Volvo..the name conjures up safety, conservative design, nice cars, nice people..a bit unadventurous, a bit middle of the road, a bit, well, ‘m’eh’. Going back to the early nineties, things were a bit grim for Volvo lovers. The range was still based on old, rwd underpinnings that some believed had been brought back from the new world in longships..by people called Erik the red and alrik the brave...(why did so many Vikings have ‘the’ as their middle name??...maybe they swapped their ‘the’ for the oily bits of the old Volvos, as so many Italian Americans now have this grammatical anomaly also..Vinnie the fish, jimmy the cleaver etc..etc..but, as ever, i digress and that way lies monsters) and although worthy, loveable old school cars for staid, straight laced professional people who read the guardian and donate to worthy causes, hence the need for a Volvo estate, the range wasn’t exactly going to raise many eyebrows never mind pulses.
So, when Volvo introduced their new range of fwd saloons, the 850 series, it was a shock. Sure these look like old cars nowadays but back then they looked fresh, familiar but different, like the younger, more athletic brother of the older cars. The range was visibly Volvo, same grille etc but it looked like a Volvo that had been carved from soap and then JUST had the really square edges smoothed off in a hot bath. The new cars were slippery too, a drag co-efficient of 0.29 or so made them one of the most slippery cars on the road. Not very Volvoesque then and the fwd chassis, though we all casually remark these days that our cars ‘don’t handle’ was a bit of a revelation back then. I remember many road tests praising the 850 for its sure footed poise and grip. It was typically Volvo inside, but Volvo noveau, an ergonomic treat. But the jewel in Volvos crown were the engines. Lovely 5 pot motors with that characteristic quattroesque warble we had grown to expect from Ingolstadt not Gothenburg.
So, not much to shout about in reality. Volvo had gone from being your staid old uncle to your staid old uncle in a new suit, with a degree and a different taste in music. Only then your uncle did something strange. He joined a gym, put on 2 stone of muscle and started boxing at a local club. Well, thats what it must have seemed like when Volvo announced the terminators. The 850 t5 had a 220hp turbocharged five pot and wiped the smile of the faces of bmw drivers the world over. Finally, here was a Volvo with the x factor, a 150mph plus saloon or estate with the unassuming looks of the standard range, crushing performance in combination with Volvo’s legendary build quality. Everyone’s a winner eh??..especially those who raced them..yup..RACED THEM..had Volvo lost the plot?? These cars were raced in saloon car races in Australia, America and Europe. Successfully. So your old uncle had just announced that he was going to fight mike Tyson in a winner takes all no hold barred straightner on the cobbles behind your local boozer. That was the impact the t5 range had, that was how much of a boost to Volvos image the turbo bricks were.
So..job done eh??..well, you would think so. But noooo. Whatever the Volvo bosses had been smoking had not yet worn off. They announced a new range topper. The t-5r. R for Racing...or Ridiculous..or Really ****in fast..you choose. This one year only iteration of the turbo brick was only available in three colours, olive green, black or, and this is the best bit, wait for it, a lovely cream yellow..with graphite wheels. Yup. A YELLOW Volvo with black(ish) wheels. About as restrained as a two ton bumble bee on crack. Finally your uncle had thrown away his new suit, bought a course of steroids, built himself an Arnold type physique and was wearing whatever he ****in wanted..cos who was gonna tell him any different...certainly not mike Tyson as he was now lying semi conscious round the back of the dog and duck....and the NEW champion is... the t-5r
The t-5r had another 30hp or so boosting power to almost 250hp...in a fwd saloon or estate. It could, and did, and still does, rocket to captain kirk style warp speeds with utter disdain for the laws of physics. 250hp doesn’t sound much in these days of near 300hp hot hatches etc but back then it was BIG news. And drive a t-5r today and you will STILL think its a fast car. Cars have got big, fat, refined..the Volvo is an athlete in comparison, it makes the most of its wall of torque and power and punches a smoothed off brick shaped hole in the air as soon as you tickle the throttle. Its pace is searing, its engine is a living, breathing characterful thing with a wonderfully sonorous 5 pot wail at full chat. The t-5r had stiffer suspension and bigger brakes too, making it grip, turn and stop like no Volvo before, or some say since. See one today, not the more common basic t5 or the later 850r, particularly in THAT yellow colour with THOSE wheels and you are looking at an unusual thing an iconic performance Swede. Saab 99 turbo, Saab 900t16s, Volvo 850 t-5r. Not many names on that list, but its a list id have outside my door anyday of the week.
And the existence of cars like this reinforces my believe that there are two distinct types of Swedes. There are the thoughtful, liberal, caring Swede we imagine most of them to be. Resourceful, fit, healthy but MAYBE a touch dull. Sure we all love Swedish style, we love a trawl round IKEA on a Sunday afternoon, but if we are going for a night on the town we don’t want Bjorn Borg, we want Connors or McEnroe.....and thats what the other type of Swede is. While the architects and designer types are eating pickled fish in front of an open fire, our other type of Swede is standing at the top of a ski jump about to hurtle thru the air at 100mph, or they are sitting in the front of a bobsleigh, their head inches from the glassy ice. THESE are the Swedes who yearn for days gone by, a bit of pillaging, the sacking of a few villages, the placing of some heads on spikes..you know, old skool fun. these are the people who raced Volvo estates with a cardboard cutout of a Labrador in the back, these are the kind of guys who still think its a good idea to give us a 400hp Volvo c30 just cos they can, these are the Swedes who gave us the t-5r...and painted it yellow.
That you Jezza?
Ha ha I write for fun about cars amongst other things...given the recent spate of car threads just thought I'd share some...
The T5-R was marginally more powerful than the standard T5 - but it only had limited overboost (something like 30 seconds at a time). The 850R was the full-fat, 240 / 250 bhp all the time beast.
Correct mate...but the t5-r particularly in gul yellow is the iconic one, one year only production, suspension and brake upgrades as standard...a much more raw car than the more civilised later versions....it was a car I had always wanted a manual yellow t5-r..there are reckoned to be less than a dozen or so left if that..guy I sold it too has two now....
Shame it's fwd and handles like a barge.
Seen a supposedly advanced copper fishtail his to get past me.
And he had the nerve to question my driving!?
This you then...
I always liked the stats on the T5 and now because of the family i have to hire a wagon whenever i go overseas. Have thought of this car a couple of times in the last 8 months.
i had an s80 se 2.9 straight 6 very nice car and fast .
ive had 2 s70 t5s, excellent cars
Had t5, t5-r above, 960 2.9 v6, s80 d5 which was a fantastic car, 17k mile from new 343 from 1979 complete with origmaj factory lpg kit, brace of 245 wagons and a 300k mile plus amazon estate....kinda like Volvo ha ha