriages produced a wonderfully restrained product that respected the brand heritage of the Nordic partner.  Like Pininfarina’s Cadillac Allante, the seldom seen and under exposed Volvo 780 is a great example of this type of union. The low volume 780 was built in Italy by Bertone with much of Volvo’s traditional DNA intact. Unlike the sedans it was derived from, the 780 had a lower roofline, hood and trunk – imparting a subtle more elegant look vs. the standard high and boxy Volvo.

1991 Volvo 780 Interior

1991 Volvo 780 Interior

It’s the inside is where the Italian influence was most strongly felt. Wood and leather trim imparted a luxury feel while sculpted bucket seats (not available in other Volvos) made for more comfortable long term driving. All of these luxury accents were topped off with the simple and efficient ergonomics typical of Volvo. All

Although not an all-out sports car, it was the closest that Volvo came to producing such a thing during this time. In fact it had been years since Volvo’s last two door coupe, so the 780 stood out in the companies line up, even without its Italian influence. Acceleration comparisons to other GT coupes were unfavorable at first due to the low power to weight ratio thanks to the weak V6 engine shared with Renault and Peugeot.  The 780 actually appeared in Europe during the 1986 model year. U.S. deliveries did not occur until 1987. Shortly after that, the engine problem was partly remedied with the inclusion of a turbocharged 2.3 L four good for 160 to 175 hp. depending on if the optional ‘Turbo+’ accessory kit was chosen. Turbo powered ‘GT” cars came with special 15 inch wheels as to distinguish them from the lower power V6 models.

780 ad

780 ad

Despite rants of the 0 to 60 press, the truth of the matter was that the 780 was a GT car more than anything. A fully independent rear suspension and self-adjusting shocks kept the ride comfortable and composed. To address power concerns, Volvo eventually settled on just two engines for most markets, a 2.3 l four and 2.8 l six cylinder similar to what was used in the 760 and 740 sedans. These cast iron engines with aluminum blocks featured DOHC or turbocharging. The exterior remained virtually unchanged saved for small trim details

In the 780s final year of production Volvo simply call the car ‘the Coupe’ and it was available only with the turbocharged four making 188 hp. Total 780 production was only 8,515  units were worldwide, giving it serious collector potential amongst Volvo fans. Unfortunatly, it’s generally sedate appearance means it blended in with  most traffic (looking somewhat  late 80’s GM like at first glance) and has limited appeal outside the world of Volvo fan clubs. That’s not to say that this safe, well built and attractive car will someday not get it’s due as a classic, it is after all the most attractive Volvo of the 80’s and set a precedent for sporty and comfortable Volvo coupes like the C70 and C30 in to the 90s and beyond.

1987 Volvo 780

1987 Volvo 780


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This entry was posted on January 19, 2011 by in 80's Cars, 90's cars, Volvo and tagged , .
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